Posted: 21 Feb. 2020 10 min. read

5 things you can do to become a climate conscious remote worker

In recent years the practise of working from home has shifted from an employee perk to a more commonly seen way of working enjoyed by many Australians.  Working from home can be great for your physical and mental wellbeing and your pocket. But how about the environment? Maybe you’re thinking: surely avoiding driving or taking public transport to and from the office is positive for the environment? The answer is not so clear cut. In this blog I look at a few things to be mindful of to become a climate conscious remote worker.

1. Heating and cooling your home 

One of the main ways working from home can actually increase your carbon footprint (compared with a regular day at the office) is through inefficient use of heating and cooling systems in your home. A report from Carbon Trust in the USA found that homeworkers heating the entire house for just one hour or one room for 7 hours would eliminate the carbon emissions savings of the average commute.

  • Avoid working from home on extreme temperature days when you know you’ll need to run the heating or cooling for a significant part of the day 
  • Wear warmer clothing inside on a cool day rather than turning on the heating
  • Installing smart heating controls can regulate and eliminate excessive energy use, saving emissions and money
  • Look into renewable energy sources for your home.

2. Home office setup 

Your home office should provide you with a productive and ergonomic place to get your work done when you’re not at the office. The equipment and lighting you use will have implications for your carbon footprint.

  • Think about positioning your workspace near natural lighting to minimise the need for artificial lighting
  • Use energy efficient lighting and hardware where possible – LED globes are a no brainer
  • Consider purchasing second-hand when selecting office equipment like chairs, desks, lamps and monitors. All those raw materials, manufacturing processes, packaging and transportation of goods adds up! Look for good quality, durable products with longer lifespans.

3. Avoiding consumables waste 

While working from home, you might take the opportunity to visit your local coffee or grocery shop during a break. Your purchasing power when it comes to consumable items contributes to your carbon emissions

  • Use a reusable coffee mug for takeaway hot drinks. Just because no one at the office is there to judge you for grabbing a paper takeaway cup, doesn’t mean you should stop using your reusable mug!
  • Avoid small, plastic wrapped food items. Buying locally, in bulk and without the plastic packaging is always better for the environment.

4. Reducing meat/dairy consumption

With all the time in the morning you saved from your commute, perhaps you’ve swapped your muesli for a morning fry-up with extra bacon. Meat consumption can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint, in fact many people say it is the ‘single biggest way’ individuals can reduce their emissions.

  • Choose a vegetarian option for breakfast and lunch. If you’re a frequent meat eater, just start with one day of meatless workday meals per week.
  • Consider eliminating or reducing your beef consumption, the most environmentally damaging of all meat options
  • Make the switch to dairy-free coffee alternatives.

5. Do you need to travel in the first place? 

There is no blanket rule for how your daily commute contributes to your environmental footprint. We all live varying distances from our workplace and use different modes of transportation every day. A climate conscious worker might consider their own situation and how this relates to commuting

  • If you drive a car to work or to a train station or have a long two-hour train commute, your daily emissions are higher, and you could look at ways to work from home as much as possible
  • Conversely, if you’re living within a short public transport, walking or cycling distance from the office, the energy you spend working from home may easily outweigh the small footprint of your commute and you could factor that into how often you choose to work from home.

Here I’ve looked at 5 simple ways to reduce your climate impact as a remote worker. I’m sure there are plenty more. If you’d like to join the discussion, leave a comment below or get in touch with us at virtualofficeAU@deloitte.com.au.

More about the author

Rowan Muller

Rowan Muller

Consultant, Consulting

Rowan is a consultant & designer in Deloitte Digital’s Customer Strategy and Experience Design Sydney practice. He is passionate about the role design and technology play in facilitating great experiences and lasting social and ecological impact.