Remote work has countless benefits, from financial advantages like a reduced need for childcare and less money spent on commuting to personal benefits like a better work-life balance.
But one benefit of remote work is often overlooked or downplayed – its environmental impacts.
Many workers care about the environment and want to make sure that the company they’re working for is eco-friendly too. In fact, 41% of U.S. job applicants said they would not work for a non-green company, according to a recent study.
Beyond the impact that an organization as a whole can make on the environment – such as committing to decreasing your carbon footprint or partnering with a local environmental group – the way a company and its employees operate can have a significant impact on the environment too.
Environmental benefits of remote work
Remote-first work may have more benefits than you’d think – and they go far beyond employee and employer benefits.
“In 2020, we experienced a small glimpse of how a remote-first world can positively affect our environment,” says Amanda Day, director of people engagement at Remote. “A team effort between business leaders and employees is required to unlock the true potential of a remote-first business model that benefits the environment moving forward.”
There are many benefits to a remote-first workplace, like:
- No commuting: Eliminating the daily commute can improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. With 76% of Americans reporting they use their car to commute to and from work, a remote-first work world could have a significant impact on pollution and traffic.
- Increased green space: Remote-only companies may decide to vacate their physical buildings or downsize, resulting in more room for green areas in cities. “A remote-first culture could spark an evolution in urban planning that reinvigorates cities by creating additional public parks, pedestrian areas and recreational facilities,” says Day.
- Minimized waste: The lack of a physical office space can lend itself to minimized paper, plastic and food waste. In fact, remote workers could save 16 trillion trees from deforestation, according to a study from Alliance Virtual Offices.
How to make remote work eco-friendly
Another added benefit that may not be obvious is that remote workers tend to be more energy-efficient. Since they’re working from home, workers are more energy-conscious since they pay the expenses they incur.
If you want to give your home office a green upgrade and maximize ecological benefits, consider these four ways to make your home office eco-friendly, from Keith Spencer, FlexJobs‘ career expert. “By taking easy, eco-conscious steps like those outlined below, remote and hybrid workers can help the environment – all from the comfort of their home workspace,” says Spencer.
1. Pick eco-friendly paint
“Paint is one of the simplest ways to curate and create an aesthetic in your workspace or home office,” says Spencer.
“But the type of paint you choose is just as important as the color. Opt for brands that offer low or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and are free of chemicals like ammonia, phthalates and formaldehyde. When it comes to choosing a color, consider selecting lighter shades, which will help reflect natural light and lower your need for energy consumption.”
2. Let the (natural) light in
“Be intentional about your light sources, looking to natural light as the primary way to brighten up your space and using mirrors to help maximize lighting,” says Spencer. “If you’re far from a window or have limited natural lighting, LED lights and bulbs are an excellent alternative and eco-friendly investment.”
3. Embrace your green thumb
“Fill your home office with plants, which can help to purify indoor air and emit oxygen,” suggests Spencer. “If you’ve struggled with keeping plants alive in the past, try out some low-maintenance varieties. Pothos, snake plants, and ZZ plants are some of our go-to and easy plant picks!”
4. Support reusable energy & cut power consumption
“Take a survey of your existing workspace and ask yourself if anything can have a smaller environmental footprint. For example, can you better practice conservation when printing by choosing recycled paper, reusable ink cartridges and limiting unnecessary paper usage?” asks Spencer. He also suggests using reusable materials when possible and reducing power consumption by turning off lights, upgrading surge protectors and buying power strips with a control plug to limit other computer equipment to use power only when your computer powers up.