Pens made from hard to recycle plastic, piles of paper bleached with harsh chemicals, and sticky notes galore. It is no secret the typical home office isn’t exactly a friend to the environment. However, that doesn’t mean your zero waste efforts have to stop at work. In fact, creating a zero waste office may be simpler than you think!
If you want your home office to be eco-friendly, sustainable, and stylish, use these 8 simple tips.
Use Light Colors
Picking a light color for your walls can reduce your home office’s energy consumption. Light walls won’t attract as much heat in warmer weather and will require less lighting to feel fully illuminated. Plus, lighter hues also excel at making rooms feel larger—and who doesn’t want that!?
If you plan on painting, check out what’s available for colors at a resource recycling center like the ReStore or look into zero VOC paint options if you plan on buying new.
Let Light In
Use sheer curtains or simply open your window covering to take advantage of natural light. Natural light doesn’t consume energy, is easier on the eyes than artificial light, and can even boost your mood.
Cloudy day? If you need to flick on a lamp or overhead light, swap out the bulbs for LEDs. LED bulbs don’t give off heat, consume less energy, and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent. Use the old bulb you took out in another room that uses light for shorter periods, like a storage room. Or, if the bulb is dead, you can always upcycle them into lightbulb flower vases to decorate your desk or window.
Forgo the Filing Cabinet
You can save paper, space, and time by skipping the filing cabinet. As an alternative to printing out documents to file away, try swapping to a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive. Both of these applications have both free and paid plans, depending on how much storage space you need.
Swap Your Search Engine
After we set our search engine preference, many of us don’t give it another thought. But you can make your search engine work for both you and the environment by swapping to Ecosia. Ecosia is free, but they use their ad revenue to plant a tree for every 45 searches, so with this option, you are helping the environment by doing something you would do anyway. To date, Ecosia has planted 71 million trees.
Plug into a Power Bar
Even when electronics like computers and printers are turned off, they are still drawing power—this can account for up to a quarter of your electricity bill. Therefore, it is a smart idea to plug them all into a power bar. This ensures that you can quickly flick them all off at the end of the day. If you are purchasing a new power bar, one with a surge protector is highly advisable. With surge protection, you won’t have to buy a new computer because a storm fried your old one.
Be Mindful of Supplies
From reams of paper to drawers stuffed with plastic highlighters, there is a lot to be desired when it comes to the impact of traditional office supplies. First, you will want to use up any supplies you have on hand. But once you need a replacement, look to these zero waste swaps.
Pens: Skip the hard to recycle plastic pens and try a fountain pen. Fountain pens have an internal reservoir of ink that can easily get refilled. The ink comes in a glass bottle, so it is recyclable one empty. Have old pens? Pens cannot be recycled through the majority of regular recycling programs. You’ll need to recycle them in a TerraCycle box at a public drop-off location like Staples.
Highlighters: Highlighter pencils are a great zero waste alternative. Plus, you never have to worry about them drying out.
Scissors: 100% stainless steel scissors can always get sharpened when they dull out. This means that for occasional use, they could potentially last a lifetime, if not longer.
Sticky Notes: Make your reminder notes digital with an application like Sticky Notes for Windows or Stickies on Mac. Or, get yourself a whiteboard with recycled paper whiteboard markers. Can’t shake the paper habit? Try using scrap pieces of paper for your notes instead. The backside of documents that are no longer needed or paper envelopes received in the mail work well.
Stapler: Using a stapleless stapler not only means you can skip buying staples, but you no longer have to waste time removing staples before recycling or shredding.
Add a Recycling Bin
On busy days, it can be tempting to throw a piece of paper in the trash instead of walking to the recycle bin out of your office. Luckily, this dilemma is easily avoidable with the simple addition of a small recycling bin. Any box will do for this purpose, but instead of purchasing a new container, consider upcycling a cardboard box. You can always stash it inside a cupboard or hide it in a corner. Want to make it a little more visually appealing? Try wrapping it in compostable twine or some fabric from old clothing.
Skip the Decor
If you are new to working from home and designing your office from scratch, know that you don’t need heaps of new decor for it to look great. A simple and minimal look can still look sleek and wow-worthy.
If you do want to jazz up your space a bit, though, add a few indoor plants. They can incorporate some color into the area with their green foliage and also help filter indoor air. Want more color? Try a croton plant. They come in captivating warm shades like red, orange, and yellow. Just be aware that they are toxic to cats and dogs.
In a world that has evolved to rely on disposables, setting up a zero waste home office can feel overwhelming. But don’t let the way things are “traditionally” done deter you. There are plenty of ways to lower your waste working at home and the perfect time to start is setting up your office. Even by implementing a few of the simple tips shared above, you can create a home office that aligns with your zero waste efforts.