News - 8 tips to create a green home office
With many information workers now having a more-or-less permanent work-from-home space post-COVID, it’s worth considering how to make this space more environmental-friendly.
With many information workers now having a more-or-less permanent work-from-home space post-COVID, it’s worth considering how to make this space more environmental-friendly.

8 tips to create a green home office

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that more than 40% of employed people were regularly working from home during the first half of August. If you're one of that cohort or just need a quiet place to store all the paperwork and pay the bills, here are some simple techniques for creating an environmentally friendly space.

1. Lighten up


Situate your desk in an area that has as much natural light as possible – typically near a window. If that's not possible, and you have to make do with artificial light, opt for energy-efficient LED globes that will not only save you money on the power bills, but won't need to be replaced as often.

2. Floor it


If you're building or renovating your house, try to use sustainably sourced timber or bamboo flooring. When it comes to floor coverings, forget the man-made fibres and get back to nature with wool, cotton or hemp.

3. Sitting pretty


When it comes to buying furniture, you don't necessarily need to buy anything brand new. If you shop around for second-hand furniture, you may stop something from going to landfill, which is better for the environment – plus you'll save money off buying the same or a similar item at full price brand new.

The other benefit of going for second-hand items (or "vintage", if you want to be trendy) is that you can also create a unique "look" that doesn't mimic the bland, characterless style of most furniture stores.

If you really do want something brand new – and there are certainly instances where opting for something unused is a better idea from a longevity and/or reliability perspective – look for pieces made from recycled or sustainably-sourced materials.

4. Suss out your suppliers


Thinking green when it comes to office supplies means you can do your part to reduce your carbon footprint simply by going about your everyday purchases. Look for sustainable alternatives to everyday office supplies such as eco-friendly office stationery, sugar cane and bamboo toilet rolls and paper hand towels, 100% post-consumer recycled facial tissues, non-toxic batteries, remanufactured toner cartridges, recycling bins and compostable bin liners.

It's also a good idea to do your homework when you're sourcing paper, ink and other supplies. Find out about the materials being used, where they're made, and whether the manufacturer/supplier supports environmentally friendly initiatives.

5. Think before you ink


Printer cartridges can be harmful to the environment. Up to 70% are not disposed of correctly and are sitting in landfills, where they can take from 400-1,000 years to decompose. Australia alone sees more than 25 million ink cartridges thrown into landfills each year.

The good news is that 97% of the materials in printer cartridges can be properly recycled by dropping them to specially marked bins at participating Australia Post, Officeworks, Harvey Norman, Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi stores.

You can also consider keeping your printing to a bare minimum, which can cut down on your paper usage. And, if you absolutely must print something, use the double-sided, black and white, draft option on your printer. Or try going paperless altogether. Consider whether you need to print emails and documents out or simply view them on screen.

6. Recycle


Recycling can also extend to the rest of your home office equipment. Once it reaches the end of its life, don't just send it off to landfill. Everything from phones through to computers can be recycled. Check with your local council for e-waste recycling days and as mentioned in the previous paragraph, office suppliers like Officeworks often have bins where you can drop off old phones and printer cartridges. Often, if you purchase a new device such as a laptop, phone or printer, the supplier or manufacturer offers a free service to pick up and dispose of the old device.

7. Take a power nap


Siestas aren't just for those afternoons when you've over-indulged at lunch or not to fit in a tactical nap between meetings. Switching off equipment at the power point and unplugging it at the end of each day can help reduce energy costs, and also reduces the likelihood of delicate electronics getting fried during electrical storms.

You can also cut down on energy usage (and thus, your power bills!) by ensuring your office is well-insulated. Try to avoid using air conditioning where possible, as this will cause your energy usage to sky-rocket.

Ceiling fans are a great option for circulating cool air in summer and pushing warm air down from the ceiling in winter. You can also try several tricks to make your desk fan more effective, such as placing a cold damp towel over the fan, or placing bowl of ice water in front of the fan.

8. Bring the outdoors in


Not only do plants add a lovely ambiance to your home office environment, they can also go to work by eliminating harmful pollutants from the air. They do this by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and some can filter out benzene, formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene.

Indoor plants can also help with your mental and emotional health. A 2007 study found that a bacterium in plant soil triggers the release of serotonin, which lifts mood and reduces anxiety.

Some plants that are commonly recommended for indoors include:

  • Pothos: This plant is difficult to kill, making it perfect for home offices. It's tolerant of low light conditions and erratic watering.
  • Peace Lily: This is a world-class air filtering plant (absorbs pollutants including benzene and formaldehyde) and can thrive in a home office. To keep your Peace Lily in top condition, keep away from direct sunlight as they prefer lower levels of light.
  • Rubber Plant: A NASA approved air-cleaning plant! It loves the sun but not high heat. Place rubber plants by windows.
  • English Ivy: Keep the English Ivy fresh by misting it with water regularly. You might even like to add some timber or mesh for it to climb.
  • Boston Fern: Lovely with its draping stems and long fronds, this fern has a higher tolerance for light and dry conditions than other species.
  • Gerbera Daisies: A green way to show appreciation. The gerbera daisy is bright, simple and a powerful air-filterer.

This material has been prepared for information purposes only. This should not be taken as constituting professional advice. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to determine how this information relates to your own circumstances.

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