While many employers are encouraging employees to work from home in order to cut the business’ energy costs, web workers also have some options to reduce their energy usage and costs. October is Energy Awareness Month, so let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to reduce your own energy usage.
Staying in One Place
One of the big benefits of working from home is that we cut down on the gas we use getting to and from work. But Kate Lister, the author of “Undress for Success,” points out that the reality isn’t as efficient as we may hope. “Studies show that when people make the switch to full-time telecommuting, they reduce their travel by only 55 to 73 percent, because the errands they used to do on the way to and from work now require an extra trip.”
Every trip to the coffee house or coworking space may also use just as much energy as a trip to the office used to. It depends on the distance, of course, and most web workers need to get out of the house often enough to make such trips worthwhile. But be aware of the energy cost, and keep an eye out for how you can reduce it.
Lister has a few suggestions on how to reduce the amount of time that web workers spend out on the road: “To conserve energy, try to reduce your travel as much as possible. Some ways you might do that include: bunching your errands together into one trip, shopping virtually and holding virtual meetings where possible.”
Start With Your Office
Telecommuters and freelancers can be particularly guilty of using a lot of electricity in our home offices. Plug in a computer, a printer and a few other pieces of hardware and pretty soon you’ve got a lot of power in use. Even so, there are some opportunities to bring your power use down. Shel Horowitz, a marketer who works from home, has been able to reduce the power needed for his home office without making a lot of big changes.
Horowitz offers some simple steps, like using a laptop rather than a desktop computer. Laptops use significantly less electricity to operate. He also suggests, “Only turn on your printer when you’re going to print — and make that machine a duplex (print on both sides) printer.”
Even something as simple as making sure all our electronics are plugged into power strips and turning off the power strips while we’re out of the office can make a big difference. It can also be helpful in limiting the chance of a power surge or other problems a computer is subject to if plugged into the wall and perpetually left switched on.
The Rest of the House
Because many web workers work from home, making sure that our homes are energy efficient is an important step. If you were going to the office every day, you probably wouldn’t be running the heater as much in the winter, or the air conditioner in the summer. Even small improvements in energy efficiency can make a big difference if you’re telecommuting.
Horowitz has written an e-book on things we can do to become more energy efficient, “Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life-With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle“. These tips are mostly simple steps, like using outlet protectors to reduce cold air entering your home through electric outlets.
But Horowitz points out that bigger changes can be especially beneficial for home workers: “Working from home may make you a good candidate for solar hot water. I’m able to use solar for 95 percent of my laundry and 75 percent of dishwasher loads, because of working at home.”
No matter where you’re working, it’s worth taking a look at the energy you use on a regular basis. If you can reduce it, you’ll save money in the long run. The U.S. Department of Energy offers more tips on improving energy use.
Share your energy saving tips below.
Image by Flickr user MrJoro