Working From Home Makes More Sense Than Ever

Mr. Universe in his home office
Mr. Universe in his home office.

Screen capture/ Serenity 

In these difficult times a lot of people are working from home, whether they want to or not. A lot of others would like to, but employers have not been crazy about it, even though it can cut overhead as well as your company's carbon footprint. As Megan suggests at Planet Green, "Let your boss know that green telecommuting is a growing trend, that eco-smart bosses and workers everywhere are giving this carbon-footprint-shrinking solution a go, and that you'd like to hop on the emission-reduction wagon."

We offer herein reasons to work from home and our suggestions for keeping your office healthy,

It's Better for the Atmosphere

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"Despite slow growth in jobs and travel, traffic congestion continues to worsen, researchers say, costing Americans $63.1 billion a year. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report measures traffic congestion trends from 1982 to 2003, reflecting the most recent data available. If today's higher fuel prices are factored in, the cost jumps another $1.7 billion." It's even worse than that because the UMS report doesn't seem to count the many health costs associated with stress, air pollution, etc.

It Saves a Lot Of Carbon and a Lot Of Money

telecommuting photo
Rob Alinder

SUN Microsystems, a computer and software company known for its flexible work policies (19,000, or 56% of its employees around the world, have access to "flexible offices"), has done a study on telecommuting. What it found is very interesting from an environmental perspective. One of the main questions they asked was: "Does Open Work really save energy, or just transfer energy cost and load to employees?"

You May Not Have a Choice

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So many people are looking for jobs these days, but others, like Seth Godin, note that "Inc. magazine reports that a huge percentage of companies in this year's Inc. 500 were founded within months of 9/11. Talk about uncertain times.

But uncertain times, frozen liquidity, political change, and poor astrological forecasts (not to mention chicken entrails) all lead to less competition, more available talent, and a do-or-die attitude that causes real change to happen.

If I wasn't already running my own business, today is the day I'd start one."

So let's look at what you need to make your home office green, healthy, and productive.

1. Start With a Space That Has Light and Fresh Air

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Maybe you don't have the land or the climate (or the money) to do a garden office like the Kithaus or some of the others, but Sami noted in Planet Green: From schools to offices, natural light has been proven to increase productivity and well-being, so make sure your work spot receives plenty of sunlight. And fresh air can make a huge difference in performance-whether doing your taxes or the daily grind-so open some windows or take a quick walk from time to time.

2. Keep Toxic Chemicals Out of Your Office

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Avoid Formaldehyde. So much of the really cheap furniture is made from particleboard that outgases a lot of formaldehyde when it is new; don't buy it.

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Buy EPEAT certified electronics. They are rated for materials selection, environmentally sensitive materials, design for end of life, end-of-life management, energy conservation, product longevity and life-cycle extension, packaging, and corporate performance.

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Get a plant. The living wall might be a bit much, but Sami says: No doubt house plants can brighten up a home office, but it turns out they can also clean up the air by sucking up things like formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide by storing them in their roots or breaking them down into less harmful gases. Researchers have even identified the specific plants that can most effectively mop up indoor pollutants. Areca palm and peace lily top the list.

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Consider an Air Filter. This one, the Airpod, "uses approximately 60% less material to manufacture, 50% less packaging and 85% less energy than other air purifiers with comparable performance. It also runs on less than five watts of power where other units require 40 watts. No chemicals are used on the filter or elsewhere and no ozone by-products are released from the unit. In addition, all components and the packaging are 100% recyclable."

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Use Green Cleaning supplies Like Clorox Greenworks or Seventh Generation that don't have toxic volatile organic compounds in them. I used to get headaches every time I cleaned my desk with VIM, but when we switched to Ecover it never happened again.

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Look for Green Office Supplies. It is all about air quality and keeping VOCs out of your workspace. " You're ready to work, and work green, but you're missing toner for your printer, a calculator and batteries to power it, and sticky notes. Thankfully, there's The Green Office, an online retailer of recycled, environmentally friendly, and sustainable business products, school supplies, and paper."

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Even the big boxes have green. Office Depot has "upped their ante to the green business world with a series of documents, publications, and lists designed to help themselves and their customers be a little greener. They've published a "Guide to Buying Green" a fairly comprehensive guide for incorporating more recycled material, more non-toxic ingredients, and more modular (e.g. replaceable parts, refillable pens) parts into your office supplies; a companion, of sorts, to their "Green Book" catalog of "environmentally-preferable products." There's also the "Top 20 Ways to Go Green at Work," a laundry list of better options for your office, from the products you buy to the electricity you use. Taken as a whole, it's not a bad "beginner's guide" to going green at work.

Originally published in 2011