I’ve been working from home for 13 months now. That’s 390-plus days where I bounce between feeling incredibly grateful for my job and its flexibility and feeling stir-crazy and chaotic.
This month, I’m challenging myself to a home office makeover. I plan to make four changes that will maximize my space and sense of aesthetic tranquility while also minimizing my environmental impact.
GOAL #1: Piles of Paper
Most of us already try to minimize what we print by having organized digital files. And even when we do print, it’s easy enough to purchase copy paper made from a significant percentage of post-industrial recycled content.
But, if you’re like me, you probably have oodles of post-it notes scattered around your desk with the beginnings of unfinished lists on a sea of notepads underneath. My first strategy is to switch to the smallest sized post-it pad (about 2” by 1.5”). I rarely need a full post-it.
Next, I plan to set out ONE piece of notepad paper for the day, or better yet, the week. I’ll add to it, cross things off of it, but just keep going. With the week’s start date at the top, there is no need for a new list each day. If I get to the bottom, I’m gonna flip that paper over!
Finally, I will gather all the paper I save when things accidentally print off incorrectly and use it for my messy note-jotting during (endless) Zoom meetings. Scrap paper isn’t pretty, but neither is my handwriting.
Again, as long as I date the paper, I can stick it into a folder or scan it in for later reference. AND, I can still recycle that discarded paper when it’s no longer needed!
GOAL #2: Pounds of Printer Toner
Generally speaking, inkjet printers are more efficient than laser printers. While I use an inkjet printer for work, I’ve been saying for ages that I’m going to look into a sustainably-sourced option for printer cartridge refills. NOW is the time!
While a quick google search can locate more eco-friendly sources of toner, my goal is to also minimize the supply chain that will get the toner to my door. Most office supply stores have easy recycling for used printer cartridge drop-off.
When the time comes to replace my home printer/scanner, I will be looking at EcoTank printers, which do not use individual cartridges and, therefore, produce less waste. For the time being, I’m going to eke out every last copy I can to prolong the life of my current printer and start ordering repurposed cartridges right away!
GOAL #3: Flora and Foliage
Nothing says “green” like living plants. It may seem basic, but adding plants to your office space creates a soothing, natural effect while improving air quality. Many house plants are efficient at removing toxins from the air and all produce oxygen.
For those who lack a green thumb, indoor house plants are simple to grow, require little light, and thrive under neglect. The surest way I’ve found to kill a house plant is to water it too frequently!
GOAL #4: Power Down
This may be the goal I find most difficult. I am the Queen of “Open Tabs.” I have a habit of leaving everything open on my desktop, including uncompleted tasks I intend to finish the next day (as long as I leave myself a digital reminder, of course).
This inefficient practice keeps me from powering down my computer at night.
Goal #1 will help with this. Using my tiny post-its and lists, I’m resolving to jot a quick record of what needs prompt attention the next morning. And my search engine history will provide a reminder of the tabs I recently had open. Therefore, I’ll have no excuse to not close out open applications on my computer and SHUT IT DOWN for the night—which will save energy and money!
According to a report from U.S. News and World Report (“Simple Green Step: Shut Down Your Computer Every Night” by Maura Judkis) “the power required to run all one billion of the world’s PCs for just one night is enough to power the Empire State Building inside and out for 30 years.”
In addition, shutting down your computer allows important updates to install, increasing the life span of your device. Powerful motivations, indeed, to add an extra minute of organization to the end of your day!