In the past few years, many people have started working from home instead of travelling to an office. While reducing commuting can be beneficial for the environment, there are still environmental costs associated with remote work. It may come as a surprise that the internet is the largest coal-fired machine on Earth,¹ and it is estimated that internet-connected technologies will consume around 20% of the total electricity produced by 2025.² This is why remote workers need to be aware of how their working habits can affect the environment.
We put together a list of best practices that you can follow to reduce carbon emissions while you work from home.
1. Consider turning off your camera during video-conferences
Having your camera on during video calls can be valuable at times; however, in large groups or while someone else is presenting, consider turning off your camera to save energy. Turning your camera off during video calls could reduce the environmental impact of the call by up to 96%.³
Having your camera off has other benefits as well. For example, you may actually be more capable of reading someone’s emotions without seeing their face. Research by Michael Kraus showed that “we are more accurate when we hear someone’s voice than when we look only at their facial expressions, or see their face and hear their voice.”⁴ When we are only focusing on someone’s voice, we are better at picking up slight tonal differences in the way that they are speaking which can help us interpret their emotions. Furthermore, voice-only calls can help prevent “zoom fatigue” and the uncomfortable feeling of being watched all day.⁵
2. Change your video resolution settings
Reducing video resolution is a good option if you want to leave your video on but still reduce your energy consumption. Streaming videos in standard definition rather than high definition may result in an 86 percent reduction”.³
- Google Meet: You can learn how to change your video resolution settings here.
- Zoom: You can lower your video quality by unchecking the HD checkbox under video settings. learn how to change your video resolution settings here.
3. Lower your screen’s brightness
Reducing the brightness on your laptop or monitor while you work can also save energy. Research by Eric Potkin from Harvard Law School “found that reducing your computer monitor brightness from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy the monitor uses”.⁶
4. Prioritize asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication can often be more energy-efficient than synchronous communication. Sending your coworker a brief Slack message as opposed to scheduling a video call might be the better choice if you just need to ask them a simple question. Knowledge bases and resource archives are also helpful for reducing the need for synchronous learning.
5. Turn off your work devices at the end of the day
It is important to turn off your devices when you are finished using them. Leaving your devices on overnight uses unnecessary energy and impacts the environment. Unplugging your devices is also a good practice. Leaving devices plugged in can increase your energy consumption and electricity bill: “The United States Department of Energy reports that homeowners can save anywhere between $100 and $200 each year by unplugging devices not in use.”⁷
6. Listen to music with standard audio quality
Many people like to listen to music while working remotely. It can be nice to have background music while focusing on individual work. However, streaming music in high-quality for long periods of time can consume a lot of energy. Choosing a lower audio quality level in your streaming service’s settings can reduce energy consumption. Here are some statistics from an article by Jerry Hildenbrand:
- Low-quality is typically 96kbps: Low-quality audio streaming uses 0.72MB per minute or 43.2MB per hour.
- Normal-quality is typically 160kbps: Normal-quality music streaming uses 1.20MB per minute or 72MB per hour on average.
- High-quality music is typically 320kbps: High-quality streaming music uses 2.40MB per minute or 115.2MB per hour on average.⁸
To change your audio quality default in Spotify, visit your settings and select “normal” from the streaming quality and download drop-downs.
7. Take advantage of daylight
If your workspace contains a window, consider placing your desk where it will receive lots of natural light. By taking advantage of daylight, you can reduce the amount of artificial light you need. Additionally, sunlight can naturally warm your house, reducing the amount of heat you need to use during the winter.⁹
8. Switch to LED lights
If you have a large workspace, using a desk lamp can be more sustainable than relying on overhead fixtures to light the entire room. You should also opt for LED light bulbs when possible. LED light bulbs are more energy-efficient and last longer than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.
9. Use energy-efficient kitchen appliances
If you cook your lunches from home, think about investing in energy-efficient kitchen appliances. Using a slow cooker, toaster oven, or microwave instead of an oven to heat your lunch is another way to save energy.¹¹
10. Shop sustainably
Consider purchasing products that are produced and distributed in a sustainable way when possible. Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to determine how sustainable many products are because companies hide behind clever marketing and false claims. However, you can start by considering the types of materials used in the products and where the product is sourced.
- Amazon (US): has a climate pledge program to let customers know which product suppliers are dedicated to sustainability (Learn more here).
- Staples: allows Canadian shoppers to shop for green products on their website. (Learn more here).
Here is a list of things that remote workers can do to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint:
- Do research on how you can be more eco-friendly (Done!)
- Turn off your video during video-conferences
- Change your video resolution settings
- Lower your screen’s brightness
- Increase asynchronous communication
- Turn off work devices at the end of the day
- Listen to music with standard audio quality
- Take advantage of daylight
- Switch to LED lights
- Use energy-efficient home appliances
- Shop sustainably