Monday, August 11, 2008

Inside the Sustainable Studio: creating a great (and green!) home office

As both the proprietress of a green business and one of the lucky thousands (maybe millions now?) who are able to work from home, I've been thinking a lot about ways to green my office. Some are fairly obvious: recycle paper, don't print as much, use CFLs, blah blah. But both the challenge and the blessing of the home office is that it's completely yours - you get to do whatever you want to it, and set it up in the way that works best for you. This, oddly enough, is a pretty tall order.

After three years running the zen kitchen out of various home offices (and two years before that moonlighting in Cranston, RI), I've learned the following about balancing sustainability with form/function:

• Natural light is essential. Working in a place with plenty of windows (like my current office, which is basically a closed-in porch banked with windows) not only helps the environment by reducing the amount of energy you need to run lights, etc. it's good for the soul. I can't imagine working by office light anymore. 
• Create a pretty space, using low-VOC paint. It's amazing what a coat of paint will do, and using a low-VOC paint (they're all over the place now) costs a bit more, but it gives you the advantage of being able to actually breathe while you're painting with it. I painted my office on the hottest weekend of the year and there was no paint smell whatsoever while I was doing it. Not only is this better for the environment, it lets you get back to work quickly because your house doesn't reek of fresh paint.
• Make meals in advance for the week. It's hard to get motivated to cook a meal in the middle of the day, which makes the temptation for take-out (and all the containers!) a bit too hard to resist. I've found that having things like brown rice, lentils, etc. handy in the fridge makes it much easier to throw something together. Not only does it save plastic, it saves money.
• Print as much as you can on an as-needed basis. Business cards are important to have on hand (and designed/printed professionally!) but there are certain things, like letterhead, envelopes, etc. that you might not need a lot of. These, I've found, can fairly easily be worked into templates to print as-needed on an inkjet or laser printer without hampering your professional image. That said, it's important to assess your actual stationery needs before embarking on a process like this; short-run printing is expensive, and if you use a lot of letterhead or envelopes on a daily basis, definitely get them printed.
• Gang up errands and meetings so you drive less. This is as much a time-management tip as it is a green tip - traveling to meetings and such is an enormous time suck. I tend to group weekly appointments or meetings with my trips to the gym or other errands, so I block specific periods of time to be out of the office, and bring my gym bag along with me.

Any other telecommuters have green tips to share?

No comments: