Five home working habits that harm the environment

By Anthony Flatt and Clare McMahon, Bupa UK
Anthony Flatt, Energy Manager and Clare McMahon Senior Sustainability Manager at Bupa UK, discuss how working from home can damage the environment

From excessive energy consumption to wasting water, our everyday behaviours can negatively impact the environment and these behaviours can be exacerbated when working from home.

The link between the environment and our health is deeply rooted in many ways that we don’t often recognise. It’s at the core of our everyday habits; from what we consume to how we move around–and what’s clear is that a healthy environment is essential for healthy people. 

Climate change is already impacting human health; from extreme weather events, the impact of air pollution and our eco-anxiety affecting our overall mental wellbeing. After COP26 raised awareness of the climate crisis, employers have an opportunity to promote healthy workplace habits that also improve the health of the planet. 

New research by Bupa has shown a surge of people in the UK turning to Google to adopt an eco-friendlier lifestyle over the last 3 months:

  • 50% increase in Google searches for ‘climate action’
  • 49% increase in Google searches for ‘sustainability policy’
  • 26% increase in Google searches for ‘green business’
  • 23% increase in Google searches for ‘sustainable living’

Fortunately, there are positive steps you can take to reduce your impact on the environment when working from home while improving your health and wellbeing. 

Here Anthony Flatt, Energy Manager at Bupa UK and Clare McMahon Senior Sustainability Manager at Bupa UK, share five working from home habits that are harmful to the environment, alongside tips on implementing eco-friendly behaviour changes across your everyday life.

Excessive energy consumption from at-home working

During the darker and colder winter months leaving the lights on, electrical appliances on standby and heating your home without regulating the temperature can all lead to excessive use of a limited energy source.

When working from home try replacing halogen bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs to reduce your energy consumption. This will also help to keep your work area well-lit and prevent eye strain and headaches.

The ideal room temperature to keep well and warm is 18 to 20 degrees. When heating your home or work area make use of a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the room. Radiator valves should also be set to a comfortable setting to maintain room temperature. 

Working from home means more water wastage

When using water only use what you need, and don’t leave the tap running – this will waste large amounts of water. 

Many of us drink hot drinks to stay warm during the winter months. However, boiling the kettle for hot water uses huge amounts of energy, when boiling your kettle only boil the amount of water you need, this will help to prevent wasting water. Similarly, replacing kettles with hot water taps can also help to reduce energy consumption when boiling water.

Bad diets and cooking methods waste energy and increase carbon footprint

There are lots of steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption in the kitchen, like covering saucepans with lids, or even using a microwave oven where possible.

Introducing vegan or meat-free options supports sustainable eating. For example, by getting involved with one meat-free day a week (e.g meat-free Mondays), you can reduce your carbon footprint, protect biodiversity and boost employee health and wellbeing. 

Working from home causes creates bad recycling habits

It can be easy to throw something away without thinking about whether it can be recycled. For example, throwing away with general waste recyclable plastics, paper, or food that can be used for compost can have a harmful impact on the environment.

Get to know what can and can’t be recycled and separate your rubbish into different recycling piles before throwing it away. This can reduce the risk of recyclable waste becoming contaminated with objects that are unable to be recycled.

Over-use of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles for unnecessary journeys

Whilst working from home you may not be commuting to work. However, you may find yourself using your car for smaller trips, such as driving to the town centre or the corner shop.

Emissions from cars are one of the largest contributors to air pollution. Taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint will help to lower the total amount of emissions released into the environment. For example, try walking to destinations close by or using public transport where possible.

For more sustainability insights, check out the latest issue of Sustainability Magazine.


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