How To Be A More Sustainable Freelancer
We all know how important it is to be sustainable and eco-friendly in 2021. More than ever, we’re being encouraged to recycle, reuse and reduce our waste, and to pay attention to how our daily routines can impact the planet.
As freelancers, we tend to think of ourselves as fairly low-waste individuals. We don’t rent out large offices of printers, heavy-duty machines and single-use coffee cups. We don’t spend our days doing physical paperwork or filling out endless documents and forms. So much of what we do is now online and our paper trail is fairly minimal.
But is there more we can do to help the freelance industry to stay green in 2022? How can we change our daily working routines to become more eco-conscious and sustainable?
As with any big lifestyle change, educating yourself on the right way to partake is vital. It’s important to learn as much as we can about the impacts of our current habits and the best ways to change them. It’s also a good idea to learn about what the future might look like if we don’t change our routines and what’s already happened in the climate around us. So much of the world has changed over the past ten years and it’s frightening to see just how quickly climate change is setting in. Giving ourselves the time and space to learn about our environments and the risk humans pose to them is a big step in learning to become more sustainable.
cut out the paper
Even the most environmentally-conscious worker can be guilty of using too much paper throughout the working year. The odd pretty notebook here, the quirky post-it note block, the backpack diary and the 2021 calendar hanging up on your wall. We enjoy using paper as it can help to refresh our minds away from the harsh screens of our computers, however, it’s not always the most eco-friendly material to use.
Try to limit the paper you do use down to one staple notebook that can do it all. Invest in a quality binder with sections for your calendar, your to-do lists, your notes and your weekly planner, and take good care of it to make it last for the next 12 months. Where possible, try to find a journal or notebook made from already recycled paper with an eco-friendly cover and binding to help offset your paper usage.
be mindful with your e-waste
Throughout our working lives, we go through a lot of tech. From old mobile phones and broken down computers to glitchy iPads and dead batteries, our digital careers can rack up a serious pile of harmful electronic waste. It’s important to properly dispose of these old pieces of technology, as they can cause serious damage to the environment if abandoned in great quantities.
Instead, look for local companies who will pick up and expertly dispose of your e-waste, taking it apart and recycling as much of it as they can. This is a much better solution than simply taking it to the dump or trashing it in your wheelie bin!
evaluate your carbon footprint
Many freelancers enjoy the comfort of remote working, choosing their at-home desk over a corporate office — which is, in itself, better for the environment. Without the daily commute on personal or public transport, your carbon footprint is already better than many of your peers. Yet our jobs can often require a little more travel time than we might think.
Weekly trips to work in coffee shops, client meetings in town, interviews and presentations in offices and businesses, conferences and training days and even co-working clubs can all require harmful carbon emissions to get there and over the course of a year, it can all add up. Try to walk where you can or use a bike or e-scooter to find your way to your next meeting — even if it means setting off a little bit earlier than normal. If you have to travel on the roads, opt for public transport instead to save on the petrol in your car.
It’s also important to consider just how much of your physical work could be done remotely. If COVID did one thing right, it was introducing us all to Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack calls and Skype — clueing both us and our clients into the possibilities of full-time remote work. So take advantage of this where you can and encourage your clients to do the same!
look into your digital carbon footprint
Yes, that’s right — even our digital world has a carbon footprint now! Scientists have recently begun exploring the amount of energy (and carbon) our computers can use up in a single usage and discovered that the way we use our digital technology can actually make our carbon footprints worse.
Having a clogged up inbox, for example, can use more energy than a minimal, clear and empty one. Web pages with large images and privately created fonts can use up more energy to load. Even the constant streaming of media and music, using overflowing storage systems and inefficient browsing can waste more energy than necessary.
Start looking into the most eco-friendly way to navigate your technology and online spaces and try to make some small changes that might make a big impact on your digital carbon footprint.
changes at home
If you’re a freelancer that works from home, it’s likely going to be easier for you to start making some more sustainable shifts to your working environment. For example, you have more control over your electricity and gas provider, allowing you to choose the most energy-efficient suppliers. You can also set a precedent when it comes to preserving energy too, by ensuring all switches and plugs are turned off when not in use. It might even be worth installing some smart home devices that can help you do this automatically.
But you can also make some personal choices that can help your working life to become more sustainable too. Things such as reducing your meat consumption, opting for eco-friendly stationery and sustainable dining wear, avoiding fast-fashion retail chains and trying out zero-waste stores and natural beauty products can all be a great step towards an eco-conscious lifestyle.
explore green philanthropy
As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to speak to people within various different organisations, industries and businesses and so it might be worth exploring the idea of passing on your sustainable teachings to your clients. Whether you approach it subtly, through a page on your website for example or a simple blog post, or you drop them all an email offering a free conversation about your new green initiative — sharing your eco-tips is a great way to go greener at work.
You could even encourage your clients to make voluntary donations or offer up a percentage of your total invoice to go to an environmental organisation — using your platform to help out the world around you. If they’re interested, you might be able to offer them a green audit for their business and explore some of the ways they could help their own businesses become more eco-friendly in the future.
Becoming more environmentally conscious isn’t always going to be easy. Whether you’re a freelancer, a healthcare worker, a chef or a CEO, going green is always going to involve sacrifice. But when you really take a look at the scary statistics of climate change and the impact of our actions on the world around us, it’s important to make the right call for your business.