How to Make Your Home Office Sustainable

Lower your environmental footprint and focus on wellness while working from home

A lightbulb against a green backdrop.

If you’re among the Duke employees working remotely to stop the spread of COVID-19 and comply with Durham’s order to stay home, you’re already lessening your environmental footprint.

By forgoing the daily commute, many home-based staff and faculty are emitting less carbon. And there’s no doubt the energy and water load borne by campus buildings are eased with many of us working from home.

Green Devil logo“We’re going to see a drastic dip in energy usage at Duke, but the question becomes, are we just going to be using the same amount at home?” said Rebecca Hoeffler, communications coordinator for Sustainable Duke.

With some work shifting to homes, there are some easy steps to make your temporary workplaces more sustainable.

Power DownA computer plugged into a wall.

For most buildings on Duke’s campus, computing equipment is one of the largest users of electricity. That’s why an important part of being green while working from home is to limit the amount of power used by your computer.

To run your computers more efficiently, set them to go to power-saving sleep mode if unused for 10 minutes. Also be sure to turn off printers, computer monitors and speakers when not in use. An easy way to do this is to hook everything up to a power strip, which can be clicked off when you’re done with the computer for the day.

Sustainable Duke’s Rebecca Hoeffler said that, since she began working from home, she’s been much more mindful about the energy her computer uses.

“I’m using my own electricity, so maybe it feels more personal,” Hoeffler said. “It’s like the pain of purchase. Now that I’m responsible for the electricity I use, instead of it being something unseen that Duke pays for, I’m a lot more conscious of it.”

Stick with Efficient StepsA wall-mounted thermostat.

If you’ve already embraced easy steps to make your home more energy efficient, you likely already save energy – and money – by turning off lights and programming your heating and cooling system to power down when you’re away at work.

Now that you’re at home, there’s no reason to change course. Despite your home being occupied during the day, continue your energy-saving actions.

Take advantage of the mild spring weather and turn your heating and cooling system off when possible. And set up your workspace near a window, so you can work in natural light and forgo the need to turn on lamps and overhead fixtures.

“If you wish you had a window in your space at work, this is a great opportunity to enjoy your own window,” Hoeffler said.

Keep Your Wellness in MindA computer on storage bins.

For Andrea Martin, the director of strategic communications for Duke Family Medicine & Community Health, working at home means sharing a house with her husband and two young children. So to get her work done, she set up an improvised office in a guest bedroom.

With a couch and recliner as the only seating options, Martin got creative and stacked a few storage bins and old high school and college yearbooks together to make a homemade standing desk.

“It’s not perfect, and I don’t use it all day, but I do use it several times during my longer work stretches to stretch my legs and get a different vantage point,” Martin said.

While lessening your environmental footprint is a key piece to sustainability, so too is looking out for your individual wellness.

In addition to her standing desk, Martin’s workspace also features a large window, a smart TV that can stream music and a yoga mat for periodic yoga breaks.

Sustainable Duke’s Hoeffler pointed out that with so many people changing the way they work, this period of upheaval offers a chance to incorporate new habits into your workday, such as taking breaks to stretch, meditate or take a quick walk.

“The more that you can make peace with the reality of this pandemic, the easier it will be,” Hoeffler said. “So if you can make your home workspace more comfortable for you, it’s really important.”

We ask for your continued help to share the proactive and extensive work being done by all Duke community members. Please share ideas, shout-outs and photographs with us here or write us at working@duke.edu.