By Planet Green
1. Find a job
Ideally, you’ll be able to talk to your employer about formatting your current job into one you can do from home-even working from home just one or two days a week can make a big impact on the environment. But if your boss is one of the many who aren’t willing to let employees telecommute, then it might be time to look for a position that’s based out of your home, or become a freelancer or consultant in your field. Even better: Find a green job you can do without leaving your house, or start your own green business.
2. Choose a workspace
Before you can start greening your office, you need an office to green. And the kind of surroundings that make someone else productive might not work best for you—just look at the differences in TreeHugger writers’ home offices, which range from urban enclaves to living room sofas to moving trains. General wisdom is that setting aside a space dedicated only to work helps you stay focused and motivated; keeping it free of distractions—kids, non-work phone calls, and the UPS guy—lets you concentrate. If you can find a space that actually inspires you—because of the view, the architecture, or any other quality—even better. Of course, fresh air, big windows, and plenty of sunlight won’t hurt either; studies have shown that pulling the curtains and opening a window to catch the breeze makes workers more productive.
3. Find a desk
This is going to be the place where you spend most of your days from now on, so think carefully about what kind of desk you want, need, and have space for. Looking for tons of drawers? A big work surface? Or something modular that you can push out of the way when company comes? No matter what your preferences are, you can find environmentally-safe desks that fits the bill. Skip the particleboard (sorry, IKEA lovers: It’s full of VOCs) and opt instead for sustainable wood or recycled metal with non-toxic finishes. Another good plan is to check antique stores, thrift shops, estate sales, yard sales, or even your attic for used desks in good condition; you can even fashion a desk out of an old door supported by filing cabinets for more character.
4. Grab a seat
Spending the majority of your day staring at a computer sounds like it wouldn’t be physically demanding, but it does take a toll on your posture, muscles, and long-term productivity. Key in an office chair: find one that’s ergonomic, with good lumbar support, and adjustable to fit you. Herman Miller, Steelcase, Haworth, and Trey all offer models made in large part from recycled materials, and in colors and fabrics that are recycled and colored with non-toxic dye. For extra sustainability, look for chairs that are Greenguard or Cradle-to-Cradle certified (we’ll get more into this in the Getting Techie section). And don’t be afraid to splurge on a high quality chair. Once you’re sitting 40 hours a week on a cheap one, you’ll find the extra money is well worth it. Check out our guide to Buy Green: Office Chairs for more info on which chair might be right for you.
5. Power up
If you’re making the switch to working from home, a computer is a non-negotiable necessity. But the kind of computer? That can be up for some debate. If all you need is an internet connection, word processing, and some basic photo editing tools, then buying the fanciest processor around is a waste—you might be able to make do with what you have, or buy a smaller version, for basic use. (It’s not a bad idea to buy a larger monitor, though; it’s easier on your eyes and lets you see twice as much with the same power.) If you are buying a new laptop or desktop, look for one that’s EPEAT-certified, so it’s made with less hazardous waste than non-certified brands, or that meets Energy Star requirements. Better yet: buy used.