Energy efficiency and working from home

One of the reasons I’m really pursuing remote work is that I enjoy living in the country.

Don’t get me wrong. Cities are awesome and diverse and super convenient. But I love living by the water. Plus, as you all know, I value my solitude. And I’m not that isolated. I have several major cities within a 200-mile radius. That’s more than you can say in a lot of places.

While it is possible to live out here and work in a nearby urban center–most people do it, as local jobs are limited–I’m actively trying to avoid it. Not just because commuting is a total drag, but because it’s wasteful. When I was working every day in Annapolis, which is an hour-long drive away, I was putting 500 miles on my car every week without doing anything else. Forget traveling or seeing friends or running errands. That was 1.25 tanks of gas every week, too, or about 13 gallons.

For contrast, when I was living in Greensboro during my MFA, I went through about that much gas every two months. I walked everywhere. That’s a benefit of small, compact cities or large cities with good public transit. Vehicles become almost entirely unnecessary.

To be as responsible and live in a rural area, I only have a few options: 1) find a local job or 2) work from a home office. I’m not entirely opposed to the former, but the latter obviously affords me more flexibility and a wider range of employment.

(I’d make a pretty terrible farmer, for example.)

However, working from home poses its own energy challenges.

  • Travel. Because I’m not commuting every day, I’m more inclined to go elsewhere. I love traveling and it’s absolutely worth it. But I still need to keep my gasoline consumption at a minimum, which means picking and choosing excursions–and taking public transit when at all possible.
  • Electronics. Obviously almost all remote work is done online. Computers use a fair amount of power, which means being mindful of how much you use them on top of working. This also means making sure devices are plugged in only when they absolutely have to be.
  • Climate control. Like most people, we try to minimize heating and cooling when we’re not home (within reason, because pets). I’d argue for remote workers that it’s best to try to stick to those daytime energy levels, rather than adjust for one person. Which means staying warm and cool in other ways.
  • Lighting. Same thing for the light switches. It’s not always possible, but I do try to use natural light instead when I’m working at home.
  • Errands. Similar to travel, if you’re not commuting and set your own schedule, there’s more you can accomplish around town. But rather than going out several times a day, it’s still important to cluster activities. And walk if at all possible.

Do you work from home? How do you stay energy efficient?

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