How to Have a More Sustainable Workday

Talia Vicars
Man holding a pencil on a laptop with a glass mug of coffee

While we believe that every day should be a sustainability day, we’re here to talk about how to make a sustainability difference in your day-to-day. Most of us are working five out of seven days of the week – maybe four if you’re lucky! This means that we could make a tangible difference in our individual environmental impacts if we make some wise choices during the work day. Here are our favorite ways to best impact people and the planet during your 9 to 5. 

How can Finch help you make more informed decisions throughout your work day?

First things first, add the Finch extension to your Chrome browser. We know that navigating the world of sustainability can be confusing. That’s why we created a tool to help you make wiser choices when you shop. Follow this link to add the extension and start making more sustainable purchasing decisions!

If you’re looking for more of the why behind the scores you find in the extension, check out our Wise Guides. They go through the ins and outs of all of the content you’ll see in the extension and on our website – everything from the most important materials to keep an eye out for, the top certifications and how they work, and even how to use your favorite products to leave the smallest environmental impact possible.

While shopping, you might come across a product or product category that doesn’t have any scores available yet – that’s because we’re still working on tackling all of the different categories of products out there. And hey, there are a lot. Bear with us as we work to get you science-backed information on all products – we’re all about progress over perfection after all. 

Here’s our round-up of helpful hints:

#1 Make coffee at home with a french press and drink out of a reusable mug.

#2 Avoid driving to work if you can. First, walk or bike, then take the bus or train. 

#3 Practice mindful consumption when working from home. 

#1 Make coffee at home with a french press and drink out of a reusable mug.

When it comes to starting the workday off right, many of us need a good ol’ cup of joe. When choosing how to get your daily dose of caffeine, making it at home can mean not making an additional stop on your way to the office (which requires more gas or energy depending on the car you’re driving), and can save you some serious cash. We all know that the PSL addiction is real – and so is the fact that they’re almost always around $7 if you’re getting oat milk like us. 

Choosing a french press and a reusable mug can also have some awesome benefits. Single-use packaging, when it comes to coffee, can impact the overall sustainability of our morning routine. For example, single-serve capsules of aluminum, like those from Nespresso, bring some environmental repercussions. Aluminum is highly energy-intensive to mine, and even though it is highly recyclable, the EPA estimates that 50% of aluminum still gets sent to landfill, contributing to our ever-growing waste and resource-use problem. 

Paper cups – like those served at Starbucks and McDonald’s – also contribute to climate change. Paper cups are often lined with a thin plastic coating to help make them waterproof. In turn, depending on your municipality’s recycling capabilities, these cups may not be recyclable (because they’re made of “mixed” materials). If they are recyclable in your municipality, recycling could reduce the environmental footprint by up to 40%. 

#2 Avoid driving to work if you can. First, walk or bike, then take the bus or train. 

COVID-19 really upended the way we live – and work. Many of us transitioned to remote-first working and, as the world has evolved to live with COVID-19, only some of us are getting back into the office. Whether you have a hybrid workplace or are in-office daily, let’s look at how you can reduce the impact of that commute. 

We know that it’s not always safe to go on foot or by bike, largely because the infrastructure to support walking and cycling is hugely underfunded, so let’s all consider that as our starting line. If distance, safety, and accessibility are accounted for, walking and cycling are great ways to get to work. These modes of transportation (walking and cycling) are known as active mobility and they have the lowest carbon footprint of all transportation options. An estimated 40% of all personal trips are under two miles, so if you can walk or bike, we encourage it! This also means you’ll get your steps in. 

The second most environmentally friendly mode of transport is public transportation. While American public transportation infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, an individual who transitions from a 20-mile commute by car to a public transit option can reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by more than 48,000 pounds in a year. For a family of two, that’s equal to a ~10% reduction, based on studied household averages. And, it’s even better than those cool, new electric scooters you may have seen taking up the road, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). Not to mention that hopping on public transit is about 10 times safer per mile than traveling by car. Win - win!

#3 Practice mindful consumption when working from home. 

Working from home (or WFH for the cool kids) has its upsides: rising a little later in the morning because there’s no commute (except, maybe, to the fridge), not getting distracted by impromptu colleague drop bys, potentially even having more time with family at home. But it also comes with a lot of choices to make throughout the day where we can minimize our environmental footprints.

Now that you’re not in the office and under that horrendous fluorescent lighting, make sure to make the right lighting choices at home. Lighting is a significant source of residential energy use. LEDs (or light-emitting diodes for those fancy folks out there) are a much more efficient option than incandescent bulbs. In fact, they can last at least 25 times longer and consume up to 90% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. If you were to switch five of the bulbs you use most in your home to LEDs, it is possible to save a whopping $75 on energy costs annually, not to mention all of the resource-use savings.

We also love working from home because it’s a great chance for multi-tasking chores. Have you ever had the chance to do a load of laundry while on the job? Well, us too. Washing machines are some sneaky culprits when it comes to energy use. In fact, 90% of the energy that a washing machine uses goes into heating water. And, a washing machine uses roughly the same amount of energy regardless of the load size. Opt for cold water instead to save on some of that energy use, and run full loads to reduce the amount of energy per item washed. When it comes to the products you use to actually do your laundry, check out our favorite dryer balls, dryer sheets, detergents, fabric softeners, and stain removers using the Finch Chrome extension