How to boost wellbeing and sustainability when working remotely
Working or studying at home? Now is a great time to show both yourself and the planet some love. Read our top tips for boosting your wellbeing while reducing your environmental impacts.
By Meg McGrath, Communications Coordinator in the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh
Spending all day at home can be tough. Tougher still if you have work deadlines to meet, exams to prepare for, and perhaps even children or elderly relatives to care for. It’s a stressful time for many.
Yet this time at home can bring a welcome break from tiresome routines and social obligations that sap our energy and finances. By spending more time with ourselves (if you are able to get a few moments on your own!), social distancing gives us a chance to reflect on who we are right now, what really matters to us, and what brings us a sense of contentment.
The links between personal wellbeing, environmental sustainability and social responsibility are strong and well documented. For example, green spaces in cities give people a chance to improve their physical and mental health, while also improving biodiversity and encouraging social interaction. Studies have also shown that the longer you spend in green spaces, the more likely you are to participate in actions that are good for the planet.
If being more sustainable is something you’d always hoped you’d get around to doing, now is a great time to consider it. Here are our top tips for sustainable actions you can take today that will also improve your wellbeing while at home.
1. Embrace online working
There are lots of environmental benefits to working and studying from home: no commute = no emissions, and collaborating online means less printing and less travelling to meetings. Pause to think about this and realise you’ve likely reduced your carbon footprint already. While adapting to online working can be quite stressful, over time it gets easier. Take time to celebrate the changes you’ve made: you’re more adaptable than you think.
2. Food for thought
Fuelling yourself with whole foods will help boost your mood and energise you for your days at home. Now Spring is here, there are also more opportunities for foraging foods whilst on one of your daily walks. Wild garlic pesto from Blackford Hill, anyone? There are also many places you can buy local and organic vegetables, such as East Coast Organics or items in bulk from New Leaf Coop that will benefit both you and the planet.
Why not use this time to try growing your own food? You can either buy seeds or try regrowing veg from scraps you already have. Join the ‘Edinburgh seed, plant and garden share’ group on Facebook for advice.
Now popping out to your local café for a sandwich for lunch isn’t really an option anymore, more of us are making food from home. Which also means, more potential for food waste.
Here are our top tips for avoiding this:
Plan your meals in advance. By doing this, you can ensure the food you buy is only what you need, and that it will be eaten. If you are doing a larger shop, (but ensure you’re only buying what you truly need so others can have access to goods too!) try and stock up on long life items, like tinned veg, or dried grains so they won’t have gone off when you go to eat them later in the week.
Any extra free time you have might give you the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. That ingredient tucked away in the back of the cupboard you bought months ago to make that recipe? Give it a go! Take this time to do a stock check of your own cupboards. Write a list of everything you have in there, and try and centre your meals around that. If you’re stuck with what to make, using apps like PlantJammer can suggest recipes using what you already have.
There are also lots of collections of store cupboard meals created for times like these you can find online.
3. Save your energy
If you’re now having to charge laptops and other devices at your own house now you’re not using a computer at the office or library, your energy bills may go up. Ensuring you’re being smart about how you’re using energy can help avoid a dramatic increase for next month’s bill. Use an extension cord to charge all your devices in one place. This will help you remember what you’ve got charging and when, and not leave something plugged in for much longer than needed.
As always, ensuring your devices are turned off properly and not left on standby will help keep your energy usage down.
This may also be a great opportunity to switch your energy company to a renewable one to ensure you’re powering your work through green sources. Many companies offer discounts through referrals through friends or offer to pay your exit fees with your current supplier.
Remember to switch off your devices and take time to have a break. You don’t need to be connected all of the time. Making notes or mind maps on some scrap paper will not only allow you to be more creative but will mean you’re reducing your energy consumption too.
4. Take a break
Make some time to for a quick walk in your local park or go and get a breath of fresh air in your garden. Or why not call a loved one? Check in on your friends and family’s wellbeing for a boost of your own too.
Spot what nature you can out of your window, or if you’re limited, do some virtual bird spotting. Then why not try some drawing of what you do see? A short 5 minute meditation will also help you unwind and come back to work refreshed!
5. Turn down the heat
The weather is now getting warmer (albeit only by Scottish standards), which may mean your heating could be turned down. Ensuring your heating isn’t too cold, as this may make focusing on your work more difficult, but also not too unnecessarily warm you’re using energy unnecessarily.
Try putting on another layer and removing ay draughts from the room through excluders or curtains before turning up the heating.
Also, if you’re no longer commuting and your heating is still set to come on in time for an earlier start, make sure you adapted it to your new wake up time.
Try and position where you spend a bulk of the workday so you’ll benefit from any sunshine. Not only will this make you warmer and less reliant on energy, but this will also make you happier. People living in Scotland are recommended to supplement Vitamin D due to the lack of sun exposure. Now we’re all spending a lot more time inside, ensuring you’re maintaining these levels through fortified foods or supplements will be both good for your health and mood as vitamin D plays an important role in mood regulation.
6. Spring clean
If you’ve got some time on your hands, why not spend a few minutes clearing out some old cupboards to collect items to either re-sell or donate once you’re able to. From clothes to books, having a clear out will make some space to improve your workspace and help give no longer needed items to a new home.
Having a home free of clutter will also make spending more time there more enjoyable and make maintaining your wellbeing whilst at home more easy.