Joining the climate emergency fight might feel overwhelming, but we all need to start somewhere.
We hope that these tools will help you start making some changes and feeling empowered to encourage others to do the same. The page will be updated frequently, and if there is something you’d like to add or suggest, please get in touch. You can also check the external resources page for additional information from our members and organisations that are doing some great work in this space.
Read below or download the document
Now the majority of us are working from home, it is harder to keep track of our carbon impact as organisations. Members of individual staff are all working in different buildings, heating their homes for more of the day, creating more recycling and waste, and using a wide range of energy providers. As organisations, this gives us less control of our energy usage and carbon footprint (even though travel footprints, for example, will have reduced).
None of these tips are based on formal data or evidence but are some tips and ideas gathered by the ACEVO staff working group on the climate crisis. We know leaders can’t tell their staff what to do in their own homes, but we hope they might give some ideas on how to approach working from home with sustainability in mind.
This is a working document and we welcome feedback to make sure it is useful for members and their teams – please contact our policy officer Maisie on Maisie.firstname.lastname@example.org if you think additions or changes would be helpful.
It is unavoidable that we use more energy if we are at home all day. One of the simplest but biggest changes to make is your energy provider – switch to someone green! If you’re tied into a contract, make a note of when it ends and do some research so that you can let your current provider know in time if you’d like to switch. You’ll likely save money, and lots of providers share really handy tips on how to reduce your usage and help the environment too. Companies like Octopus Energy and Bulb are a good place to start. A supplier who can get you smart meters is also great, as these are a good way of keeping track of your energy usage and spending.
It’s also really important to remind staff of all the habits that were embedded in office life –for example:
- Avoiding ‘vampire energy’ – turning off your monitors and laptops rather than leaving them plugged in and avoid dormant energy use
- Sit near a window and enjoy the natural light – you can leave the main lights off when the sun is out
- Turn down the brightness on your screen/monitor – this is better for your eyes and the world.
- Kettle – try not to keep boiling a full kettle, but only boil the amount of water you need for tea or coffee. Over time, this makes a really big difference.
It has been a long winter of needing the heating on for lots of us, but here are some tips to keep warm during the day without turning it on. Why not try:
- Fingerless gloves
- Draught excluders by the front door – these make a huge difference all year round
- A hot water bottle on your lap
- Changing your heating timer schedule – move one hour in the evening to the middle of the day, for example, to bump the temperature up a bit
- Use a flask on your desk – a hot drink will keep you warm, stay warm for longer, and you don’t have to boil the kettle as often.
Recycling and waste
Working from home means we probably cook more at home, which is probably an improvement in terms of single-use plastic from sushi and sandwich boxes, but might mean we are producing more food waste. Here are some tips to reduce food waste when you’re at home:
- Check your fridge temperature! It should be between 0 and 5 degrees.
- If you live in a kerbside property, you should be eligible for food waste bins. Get in touch with your council to order one and keep your landfill waste as low as possible!
- Other great projects for food waste, like growing mushrooms from your coffee grounds, or organisations that deliver surplus/plastic-free vegetable boxes. It’s not for everyone, but if you’ve been thinking about trying these organisations out, why not try them now?
- Use your freezer – anything you don’t fancy, fruit you couldn’t finish in time, leftovers or stale bread that could be breadcrumbs. You will thank yourself on a busy workday when you don’t have time to make anything
- Start a compost bin, especially if you have a garden or are growing herbs
- Keep an eye on local food banks, charities and other initiatives which might be accepting in-date non-perishables that you decide you might not use – tins, preserves,
Recycling is also on the rise, with lots more home deliveries of items and lots of cardboard boxes as well as increased food packaging. We would recommend:
- Sorting your waste properly and check your local bins. It may be that you need to take certain types of plastic to bins at a large supermarket; recycle glass separately; or take paper and cardboard to their own bins. Your council should provide guidance on this and it is always good to be sure we are recycling correctly.
- You may be able to reuse certain plastics; why not check if there is a refill or bulk store near you? These are becoming more common and you may be able to refill pots of pulses, tea, coffee, milk, and more, rather than ordering repeat plastic packets.
Using water effectively and avoiding waste, especially when working from home, is really key to being sustainable across the board. There are some great tips from Waterwise on how to save water while working from home – challenge yourself to try one each week or month.
More generally why not take a look at Waterwise’s tips on saving water?
Being at home all the time has its perks. You can save energy in other ways, too. Some of our team have been doing the following:
- Hang your washing out on an airer or on the washing line, instead of throwing it in the tumble drier before you head out of the door in the morning
- Grow some herbs in small pots to make lockdown lunches more exciting
- Try meat-free meals a few times a week or switch to plant-based cooking – challenge yourself to try something new.
- Explore plastic-free options across your home – there are lots of companies now who deliver plastic-free dishwasher tablets, cleaning materials and washing pods/fabric conditioner on a rolling subscription
- Lots of people are switching to plastic-free toilet paper deliveries, and many of these organisations donate a proportion of their profits to charitable arms delivering projects across the world. It also means you never run out of toilet paper.
- Fond of a tea or coffee, and getting through lots of milk? Why not see if you have a local milkman? Often they deliver other household essentials like butter, cheese and bread.
We all need to take small steps within our organisations towards net-zero. These questions are not a formal template or assessment tool, but we hope will work as a prompt for leaders to work out some of the ‘easy wins’, and some of the bigger gaps that need more preparation. When looking at these categories, leaders can ask themselves:
- Could we do this tomorrow?
- Could we do this over three months?
- Could we do this over a year or more?
This will hopefully provide a sense of where you could start and how to build up climate action across your organisation to start your journey towards net zero – which will look very different for every leader and charity. We’ve put the questions into a table but we’re happy to adapt them or provide different formats. Just contact our policy officer Maisie on Maisie.email@example.com if you have feedback or questions and we will be happy to make changes.
Download the sustainability starter questions.