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Earth Hour has come and gone for 2008, and it was an easy opportunity for people who don’t normally think about their environmental footprint to do something about it. Apparently it was quite successful, with local utilities such as EnergyAustralia claiming that energy consumption for that hour was 10.2% less than usual.

But, while Earth Hour is a great awareness raising campaign and does provide some relief against our constant pummel on nature, it doesn’t solve the huge problems we’re facing. Even if you’re one of the few who still think that global warming is an elaborate prank, there’s no arguing the fact that looking after our one and only planet is important—after all, there’s nowhere to go if we kill this one.

In that vein, I’ve written up a few greening tips you can implement quickly and without drastically altering your life. They won’t solve all the problems the environment faces either, but perhaps they’ll buy us a bit of time while the guys in lab coats think up something better or politicians catch up with reality.

Take the “Earth Hour” concept daily

It wasn’t really that hard to go without lighting, was it? If you work from home, then chances are you’re still plugging at it when it’s dark and chances are you’re using plenty of lighting. Switch them off and keep going—if you do most of your work on a computer, then it’s just as easy as with the lights on. That is, as long as you can touch-type!

Remember to choose a time when turning all your lights off actually makes a difference—in other words, when it’s dark. If the sun is still up, even at twilight, then you won’t make nearly as much of a difference.

Go Paperless

While paper is a renewable resource, trees are being consumed at a non-sustainable rate. The manufacture of ink is a particularly nasty business for the planet’s health, too. Stop printing everything—store your documents on your hard drive, and use services like Google Docs.

You can also invoice online—there are a variety of options, including the simple ones: an email invoice, or PayPal’s request money feature, or the more ‘professional’ options, such as Blinksale or Zoho’s new invoicing feature.

Many banks and utilities also allow you to receive bills online these days—find out if yours do.

Tweak Your Computer’s Power Saving Settings

Most home office dwellers, web-workers and freelancers have all sorts of powered devices running all the time. Computers, modems, routers, printers and scanners on standby, speakers, and so on. For some of those gadgets, it’s as easy as flicking them off when you’re not using. Remember, the modem or router can go off when you go to bed, unless you have a habit of surfing in your sleep.

But computers are such a central part of our work that it’d usually be impractical to turn them off and on all day long. If we’re ducking out for five or ten minutes, it’s easy to save power without spending another five or ten minutes shutting down and booting up.

All good operating systems have power saving settings that control the consumption of the monitor, the hard disk and the computer itself. Head in to your power saving settings and have the computer switch off the monitor or even go to sleep altogether after five minutes of inactivity.

Of course, you can tier it for practicality; after five minutes, the monitor goes off, and after half an hour, the system goes to sleep. Easy.

If you can’t be bothered setting up power saving, you can always download this screen saver that reminds you to turn your monitor off when the computer’s idle.

Recycle Devices

Computers, phones and some other gadgets have almost become disposable items for some of us; we use it for a while, until a new model comes out and it’s out with the old and in with the new.

If they’re still working, it’s always a good opportunity to make a bit of cash on eBay or just hand the item down to your punk sibling or one of your kids. But often those upgrades occur because the old device is no longer working. Greenpeace says that we generate about 4,000 tonnes a year throwing this stuff out.

Many companies are offering a great recycling solution that you can and should take advantage of. Apple and Dell are well-known computer manufacturers who offer the service. There are similar programs for cell phones—I’m not sure what’s available in America, but just the other day I saw a phone-recycling bin outside a cell phone store.

It’s so easy, there’s really no excuse for not recycling your devices.

Use Proper Attire to Keep Work Comfortable

Working in your boxer shorts is almost a cliché for work-from-home types, even if it’s freezing outside. Put on some more clothes and turn down the heating. Alternatively, in the summer, don those boxer shorts (until you have a meeting, of course) and take some strain off the air conditioner.

Keep Water Use to a Minimum

You work and live at home, so one way you can reduce your impact while you work at home is to minimize your use of water, and to fix leaks around the house. Since the repairs are for your place of work, it’s quite possible you’ll be able to write them off as a business expense (depending on your local laws).

If you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph, but if you’re really committed to reducing your environmental impact you could always adopt the old proverb as your mantra. If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.

Remember, there’s another benefit in many of these tips—you save money; no paper and ink costs and a smaller balance on your electricity and water bills. At the end of the day, minimizing expenses is something all businesses—whether they’re based at home or not—can do with.

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