Climate protection & freelancers: What can we do?

With the “Fridays for Future” movement at the latest, the issue of climate protection has reached the centre of our society. Every day new demands are made, which often address society in very general terms: Buying smaller cars, abandoning the Coffee-To-Go mugs and much more. But what can freelancers, self-employed people and start-ups do in everyday life to actively participate in climate protection?

Climate protection is not achieved by grand words, but by active action. As a designer, I started thinking some time ago about what I can change in my everyday life as a freelancer to help leave a planet worth living on for future generations.

In this article, I would like to present ten measures with which I, as a freelance designer, cannot save the world, but which make a small contribution to climate protection. Maybe you will find the one or other inspiration.

1. reduce on-site meetings

One measure for more climate protection that is much too little discussed publicly is the reduction of commuter traffic. Depending on the industry, there are trips to the client / employer which are relatively unnecessary. For example, if on-site work has to be done on the computer, which could also be done in the home office with the appropriate equipment. Fortunately, I am a freelance designer in an industry in which one can also work very well independent of location. I have reduced on-site meetings to the absolute minimum. Arrangements with clients are almost always made by email, phone or video chat. This not only saves CO2, but also time and money.

2. climate-neutral printing

Many printing houses offer the option of “climate-neutral printing” for a small extra charge when an order is placed. Physically, of course,CO2 emissions cannot be avoided in the production of print products. However, when an order is placed, the printing company makes a compensation payment to offset the amount ofCO2 generated during production. This means that the amount paid is invested in climate protection projects. For example by planting trees that can absorb theamount of CO2 emitted during printing. I regularly book both my own print jobs and those of my customers with the “climate-neutral printing” option. 

3. use climate neutral web hosting

Websites and mail accounts can be operated in an environmentally friendly way with more and more providers. The hardware used in such data centers is very energy efficient. The electricity in these data centers comes from renewable energy sources such as wind and waterpower. I run my websites, including this site, at Hetzner. There the data centres are operated with 100% green electricity.

4. extend the service life of equipment

Every year new devices with many great features are released: Smartphones with better cameras or computers with slightly faster processors. In my opinion, notebooks are still good to use after the statutory depreciation period of three years. By extending the useful life of our equipment, we can help reduce electronic waste. I use most of my equipment for twice as long as the statutory depreciation period. If I need equipment only rarely or exclusively for special projects, I use a rental service.

5. reduce paper

Unfortunately, the paperless office is still a utopia. Customers still have the right to receive a paper invoice. Nevertheless, I try to avoid paper wherever possible. I almost always send offers, invoices and contracts electronically. I do not print out documents and contracts, but store them digitally on my server. I save tickets or tickets with QR Code on my smartphone instead of printing them out and showing them at the entrance. We are still dependent on paper. But in some places, it can be reduced considerably.

6. use energy saving options

Many devices offer useful energy saving options. For example, computers that go into sleep mode after a certain amount of time. There are many ways to reduce energy consumption in your own office. Here are a few useful energy saving tips that I use myself to help protect the climate:

  • My computer goes into sleep mode very quickly.
  • Servers switch off automatically at night, as there is usually no access to the files anyway.
  • Servers are operated with SSDs. This means that the server requires less energy during operation than with classic hard disks, which is noticeable in continuous operation.
  • unused LAN ports on routers and switches are operated in the energy-saving 100MBit/s mode instead of 1Gbit/s
  • A main switch is used to disconnect all devices (computers, printers, etc.) from the power supply at the end of a working day. This reduces the amount of energy required in standby mode.
  • All lights are equipped with energy-saving LED illuminants.

7. choose green electricity supplier

Closely related to the previous point is the choice of energy supplier. Like the data centers of my hosting provider, my office is also powered by electricity from renewable energy sources. Thanks to changer bonuses and promotions, green electricity tariffs can usually be obtained relatively cheaply. Here it is worthwhile to change the provider more often.

8. climate protection by dispensing with physical promotional gifts

Gifts for the customer on special occasions such as Christmas, birthday or the successful completion of a project are great ways to strengthen the relationship with the customer. In recent years I have been avoiding using physical promotional gifts to strengthen the relationship with the customer. Instead, I donate the designated amount to aid organisations. Most customers do not miss the hundredth ballpoint pen with engraved company logo. Much more they are happy that the money that was included in the price of the giveaway has gone to a good cause.

9. home office instead of separate office

“Work must be kept strictly separate from personal life.” This is a common reason for having an office away from the private home. Personally, I have made the experience that it does little to keep both areas of life strictly separated. Often you take some problems or some work home with you. With an appropriate attitude, many jobs can be done at home or in a separate workroom, if this is possible. 

And what if customers want to discuss an order personally? If the order cannot be discussed over the phone, I simply invite my customers to dinner, where we can discuss everything. The atmosphere at dinner is usually better than in a sterile office or conference room, which greatly enhances customer relations. Even if you invite customers to dinner, it is usually still cheaper than paying the monthly rent for the designated office.

10. pass on

If you like my approaches or if you have your own approaches on how to actively protect the climate with your freelance work, you should also inform your business partners about them. In case your business partner has no interest in climate protection, there are also economic reasons for pursuing this approach.

Climate protection – Conclusion

The listed points show you my personal measures for climate protection within the scope of my freelance work. Perhaps not all points can be applied one-to-one to your work. This is normal, because every professional situation is individual by nature. Nevertheless, I hope that I have been able to give you some inspiration on what a freelancer can do to protect the climate. Some of the mentioned tips will also have a positive influence on your economic situation, because they help you to save money and time.

How do you do climate protection with your activities? Do you also have tips for freelancers? Then write your ideas in the comments and share them with us.

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