Now more than ever, eco-friendly freelancing is an important step in the right direction. If you think about it, with so many of us working from home, we have a unique opportunity to set a green workplace standard maybe others don’t. We can also save money by ensuring we use our resources the smart way.

At the Freelance Jungle, we believe in the power of change through smart choices from the individual. Even big ones like the ones needed to aid the environment.

Here’s a starter guide on eco-friendly freelancing. I invite your additions in the comments below!

Shocking statistics

Did you know that keeping all your devices plugged in while you work burns electricity you don’t need to burn and may reduce the lifespan of your device? Oh, and that cord you have plugged into the power point with no device connected with the switch on is still sending power down the line, increasing your usage and your bill? In fact, it’s estimated a quarter of your bill is made up of vampire electricity (juice going nowhere) and stand-by mode.

Holy shock to the laptop, Batman! That’s zapped eco-friendly freelancing ideas right out of the water.

Look for good examples to help guide you. One of my favourites is that the Melbourne production of King Kong saved $30K by changing to LEDs over other light forms. Now, I know you might not want to light up a 900-pound gorilla for funsies, but it certainly sheds some light on how our choices of globe affect us globally. And can put big bananas back in the hip pocket.

You can also reduce a lot of your energy usage by positioning your computer to use natural light instead of electric lights. Or you can reduce how much juice your computer uses by losing screen savers, turning them off when they are not in use, or changing to a laptop – all of which uses significant less electricity than a standard desktop setup.

Pro tips:

  • Choose energy efficient lighting and electronics. The chance of engaging in eco-friendly freelancing is vastly improved with the right equipment. The right lamps, wattage and using LED can reduce your bills and make things look just as bright. The right energy saver rating can save your pocket and the planet a whole lot of waste
  • Negotiate your energy plans. You can save money with an existing supplier by asking for discounts on early payment. And investigate your energy plan to make sure any claims of green grid feeding are legit (there’s a bit of greenwash out there, unfortunately)
  • Rethink stand-by mode. If you are going to be away and not using a device for 20 minutes or more, switch it off
  • Plug up the juice. It’s healthy to let your electronic devices rundown and to switch off power points once the charge has been completed

Reusable coffee cups

shot of a thermos coffee mug mentioned in eco-friendly freelancing article. It is used at a dog beach overlooking sand and waves in Wollongong. There is a man and two dogs in the distance, coffee cup in the foreground

Photo of thermos coffee mug at the beach.

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee to wake you up ready for another day of freelancing. But did you know that as many as 2.7 million coffee cups are thrown out per day in Australia? That’s an awful lot of non-recycled paper being used and a heck of a lot of dead trees.

But there are alternatives! Most coffee shops in Australia are equipped to handle keep cups and reusable thermos vessels. These entirely reusable, eco-friendly little gems are easy to wash and reuse- and they don’t burn your hands like paper cups can.

Pro tips:

  • Opt for the cup that suits your lifestyle. I personally use a thermos brand cup with a handle as it holds a large and keeps my drink hot or cold (depending on its original state) for up to four hours. And it’s a completely non-spill vessel, perfect for long walks on the beach at sunrise, road trips and Wollongong to Sydney commutes
  • Choose Responsible Cafes. These places do what they can to reduce all kinds of waste, including coffee cups for eco-friendly freelancing meet and greets
  • Always forgetting to take your cup? You can participate in schemes like Green Caffeen, where you can scan, swap, drink and return your cup at participating cafes
  • Share the love. Thermos and reusable cups make a pretty thoughtful (and cost effective) gift for your clients as a daily reminder of your good work at the end of a project   
  • Have your coffee at the café. Not only does this mean you won’t be using a disposable cup, it’s also a ten-minute breather that helps promote self-care
  • Swap out the water bottles too. Forget contributing to plastic landfill and BYO water bottles to meetings everywhere

Leaving a paper trail

It’s no secret we spend an awful lot of time drowning in paper. We all want to move from the tree killers to tree huggers by reducing paperwork, right? There are a few other things you can do to minimise your paper usage.

Ask any suppliers or regularly billed services such as electricity or water to send through electronic as opposed to paper bills.

Use a cloud-based accounting software like Xero or Rounded to send your quotes and invoices to clients. Track these online rather than having paper records. Make USB, cloud or external hard drive backups as opposed to ones in printed folders.

If you do need to print things, use both sides of the paper. And you can further reduce your environmental impact by using less ink by printing only in black and white, and in draft mode.   

And any old documents can be shredded and used to pack items in storage or as base for papier mache craft, kitty litter and straight to compost.   

Also, do your research with paper products. Unfortunately, the Australian regulations on what is classed as sustainable paper are voluntary and have garnered significant criticism. Make sure you don’t buy on reflex and end up supporting greenwash by accident.

Pro tips:

  • Embrace the cloud, man. Not only is it a fluffy image, it also reduces your paper load
  • Choose your paper products wisely. Avoid companies that have a history of reducing old growth forests and look for sustainable sources instead
  • Think before you print anything! It’s the eco-friendly freelancing way to also include a reminder in your signature for clients as well  


Rethink your transport

Eco-friendly freelancing means rethinking how you get to and from meetings, coworking, events and on-site work.

Having thousands of cars on the road with only one person travelling to and from work increases not just traffic congestion but pollution levels as well. And there are alternatives available.

Think about planning your trip around your bicycle. This can reduce costs with parking and help you exercise at the same time. Many of the councils are getting on board with mapping bicycle trails, which makes it a great time to explore your options.

Plan your trips to save usage. You can declare a certain meeting day and schedule your transport around being as efficient as possible with the car. Or leave the car at home and opt for public transport.

You can also look at ride and car sharing. Book your airport transfers with Jayride. Hire a car or van from a fleet with GoGet or Flexicar. Or rent a car direct from the owner (or rent out yours for side cash) with Car Next Door and Drive My Car.

Pro tips:

  • Plan ahead. The more you plan travel, the more you command travel
  • Opt for digital over domestic travel. As much as our clients may want to see us, opting out of a car, train or plane ride is great for the planet. Especially plane rides!
  • Monitor your car usage. You can save money and your environmental footprint by rethinking your relationship with your car. Consider a micro car over a full sedan. Look at fuel economy and chart your usage to help make informed choices. Make upkeep a priority to avoid motor wear and tear. Opt for new over old when buying to cut down emissions. Try relying on one car instead of two (or three or four) if you need to at all   

Eco-friendly freelancing in the arts sector

Tipping Point Australia put together an amazing report on greening the arts in 2011. It features all kinds of information from zero carbon touring ideas through to how to effectively measure your environmental impact, suggested alternatives to current practices and some fantastic examples of what other creative bodies in Australia have done to become greener. Sadly, it looks as though Tipping Point Australia has not lived past 2017, but the report remains.   

Looking at using arts to highlight issues in climate, and how to manage the arts with climate change in mind is Climarte. Well worth a look, especially if you wish to keep up to date with changes in policy and fresh news.

Live Performance Australia has their Greener Live Performances project.

You can also dig into Green Music Australia’s resources page and find connections across the country and around the globe on greening music and live productions.

If you are looking for remodelling and building advice, set design ideas or ways to green the things you may need to build in film, music and theatre, there’s a wealth of building info at the Green Builders Council Australia.

Artists with a lean on the green side should check out the Eco-Arts Australia Conference (it moves location).

And if you want to make a case for greening creative practice or fly your eco-friendly freelancing flag to your clients, the Sydney Theatre Company’s Greening the Wharf initiative is a proven a sustainable lifestyle translates into savings, even on a tight budget.      

General advice on getting greener

General advice can also be found at Zero Waste Victoria. The Sustainability Centre in Adelaide puts the rad in Radelaide, let me tell you!

The Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, Brisbane’s Save the World Expo (no pressure there Queensland!) and Perth’s Regenerative Living Festival fuel the mind with practical ways to make green changes, small and large.

Many of the state and local councils offer sustainability tips such as these ones by the Victorian government.

Want a little on-the-fly encouragement? Facebook groups are a great place to look for sustainability information. My top picks are look big at Fuckgiving (for the causes you give a…well, you know, about) that is run by eco-friendly freelancing friends and Freelance Jungle favourites Sara Rickards and Cyn Coco. You can get national connection and advice one habit at a time with Eco Habits Australia. And look local at places like Sustainable Illawarra or your equivalent local group.     

Reduce, re-use, and recycle

It’s nice to see a new set of the 3 R’s taking Australian creative practitioners and freelancers by storm in reduce, re-use and recycle.

Eco-friendly freelancing involves being smarter about your home office waste.

Pop along to your local council website and check out their collection’s information. You’ll be amazed at how many now offer not just set neighbourhood pick up days for hard rubbish but also offer whitegoods pickups, e-waste solutions, scheduled pickups and commercial advice.

You might also find you can reduce green waste through composting and worm farms, which can make for guilt free lunches and help get rid of paper packaging and shredded paper.

Planet Ark also offers the site Recycling Near You for suggestions.

Mobiles and tablets find their recycling happiness with Mobile Muster. If you have batteries that you don’t want to bin, check out the battery recycling near you finder for advice on battery recycling pilots, who to contact and tips on safe disposal.

For large e-waste collections on a commercial scale, you can try E-waste Australia.

Places like Reverse Garbage Sydney and Reverse Garbage Brisbane not only lead the way in warehousing everything from fabrics through to used Mardi Gras floats! Furniture, tiles, wood, paint, butchers’ paper and all kinds of wonderful things can be found in abundance. Both also offer courses and workshops if you’re really keen.

Perth has the Cockburn Reuse Shop that has the occasional bit of scenery and creative props coming through, amongst other fun and glorious items.

Australia wide, you can freecycle at Ziilch  (they’ve even had houses and cars to giveaway- amazeballs!) or see what charities may need at Givit.

Find out about clothes swaps at The Clothing Exchange. If you want to donate or need business clothing, business attire recycler Dress for Success has chapters in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth.

Pro tips:

  • Recycling is awesome but reducing is better. If you can skip the latest update on electronic items, laptops, mobiles and environmentally draining products, the impact is powerful
  • Check out freecycling. From office furniture to office supplies, books and clothing, you can find all manner of business-related items on freecycle sites and Facebook groups. And you can get rid of your clutter in the process
  • Rethink how you buy. A great way to assess whether you should buy something is to look at the price in terms of investment over years. E.g. something that is $2000 that lasts 20 years works out cheaper than something that is $400 that lasts three.  
  • Do you really need it? We all get distracted by new toys and ideas. But the age of consume first, re-assess later is over. We cannot afford to do it. Avoid plastic, gimmicks and one-off items

Access to things we need

Want to borrow an iPad or a drill? Rent the tools and technology you need from your local tool library. As a starter, check out the Brisbane Tool Library, Melbourne’s Brunswick tool library,  Inner West Tool Library Sydney, and the Illawarra’s Make-Do Library of Things.  Men’s Sheds are also great places to go for tools and tips on how to use them.

Or if you are working and need to find a desk for a day (and yours is covered with crud- or you simply need to disappear for a while), try one of the many co-working places in Australia. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer via the coolest coworking joints, a Sydney finder spot map or in Sydney cafes and bars via Two Space or via the directory search, Cofinder.  

You can find short term workshop spaces, meeting rooms, pop up shops and more via Creative Spaces and SpaceBook.

Upskilling or in education? Students and teachers need not fret now that Zookal provides you a place to find some second-hand texts.

Pro tips:

  • Think about usage. Adopt the “why buy when you can share” ethos and save money and storage with items. It reduces how many items are create, bought and lie idle
  • Work from home. It reduces overheads on rentals and leases while saving on electricity and water and the commute
  • Coworking is also great for meeting new clients. They are also great for pooling your resource usage and making the most out of electricity and air-conditioning!  

We hope you enjoyed our look at eco-friendly freelancing. Got suggestions? Please pop them in the comments below! Or share yours in the Freelance Jungle now. 

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