How To Live More Sustainably As A Digital Nomad


Being a digital nomad is an amazing privilege and one of the things we can do to compensate for that privilege is to consider how our actions impact the planet around us. It is not only possible to live sustainably as a digital nomad but also highly desirable.

The key things to consider for sustainable living as a digital nomad are:

What do we mean by sustainable? We mean living in a way so that wherever possible we have as little impact on the planet, environment, and people around us as possible. We mean reducing or eliminating waste and/or pollution.

Does Flying Make Us Bad?

 

It is fair to say that most digital nomads are going to fly more often than other people do. The bad news is that flying is not the kindest thing to do to the planet, though there are things you can do to offset the impact of flying, which we’ll come to in a moment.

However, before the guilt trip takes hold: digital nomads may fly more often than most people, but they tend to do less driving, less commuting and less day-to-day travel than your average worker does.

Most digital nomads will work from home or a nearby co-working space of café that they can walk to. They will, therefore, offset a lot of their carbon emissions, when compared to the average person, in other ways.

How To Ensure Your Flights Have The Least Impact On The Environment

 

If you want to reduce your environmental footprint when you fly, you ought to:

  • Fly direct. We know it can be really tempting to take two (or sometimes more) flights to get to your end destination to save money. Unfortunately, this is terrible for the environment because a.) you’re not going direct and therefore are using more fuel and b.) take-off and landing use the most fuel, more flights mean more waste.
  • Fly economy. We confess that we don’t always stick to this rule due to the incredible costs of taking baggage on some intercontinental flights but if you can, you should. The more economy seats on a plane the more passengers it can take and therefore less fuel per passenger is used.
  • Consider offsetting your carbon miles. There are plenty of ways to offset the carbon emissions you create while you fly. Check out Carbon Footprint for some ideas on how to do this in a green friendly manner.

Driving Is Better Than Flying

 

If you can drive or take a bus/taxi/train/etc., then you will cause fewer emissions per mile than you would by flying. Now, we appreciate only crazy people are going to take a bus from London to Bangkok (or the truly masochistic) but shorter journeys are often fairly easy to do by driving.

Tips For Driving For Low Environmental Impact

If you want to keep your footprint as small as possible consider:

  • Ridesharing. Full cars, buses, etc. use less emissions per passenger than half-empty ones. Try advertising in digital nomad groups or travel groups to see if anyone fancies sharing before you set off. In our experience, a little company on a trip can help make the time go faster too.
  • Check your tire pressure. Poorly inflated tires cause a large amount of additional friction on the car when driving which greatly reduces fuel efficiency. It’s easy to check your pressure before you leave and it’s free to remedy it too if there’s a problem.
  • Drive at a fuel-efficient speed. This varies from car to car but there’s normally a speed that maximizes fuel economy. Sadly, this is usually not the fastest the car will go. Sometimes, you’ve got to go slower to save the planet.
  • Watch the a/c. Air-conditioning can also boost your fuel consumption by up to 10%. Consider rolling down windows where practical, instead.
  • Don’t charge your phones in the car. Seriously, when you plug them in to charge – you’re burning fuel to do so.

Say Goodbye To Plastic

 

You’d have to have been living under a rock to not know that there’s too much plastic use in our environment. Plastic chokes the seas and on land, it fills landfill after landfill and takes forever to rot. It’s become so ubiquitous that even as you read this; tiny bits of plastic are circulating in your bloodstream.

That’s not a particularly pleasant thought, is it? So, let’s all commit to eliminating plastics where possible.

How To Reduce Plastic Use In Your Digital Nomad Life

 

So, let’s get practical – we know you won’t be ditching your laptop or mouse any time soon (and neither will we) but what can we get rid of?

  • No plastic bags. Buy reusable bags made from recycled material instead. This really isn’t rocket science. Though we’re ashamed to note that this quite often means we end up buying more bags when we forget to take them with us – that’s not so environmentally friendly.
  • No plastic straws. Yes, the impact of straws is probably over-hyped but why not make a change where you can? We simply don’t buy drinks that need straws when we can help it. Other people carry bamboo or metal straws which can be cleaned and reused – it’s your call.
  • Don’t chew gum. Yes, gum contains a “synthetic rubber” – that’s plastic in disguise. Gross, huh?
  • If you’ve got to smoke use a refillable lighter. I quit smoking, so this is one thing I don’t have to worry about, but cheap disposable lighters are an environmental disaster and don’t forget to throw the butts in the bin too.
  • Choose razors with blades you can replace. Disposable razors are bad for the environment but they’re also pretty bad for your face. Nobody gets a great shave with a cheap razor.

How To Make Digital Nomad Work And Living More Sustainable

 

There are lots of other small ways that you can have a more positive impact on the world around you as a digital nomad and here we’ve got a list of tips that can help you get the ball rolling.

  • Consider your hosting provider. Some hosting providers use the latest most environmentally friendly hardware and are certified for their environmental concerns and others are not.
  • Consider recycling your gear when it reaches the end of its life. You don’t have to throw out a laptop – it can always be passed on for spare parts.
  • Buy quality products. Cheap stuff isn’t made to last. That means it needs replacing far more frequently than good quality gear and that is bad for the environment. Spend a little more today and you will save money tomorrow as well as saving the planet.
  • Don’t forget to unplug when you’re done for the day. This will save you money if you’re paying the electricity bill and it will stop your stuff from burning power on standby.
  • Carry a reusable drinking glass and straw. We love going out for a coffee but there is something quite distressing about how nearly every place you go pops the coffee in a disposable plastic or paper cup and then throws in a plastic straw. Just take your own reusable versions and insist that they use that instead.
  • Carry a reusable shopping bag. We have more of these than we probably should because occasionally we forget them when we go shopping but you can make shopping a little more eco-friendly this way and they don’t take any real space in your suitcases either. One thing we like about these bags is how tough they tend to be – they’re perfect for carrying laundry to the launderette too.
  • Consider the impact of your actions on the environment. This is the biggest thing of all, there’s no reason that digital nomads can’t take a moment to think about what they do and then try to act in the way that is best for the environment. Google your most regular habits and see how you can make them more sustainable, for example.

Conclusion

We’d be willing to bet that your average digital nomad life is more environmentally friendly than most. That’s because digital nomads don’t tend to own very much stuff which keeps consumption down and apart from the occasional flight; they also don’t tend to travel very far to work.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t do a little more for the environment by putting a bit more effort in. A sustainable digital nomad lifestyle is the best way to pay a little back to the planet and it doesn’t have to be expensive or painful to put into place.

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail at nicholasbarang@gmail.com or to nick at nomadtalk.net.

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