2021 marks the intersection of two growing areas of interest: remote working and environmental sustainability. Greater numbers than ever before are opting to work remotely, and for so-called “digital nomads”, that means opting to enjoy travel, living and working in a range of different world-wide locations. So long as there is a reliable internet connection, digital nomads can make anyplace their workspace. So, how does the rise of the digital nomad fit with environmental sustainability and environmental responsibility? We’ll take a tour through practical ways and pragmatic considerations so that digital nomads can ensure their travel-based lifestyle cares for the planet.
Digital Nomads – Combining work and travel
Covid-19 saw a dramatic global shift towards ever-increasing levels of remote working. The trend towards remote working was already taking hold pre-2020. Even so, prior to the pandemic, only 7 percent of U.S. workers worked full-time at home. Remote work was the privilege of a lucky few. More recent research points to a dramatic increase in remote working, with close to 1-in-2 U.S. workers now remote. Technological advances, combined with the growing acceptance and awareness of WFH make remote work an attractive option. So much so, that ever-increasing numbers are embracing the digital nomad technology-supported lifestyle that is not tied to any one geographical location. Whether working as an employee or an entrepreneur leading on your own company, it’s now viable to easily combine travel and work.
The Environmental Impact of the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Travel, particularly air travel, has gained a reputation for being extremely hazardous to the environment. 2.4 % of CO2 emissions come from commercial aviation. That equates to a whopping 918 million metric tons of CO2 emitted from commercial aviation in 2018. So, does this mean that the rise in digital nomad patterns of work is to be scorned as only serving to fuel and contribute to the issues around greenhouse gas emissions? Well, there is greater complexity to be considered. Moves towards remote working have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. WFH – wherever home might be can, in itself, contributes to environmental benefits and sustainability. For example, remote working does away with the daily commute from home to office on traffic-conjected freeways. Remote working means less need for centralized office space: less need to build resource hungry high-rises. Business meetings over video conferencing mean you can share ideas with colleagues or secure negotiations of a project without the need to book accommodation and facilitate transport for employees. This has a major impact on emissions from reduced business-related travel. In this way, the math around environmental sustainability of the digital nomad becomes more complex.
Options for environmentally responsible travel as a digital nomad
So, if you want to live the digital nomad lifestyle, combining work and travel, whilst also caring for the environment, there are options and choices you can easily implement to make the numbers stack up in favor of the planet. Environmental impact is tied to human decision making. So, forearmed with some of the practical suggestions below, you can be in a position to make environmentally responsible choices without compromising on enjoying seeing the world whilst working.
1. Build sufficient down-time into your working week and working year.
Digital nomads no longer need an artificial separation of work and vacation time. If you are in the right location, a step outside of your accommodation can be a step into paradise. It’s easier to live simply when you are surrounded by the best that nature and human culture has to offer. Suddenly, there’s no need to jet off for a couple of holidays each year, instantly saving on carbon emissions. Work and vacation become intertwined. To make the most of this, ensure you build in sufficient down-time and chance to enjoy the culture, vistas and people in your surroundings.
2. Consider slow travel
Air travel is not the only option to make the most of the digital nomad lifestyle. There’s increasing interest in the potential of slow-transport options that allow you to enjoy the journey, rather than simply focusing on the destination. Coaches and trains have far smaller carbon footprints than air travel, and any travel agent worth their salt will be able to point you towards sleeper trains, boat transport and luxury coach possibilities as comfortable options that are viable alternatives to air travel. Slow travel can require something of a mind-set shift: a desire to live in the moment, to savor the delights of the present, rather than rushing onto the next. And that mindset can help you as an environmentally responsible digital nomad. Aim to enjoy sufficient time in each location, soaking in and absorbing your surroundings for a good few months, before you look to travel onto pastures new. Taking your time can really contribute to a settled mind and relaxed body.
3. Do your homework
Not all airlines are equal when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. You can do your own research into options, considering factors such as the carbon efficiency of different airlines. For example, the size and also age of an airoplane can affect fuel efficiency. Alternatively, you can outsource your homework, and seek the advice of a reputable travel company that can provide the most environmentally responsible flight options that meet your needs. Do your homework, too, in considering what you actually NEED to take with you as luggage. Every oz of extra weight on a flight increases fuel consumption. Be prepared and pack light for environmental responsibility.
4. Fly Direct
Direct flights are more environmentally friendly than those involving stopovers. It might be tempting to book stop over flights so you can enjoy the odd night here, the odd night there in a different city. Yet, as a digital nomad, you have chance to come and visit and live in that said city for a few months – combining work and travel. Choose the direct flight if you want the eco-option.
5. Invest in offsetting
Carbon offsetting projects allow you to invest in schemes that offer environmental benefits, offsetting the negative impact of air transportation. Look for a responsible scheme, such as one endorsed by the UN Carbon Offset platform. A reputable travel broker can advise, so ask questions about how you can best offset for the flights you are looking to take this year.
So, the digital nomad lifestyle can be a green choice, benefiting you as well as the planet. Keep your environmental responsibility in mind and seek advice and input to make eco-choices that work. The world’s your oyster!