It almost seems too good to be true, to pack up and work in a different place on a whim. But the life of a digital nomad is very much a reality for many of us. It’s the best of both worlds: to travel while still making money.
Digital nomads are those of us who work remotely, moving when and where we please, using coffee shops, public libraries, coworking spaces, and hotel rooms as offices. This is an enviable lifestyle for several reasons, such as the freedom to travel, a flexible work schedule, the opportunity to meet new people, and more.
Life as a digital nomad isn’t without its challenges, though. How do we maintain sustainable practices when our home base keeps changing?
Pack a Smart Suitcase
Packing light and well is good for several reasons. It will save your back some pain, and it will help you reduce your environmental impact. You can start by ditching unnecessary grooming products; limiting clothing to pieces that are versatile and easy to wash; and bringing reusable products like a water bottle, shopping bag, and cutlery. Let’s dig into some data to illustrate why this is important.
A whopping 59 tons of CO2 could have been avoided if every passenger flying from Heathrow to Frankfurt last year had packed one fewer pair of jeans. A further 22 tons of CO2 could have been spared if passengers from Heathrow to Dublin had packed one fewer pair of shoes.
And for the sake of something to drink, consider this: The impact of bottled water on natural resources is 3,500 times higher than for tap water. Just in the U.S., over 17 million barrels of oil are used to create the plastic bottles needed to meet annual bottled water demand. That amount of oil could fuel 1.3 million cars for an entire year or power 190,000 homes.
It might seem uncomfortable at first to do without a wide wardrobe selection or the many grooming products you use at home, but you can and will acclimatize, and what’s more, it’s liberating to haul around less stuff!
Eat Locally and Mindfully
If you’re the kind of person who will embrace the digital nomad life, you’re probably the kind of person to eat locally anyway. Eating locally grown and produced food gives you an opportunity to try new and exciting tastes and immerse yourself in the local culture. Better yet, eating locally sourced food helps support the local economy and reduces your carbon footprint compared to eating prepackaged and processed foods.
But be aware that eating locally only slightly reduces your carbon footprint. When it comes to your climate impact, what you eat is even more important. So enjoy the local cuisine, but try to limit your meat consumption to one meal a day or less. And if you have leftovers, save them for another meal, because food waste has a global impact. Make sure you pack a reusable food container so you’re always prepared.
Because digital nomads are often in transit and may lack access to equipment to make meals from scratch, they are susceptible to wasteful food packaging. If you’re at an airport or a train station with time to kill and a hungry stomach, it’s not easy. But with a little preparation, you can reduce your plastic waste while traveling.
Settings: Conserve Energy
Our laptops, tablets, and phones give us the freedom to work almost anywhere. But did you know that even in sleep or standby mode, our devices still consume electricity?
Minor changes to your device’s settings will reduce its energy requirements. For example, turn down your brightness and other features you’re not using, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Whether you’re using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, there are setting modifications you can make to reduce your device’s energy use, allowing you to work untethered to a power outlet for longer.
Mind Your Transportation Footprint
For the romantics among us, nothing beats walking. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city, it’s a healthy form of exercise, and it has zero environmental impact. Another great option is to rent a bike. It offers all the romance of walking but it’s faster.
But when your destination is a bit too far for a stroll or a bike ride, public transport is a solid option. Did you know, metros and subway systems produce 76% less CO2 emissions than single-occupancy vehicles? Avoid renting a car; burning just a single gallon of gasoline creates 8,887 grams of CO2!
Choose your destinations with attention to the environmental impact of your travel. The most carbon-intensive mode of transportation is air travel, which creates about 53 pounds of CO2 per mile, that’s more than the average person in 56 countries generates in a year. The golden rule is: do not fly unless you absolutely have to.
For intercity or international travel, the train is the least impactful way to go. If you’re in the Netherlands, take advantage of their wind-powered electric trains, which transport more than 600,000 people per day! If you’re on a budget, buses are cheaper than trains and still a less carbon-intensive mode of transit than cars and planes.
If you’re in a bind and need to drive, the best option is ride sharing. Using apps like BlaBla, a small group of strangers could travel to a new city in one vehicle, as opposed to in separate cars. Fewer cars on the road mean a lower carbon footprint.
Find Your Workspace
You didn’t pick this lifestyle to be stuck in your hotel room all the time, so where will you work?
One great option is to find a coworking space. They’re custom-built to accommodate you with everything you need, from fast Wi-Fi to free coffee to meeting rooms. What’s more, the coworking model is more environmentally friendly for digital nomads. While the average domestic fridge uses up around 495 kWh of electricity a year. Sharing the use of amenities such as fridges, printers, and utilities will help reduce your personal carbon footprint.
But then again, why inhibit your nomad spirit? Another option is to have a mobile workspace; moving from cafes to libraries to bars, and maybe even parks if the weather permits.
Speak the Local Language — Even if It’s Just a Bit
Some people are naturally language nerds. Some of us just don’t get it. But learning at least some basic phrases in the local language is worth your while for several reasons. It will help you get around town. It shows respect to the locals; you’re not just assuming that they speak English. It makes it easier to get to know locals or learn about things you wouldn’t otherwise find out. And finally, it’s fun!
It doesn’t have to be intensive either. You can start by using Duolingo five minutes a day, when you wake up or before you go to bed. Easy, right?
About the Author
Harry Prince is the creative content manager at Spacehuntr, where he writes about everything and anything, from cryptocurrency to food trucks.