The digital economy keeps growing. And with that growth, so-called “digital nomads” are becoming a common sight in cities around the globe.
Who are digital nomads? They’re the next generation of work-at-home professionals. You might even say they’re an evolution of the typical work-at-home type. You see, instead of working in a downstairs office or at their favorite coffee shop, digital nomads move from place to place – often country to country – and continue to work without maintaining a permanent residence.
They’re expatriates. Backpackers. Hostel dwellers. With a laptop in hand and a WiFi signal within range, they can perform 100% of the tasks necessary for them to make a living as designers, consultants, writers, or marketers.
But the traveling lifestyle isn’t just about personal freedom, although it allows for plenty of that. It’s also a very sustainable way to live, maintain a business, and coexist with local communities. Here are five reasons why:
Digital nomads live in smaller quarters.
When you don’t have a permanent residence, you end up living in smaller spaces. Digital nomads’ homes might include modest hotel rooms, backpacker hostels, or rented studios.
And when you live in a smaller place, you use a lot less energy. There’s less space to heat and cool, and you can spend and consume much less as you manage basic upkeep. You also won’t need to use as much electricity because there’s a limited amount of space to illuminate at any one time.
Being comfortable in a smaller space is a great way to maintain a more sustainable existence. While you don’t need to be a digital nomad to rent a small apartment somewhere, an “on-the-move” lifestyle usually lends itself to living small.
They telecommute – every day.
This is the “digital” part of digital nomad. If you don’t have to get in a car and drive to work every day, you will shrink your carbon footprint and put less pressure on the environment.
They get by with less “stuff.”
Although there may be exceptions, none of the digital nomads I’ve met carried a lot of stuff around.
No desks. No Aeron Chair. No file cabinets. And not a whole lot of personal items either, come to think of it. Since all of their work is done via the Web, digital nomads typically get by with the bare essentials.
And that means they’re consuming less than the rest of us. Everything we buy had to “get here” somehow, right? Every consumer product was assembled in a manufacturing facility (i.e. a factory), put on a truck, train, or plane, all of which run on fossil fuels, before being shipped to your favorite retail establishment. The fewer things you buy, the less you contribute to environmentally-unsustainable business practices.
And the fewer things you’ll eventually throw away.
Digital nomads can’t really own much stuff because they live out of their backpacks. Could you fit everything you own into just one backpack? I sure can’t.
Nomads eschew paper products.
Like other work-at-home professionals, most digital nomads operate in paperless office environments. Why buy paper if you can’t fit a printer in your backpack? And why print anything when every document you could ever need to access lives in the cloud?
Being paperless also eliminates clutter and improves overall productivity.
A sustainable travel “mindset” means frequenting local eateries.
Ok, there are exceptions to this one. Just because someone is a digital nomad doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t eat at McDonald’s every time the opportunity presents itself.
But generally speaking, the type of professional who pursues indefinite world travel is also the type of person who enjoys immersion in local culture. And what better way to immerse yourself in local culture than to sample local cuisine as often as humanly possible?
Eating locally-sourced food means you’re eating something that didn’t travel very far to get to your plate. It’s fresher, and it’s better both for you and for the environment.
While most digital nomads probably didn’t decide to travel just so they could live more sustainably, the way they live is very in line with sustainable practices – in both life and in business. True, most nomads probably don’t carry smug looks on their faces because they’re living in harmony with the earth. But that doesn’t mean sustainability isn’t a welcome bonus to the traveling lifestyle.
For many digital nomads, it almost certainly is.
Aidan Grayson is a writer and an observer of trends in mobile business practices. He contributed this post on behalf of Full Circle, a Seattle CSA that specializes in organic produce delivery and promotes sustainable agriculture.