Tiny footprints: Working from home

by / Thursday, 15 January 2015 / Published in Blog, Carbon Footprint Reduction

Join us as we examine in depth ways to reduce our carbon footprints. We’ll be going over how they help you cut back, but also how they might fail at improving your footprint. In past installments, we’ve covered carbon footprints of biking, housing, and lighting. Today’s topic:  telecommuting.

Telecommuting, or working from home, is a relatively new phenomenon, largely made possible by new technology and a shift from physical to mental labour. More and more workers are coming into the office less and less, instead electing to work for home for all or part of their work weeks.

Get off the road

It’s a no brainer: telecommuting gets cars off the road. That means direct savings on gas and emissions, as well as (potentially) more efficient commutes for others, who may not have to suffer traffic jams. The numbers are pretty obvious: if you commute only 3 out of 5 of your work days, you could be emitting 40% less from your commute. That’s not bad!

If you’re a city-dweller and telecommute full-time, you might even be able to give up on the car altogether, which can result in a significant improvement to your carbon footprint.

Eating at home

You’re also able to eat at home (and without your commute, you’ll have more time to do it), which will better allow you to adopt a low-carbon diet and control food waste.

Not all rainbows and bunny slippers.

Of course telecommuting isn’t all good for your carbon footprint. One Forbes’ blogger pointed out that telecommuters are likely to have to double up on office equipment at home.

It’s also important to recognize that the Internet isn’t carbon-neutral. Far from it. A 2013 paper pegs the number at 830 million tons of CO2. With a typical vehicle emitting around 7 tons of greenhouse gases (mostly carbon dioxide) per year, we could drive about 12 million more cars yearly for the cost of the Internet. Now, of course, most office workers work jobs that are networked to the Internet too — they’re just going somewhere else to use it; however, telecommuters do rely a bit more on the ‘net than in-office workers.

All things considered

The two above objections seem to be pretty minor and situational; in terms of office equipment, it’s pretty common to have a computer and a printer/scanner at home anyways. And regarding the Internet, you’d probably be using it anyways from work.

It’s pretty reasonable to assume that we’ll see an increase in telecommuting as technology improves, contract work becomes more prevalent, and the culture shifts as millennials dominate the full-time workforce. In cities, this could mean a shift towards a car-free culture. Unfortunately, this has not been reflected in the statistics; despite the growth of telecommuting, in Canada, car use has grown and bike use has declined since the 90s, although major urban areas are doing better than suburbs and rural areas.

Let’s get those shocking numbers down. Work from home — or bike to work — whenever possible!


featured image: Mackenzie Kosut via Flickr.