The number of telecommuters in the U.S. increased by 115 percent between 2005 and 2015 to about three percent of the total U.S. workforce, a recent study found. A 2016 survey revealed that 43 percent of American workers spent at least some of their time working remotely.
Technology has enabled workers in many fields to work from anywhere. Doing so has become quite popular due to benefits like reduced commuting time, increased flexibility, improved employee satisfaction and enhanced productivity. But working from home is better for more than just workers and their employers — it’s also better for the environment. Here’s how.
Perhaps the most obvious environmental benefit of telecommuting is the lack of physical commuting. Transportation is one of the biggest drains on our planet, accounting for 27 percent of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions.
According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, if everyone whose jobs are compatible with remote work telecommuted half the time, they’d eliminate 119 billion miles of highway driving each year. It would also reduce the amount of oil we use by 640 million barrels and cut emissions by 54 million tons of greenhouse gas.
Reducing the number of commuters cuts down on the amount of wear and tear on the roads and the space needed for parking. Plus, it saves you a ton of time and the frustration of daily traffic jams.
Reduced Energy Consumption
Working remotely also reduces energy consumption, another primary contributor to climate change. It can lead to increased energy use at home but less in offices where there are already so many appliances and technologies running up the electric bill.
Overall, according to an analysis published this year, increased time spent at home between 2003 and 2012 reduced energy use by 1700 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU). That’s equal to 1.8 percent of the United States’ total energy demand in 2012. The study found in 2012 Americans spent eight more days at home on average than in 2003, one less day traveling and one less day in non-residential buildings.
Over time, an increase in the number of telecommuters could lead to businesses consolidating their office space, reducing their energy use even further.
You also tend to use less paper and create less waste overall when working remotely. In the office, it sometimes feels more convenient to print out a report than send a digital file. When you work at home, paper isn’t usually an option when sending documents back and forth — unless, of course, you opt for snail mail. In today’s fast-paced world, digital files are the way to go when you work from home.
Those who work from home are also less likely to grab coffee that comes in a disposable cup or fast food with its wrappers, paper bags and plastic forks. Instead, you’ll make lunch at home, which will reduce the amount of waste you create and save you money.
Make Your Home Office Greener
Working from home gives you control over your environment and enables you to prioritize eco-friendliness. Use the following tips to make your home workspace extra green:
- Heating and Cooling: In your home, you — hopefully — have control over the thermostat. Instead of turning up the heat, put on a sweater. Instead of turning on the AC, open a window. Adjusting your thermostat by seven to 10 degrees can save you 10 percent on heating and cooling each year.
- Lighting: You can save energy with your lighting as well. Use natural light whenever you can and opt for energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Electronics and Energy Use: Be sure to turn off and unplug your electronics when you’re not using them and put your computer on sleep mode if you’re taking a break. Consider plugging everything into a power strip for easy shut-off and unplugging.
- Eat Green: When you work from home, you have access to all of the food in the kitchen, so you have more leeway to make green choices. Choose locally grown foods and eat less meat to reduce the environmental impact of your diet.
- Shop Green: When you buy supplies for your office, look for ones made sustainably or with recycled materials. Invest in something sturdy that will last you a long time or check out the local thrift store for a secondhand treasure. Look for these eco-friendly certifications when furniture shopping.
- Recycle: If you do use paper products, recycle them. You can also recycle printer cartridges and other supplies to reduce your environmental impact even further.
Working remotely has benefits beyond just getting to stay in your pajamas all day. In fact, the positive impacts extend to the environment as a whole. Not having to commute cuts down on your emissions considerably, and considering the planet when creating your workspace can reduce your impact one piece at a time.