Remote work and its impact on the environment

How much impact does working from home have on the environment? Large buildings and commuting are big contributors towards climate change, which are also two components of most people’s worklife. Plenty of people commute to work every day, to then work in a building that consumes vast amounts of energy while also using resources such as paper and plastic. As we become more earth conscious, people are starting to call on companies to let them work from home – an arrangement that not only works for the employee, but also has knock on effects for the environment. But how much can one person do?

TRANSPORT

One of the major ways working remotely is better for the environment is that commuting is either not necessary or often the journey is a lot shorter than normal, like working from a different location that is closer to home. A study of 2250 workers in the USA found that 68% of those who took it admitted that they worry about their impact on the environment, mainly concerning their commute. Transport globally produces nearly a quarter of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions.

With an increase in working from home or from a closer location, there’s less greenhouse gases chugging into the atmosphere. So with working from home, you’re already doing a lot for the planet and the money saved on petrol is a nice bonus.

OFFICE WASTE

The amount of office materials is never something we really pay that much attention to, but our frequent use of paper, plastic, and other materials in the office is something that accumulates over time. Use of office amenities and electricity contributes to global warming, and office waste usually just ends up in a landfill.

Working from home minimizes the use of office supplies almost to nothing. People are much more reticent to print things or waste office supplies if it’s their own. Anything sent to colleagues will be online anyway, rather than printing something off to give to them.

THE FLIP SIDE

It’s hard to assess whether or not individual impact makes a significant difference. Often when employees work from home, it is infrequent. For the rest of the time, employees go to the office, where they use transport to get there and use office supplies once there. A when employees do work from home, other people are still stationed at the office, where materials and electricity are still being used. Only the difference is that if one employee is working from home, they’re consuming energy at their house in addition to the amount of energy consumed by the office building.

If you’re interested in reducing your business’ carbon footprint, then having a couple of designated work from home days – when no one goes to the office – can have a tremendous impact. Encourage an office carpool for the days when people do come in. Going paperless is a great way to reduce the amount of paper used in the office, as well as looking at other ways to reduce waste, though it’s not always possible to completely cut it out.

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