3 MIN READ

Do It for Mother Earth: How Working From Home Can Help You Help the Planet

Denielle Kennett works from home in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, April 17, 2018.
Denielle Kennett works from home in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, April 17, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Need another reason to work from home?

Do it for the planet.

According to a study published by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics just in time for Earth Day, 10 million cars — or approximately the entire New York State workforce — would leave the road each year if every U.S. worker who could and wanted to telecommute actually did.

“There is no single solution that offers as large of a potential environmental impact and reduction in greenhouse gases than having people work at home,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “It is the biggest part of our burden on the planet.”

The good news: By cutting the commute, the current U.S. work-from-from population keeps the equivalent of 600,000 cars off the road each year.

So if you already work from home, way to go, Planeteer!

How much could dropping your commute do to save our planet?

Your actual contributions can vary based on a number of factors, including your commute time and driving conditions, but you can get a general idea of your personal output with this tool from the Environmental Protection Agency, which calculates your vehicle’s average mileage and CO2 output.

To figure out how much CO2 your commute produces annually:

  • Determine the number of miles you travel to and from work each day. For example, let’s say you drive 20 miles each way to work for a total of 40 miles.
  • Multiply that number by the number of days you drive to the office for the total number of miles you drive each year. Let’s assume you head to the office five days a week and get two weeks off for vacation: 40 x 250 = 10,000 miles
  • Multiply that number by your car’s CO2 output for your total. If your car produces 261 grams (or 0.575407 pounds) of CO2 per mile, then your commute results in 10,000 x .575407 = 5,754 pounds, or 2.877 tons of carbon annually.

Even if working from home isn’t always an option, every day you cut your commute can help, according to Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at Flexjobs.

“When you’re able to work from home even one day a week, you’re reducing your commute by 20%,” Reynolds says. “Sometimes people think it’s all or nothing, but it can be some kind of compromise.”

In addition to cutting the commute, remote work also helps reduce the environmental cost associated with working in office buildings, according to Reynolds.

“Energy consumption goes down across the board when you’re able to stop using office space,” Reynolds says. “When people work from home, they have more control over their environment — I know a lot of remote workers who pay very close attention to their thermostats.”

By opting to dress in layers or use fans around the house, you can control the comfort level of your space without wasting resources on heating and cooling, Reynolds notes.

Bonus: You can retire that office sweater you wore in your aggressively air-conditioned cubicle.

In addition to the building, an office’s high-volume equipment often requires additional energy to operate and cool, according to Reynolds. Most remote workers get by on a less equipment, which saves energy and money.

“If you are largely in a role that doesn’t require a lot of extra office equipment, you can get by on pretty much a laptop,” Reynolds says, adding that less equipment also means less of it ending up in landfills.

And when you use your own office supplies, your cost-cutting tactics can also help the earth. Think: How many sticky notes do you use in the office vs. when you work from home?

“When you’re at home and you are the one responsible, you’re a little more hesitant to print something you don’t really have to,” Reynolds says. “Individual choice and individual consumption is a key piece of the environmental benefits of remote work.”

That’s a win for your employer, you and the environment.

Happy Earth Day!

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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