Protecting the environment may not be the main reason people want to work from home (or the main reason employers allow telecommuting), but nonetheless telecommuting, or telework, can play a key role in saving the environment: conserving energy and reducing fuel consumption and pollution.
Allowing employees to work at home helps companies fulfill their corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards, while communities also benefit from enhanced air quality and traffic reduction. Telecommuting is basically a win-win-win setup.
Environmental Benefits of Telecommuting
Reducing commuter traffic cuts back on:
- air pollution from toxic gases and dust particles
- water pollution from chemicals spilled into our waterways, rivers, and other water sources
- oil consumption
Research on How Working from Home Helps the Earth
Although there's been some debate on the extent of telecommuting's environmental impact (with one particularly sensational article from Forbes called Telecommuting Is Bad For The Environment), the overwhelming body of research on telecommuting shows that working from home rather than commuting to work reduces a significant amount of pollution.
Here are just a few statistics or facts about telecommuting's environmental benefits:
- TelCoa notes that if 32 million Americans who could work from home did so at least one day a week, 74 million gallons of gas could be saved -- enough go around the globe 51,000 times. (Note: the estimated number of people who have jobs that could be done at home is now estimated at 53 million, so the energy savings would be even greater -- the equivalent of taking more than 27 million vehicles off the road).
- The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reports that telecommuting is part of a climate change solution, since using electronics to telecommute saves 9 to 14 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year -- or roughly the amount of energy needed to power 1 million US households annually.
- Every little bit helps: a review of the government's pilot "ecommute" program that ran from mid-2001 to early 2004 in five metropolitan areas concluded that a reduction of 25-tons per year in pollution could be achieved with only 4,500 telecommuters working at home on an average of 1.8 days per week.
- Even just one-day of telecommuting could save 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas, according to the Telework Reserch Network -- the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year.
- As reported on Information Week, the US Patent Office's telework program in 2007 (consisting of 3,609 home workers) helped save over 613,000 gallons of gas, prevent 9,600 tons of carbon emissions, and save over $1.8 million annually in fuel costs. Other companies such as Bell Canada and Cisco report similar environmental benefits.
Calculate Your Impact
It's notable that the environmental benefits can be gained with even part-time telecommuting; if you work from home even just one day a week, in lieu of commuting, you can help preserve the environment.
Exactly how much can you or your company reduce your carbon footprint through telecommuting? TelCoa offers a calculator for air pollution reduction (CO2 and other emissions) from eliminating your commute.