Did you know that telecommuters reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, air pollution, and paper and plastic waste? If you want to make a difference in the world, think about your daily work routine and how your actions impact the environment. Read on to learn how telecommuting can reduce your overall impact and create better work-life balance through these positive environmental benefits of remote work. It’s a win-win!
1. No Commute Means Fewer Emissions
Remote work has plenty of advantages over traditional office jobs. Flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance are certainly some of the most obvious. But work from home jobs also mean that the commute is a thing of the past. Not only does this reduce downtime and increase the amount of working time during the day, but it’s also an example of one of the environmental benefits of remote work.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report and research from The Washington Post, the average one-way commute time for American workers was 27 minutes. Moreover, this equates to nine days spent in your vehicle each year.
Researchers at CoPilot—a car shopping app—took studies one step further. Through extensive research, the company compiled the cities that gained the most time back from not commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were shocking. Some of the cities that had the most to gain from remote work included:
- New York City: 15.2% time gained back from not commuting
- Chicago: 13.1% time gained back from not commuting
- Philadelphia: 13% time gained back from not commuting
- Oakland: 12.6% time gained back from not commuting
- Los Angeles: 12.4% time gained back from not commuting
These statistics underscore not only the additional time that workers can use at the virtual office, but also a drastic reduction in emissions caused by cutting the telecommute.
Furthermore, employers can improve their reputation as an eco-friendly company. Plus, companies can save up to $11,000 per year for each worker that commutes half the time. That’s a one-two punch that few employers can afford to ignore at an environmental or bottom-line level.
2. Less Paper Usage
Digitizing documents for remote workers has led to less paper usage by companies across the board. Without the need for paper documents, employers can drastically reduce the appalling amount of paper used each year.
According to the University of Southern Indiana and the American Forest and Paper Association, here are some paper usage statistics:
- Americans use 85 million tons of paper each year, which is the equivalent of 680 pounds per person
- Only about 2/3 of paper products are recycled
- The average American uses the equivalent of seven trees worth of paper goods each year
But the environmental impacts of remote work and the environmental impacts of going paperless in the workplace don’t end with a reduction in paper consumption. Even one saved tree can remove up to 14.7 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air, cutting greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the course of a year. This one-two punch of less waste and lower emissions makes a strong argument for continued work from home jobs and one that may sway employers to remain in similar work arrangements.
3. Opportunity for Eco-Friendly Diets
Fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reduced paper usage are two of the most discussed environmental benefits of remote work. Yet the opportunity for an eco-friendly diet can further reduce emissions. Worldwide, cattle and meat production produces between 14.5% and 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions. But Americans have a far larger piece of the pie. The New York Times found that the United States emits over three times the number of greenhouse gases than the rest of the globe due to meat-related production.
Therefore, Americans with work from home jobs have the chance to reduce their carbon footprint through eco-friendly diets. With more time to choose healthier foods and prepare meals at home, remote workers can make a huge impact on this number. Some things that remote workers should look for at the grocery store include:
- Organic foods
- Seasonal foods
- Locally sourced produce
In addition, a switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet can substantially reduce emissions and provide a boost to health—two aspects that can lead to better morale, more productivity, and an improved personal life.
4. Reduced Power Consumption
Remote work makes a massive impact on power consumption around the globe. In most scenarios, this is typified through lower electricity bills for brick-and-mortar workplaces and offices. According to the World Economic Forum, power consumption has gone down overall due to work from home positions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the reduction isn’t as much as experts had anticipated. The reasons for this vary greatly, but some studies found the following:
- Free time used to travel, negating the lack of commute
- More electricity consumption at home than anticipated
- Electricity habits in the home
- Increase use in electricity with more families staying at home
Still, any environmental benefits from remote work—no matter how small—should be regarded as a victory. To increase these positive aspects, you should consider employing energy-saving habits into your everyday life:
- Using less hot water
- Doing chores at night to reduce power consumption
- Maintaining HVAC systems through routine maintenance
- Unplugging appliances when not in use
- Changing over to LED lights when possible
By making the appropriate changes to your own habits, you can increase the environmental benefits of working at home.
5. Less Plastic Usage
Raising awareness about plastic consumption since 2016, Plastic Oceans International estimates that the world produces 300 million tons of plastic a year. In addition, half of this plastic is single-use, meaning it’s dumped into landfills or oceans merely a few minutes after use. Such consumption has made a negative impact on the environment, and one that will take decades or centuries to reverse.
Although remote work may not directly alter that number, it again affords the opportunity to lessen the impact of plastic usage or eliminate it as much as possible. As a remote worker, you can do your part by cutting the use of plastics you normally use in an office setting:
- Brewing coffee at home can reduce the usage of plastic lids
- Using products like SodaStream can eliminate the use of plastic soda bottles
- Cooking at home may seem like a hassle, but it can cut the use of plastics used by food delivery services
- Drinking water out of the tap or through a filter can prevent the continuous consumption of single-use water bottles
Again, the environmental benefits of remote work aren’t just a product of working from home. It’s the opportunity that’s the crucial aspect, giving you every chance to contribute to a healthier tomorrow for the planet.
6. Improved Air Quality
Remote work is vital to keeping air pollution to a minimum. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, a large portion of Londoners began to work from home. When this began, Breathe London data showed that emissions reduced 25% during the normal morning commute and 34% during the evening commute.
Building upon this idea, several groups in London have campaigned to keep remote work running. Based on findings, working from home could cut 11 billion car miles per year, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by an astounding 3.3 million tons in London alone. With such an idea applied to the United States, this could equate to billions of tons of emissions reduced each year. Thus, air quality would improve not only in large cities areas, but high-commuting areas such as the suburbs as well.
7. Opportunities to Make a Positive Impact on the Environment
Flexibility and work-life balance are amazing benefits of remote work. But with extra time, workers are also in a unique position to make an even more profound impact on the environment. Local, state, national, and international organizations provide ample volunteering positions throughout the year. Or, remote workers can take steps in their literal own backyard.
If you’re searching for ways to improve the environment, a few ideas for remote workers are:
- Building a garden and composting
- Cleaning trash in a park or body of water
- Working with an advocacy organization
- Planting trees
- Starting an urban or suburban community garden
With a touch of creativity and drive, the environmental benefits of remote work aren’t just the reduction of emissions and power usage. It becomes a proactive approach to a green world—one that future generations are sure to enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does Remote Work Shift Energy Costs to Employees?
A. Office buildings consume much more energy than the average home. One study by Sun Microsystems found that home energy use is roughly half that of office energy use. Though employees may keep computers and other equipment turned on more during the day, the cost savings for not commuting to work are more than $1,700 per year. Thus, remote workers save excess commuting and office costs on gas, car maintenance, parking fees, coffee cups, lunches, and other expenses, while employers reap savings in employee overhead.
Q. Does Remote Work Contribute to Environmental Issues?
A. Studies show that workers contribute less to negative environmental impacts at home than in the office. However, they still create some effects by living daily life, working from home, consuming energy, and creating waste. Remote workers can reduce their impact at home by purchasing energy-efficient devices, reducing overall packaging waste, and relying more on cloud-computing applications.
Q. Does Working from Home Really Make an Environmental Difference?
A. Work from home jobs reduce the number of cars on the road, thereby reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, and energy usage. It also helps reduce environmental and human health impacts as a result of decreased air pollution.
Aside from not driving, employees tend to act less environmentally conscious at the office than they do at home. For example, one study shows that employees are less motivated to conserve energy at work because they have no financial incentive to do so. At home, however, conserving energy saves money, which motivates households to turn lights off and power down computers at the end of the day.
Q. Do Remote Workers Know They Make a Difference?
A. Remote workers are generally aware of the positive impacts they make regarding environmental issues. In a 2017 survey, Virtual Vocations members said their favorite environmental benefits of working from home include:
- Decreasing emissions (39.5%)
- Less paper waste (32.2%)
- Less space and energy consumption (20.5%)
Only 7.9% of respondents said they aren’t concerned about the environmental impacts of working from home. However, even the minority who claim not to value the environmental effects of remote work still positively affect the globe by working from home.
Q. What Types of Environmental Work From Home Jobs Can I Get?
A. Work from home environmental jobs expand efforts across the globe and get more people involved in the effort. You don’t need the word “environmental” in your title, however. You can be a teacher, computer programmer, business analyst, or writer who works for an environmental corporation or nonprofit. Here are some jobs that environmental organizations frequently need:
- Translator: Help increase awareness among populations who speak various languages.
- Big Data Analyst: Collect, analyze, and report on environmental data so that organizations and lawmakers can make decisions.
- Engineer: Solve environmental and societal problems using science, math, and technology.
- Conservationist: Promote resource conservation and help organizations and individuals reduce consumption.
- Community Organizer: Serve as a liaison between a community of individuals, families, and organizations to create change and push socioenvironmental causes forward.
- Journalist: Report on environmental issues and increase awareness.
- Social Media Marketer: Influence public awareness and thinking through social media messages, ads, and campaigns.
- Educator: Teach adults and children about environmental issues, technologies, and systems.
Q. Do Environmental Companies Hire Remote Workers?
A. Virtual Vocations has profiled over 11,000 employers in our Telecommute Companies Database. Visit the database and search for environmentally-friendly work from home companies using keywords like “environmental,” “sustainability,” and “conservation.” Are you already familiar with eco companies by name? You can search for specific companies as well and learn if they’re telecommute-friendly.
Ready to Make a Positive Environmental as a Remote Worker?
If you want to make a significant impact on the environment and your life, consider the benefits of telecommuting:
- Kick the daily commute to the curb and earn your time back
- Achieve better work-life balance and spend more time with family
- Enjoy more overall freedom and independence
- Reduce environmental impacts associated with transportation
- Decrease typical office waste, such as paper and plastic waste
- Reduce global energy and resource consumption
You don’t have to work in an environmental field to make a difference. By not driving to and from work every day, you dramatically shift the scales of consumption, waste, and pollution. Why not do what you love and reduce your impacts at the same time?
Take action by signing up as a Virtual Vocations member, enrolling in our e-courses, crafting a telecommute resume, and applying for remote (a.k.a. environmentally friendly) jobs.
What are some of the environmental benefits of remote work you’re most excited about? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your comments. We’d love to hear from you!
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