Telecommuting and Environment

Rapid advancement in technology has lowered the need for constant physical contact thanks to telecommuting. In recent times, there is really no need to journey in order to carry out some tasks. Aside from convenience, telecommuting does have some other advantages and one major one is its effect on the environment. 


The major telecommuters out there are freelancers who typically work from home and get paid very flexible rates. Instead of a steady salary, freelancers typically use invoices to request payment. 


Daily transportation and business activities contribute significantly to Energy consumption, Fossil fuel reliance, Air pollution, and Greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, major stakeholders in the fight for a green world constantly seek ways to reduce the impact that vehicles bring about. 


One of these ways is to offer workers the option to work remotely. This way, workers drive less, consume less energy, and release less waste into the environment. While this is indeed sound great, does telecommuting really lower negative impacts on the environment?


A stakeholder in Aetna, one of the top telecommuting companies made it known to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that Aetna’s carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 46,700 metric tons in 2014 thanks to telecommuting. 


Businesses similar to Aetna also consistently report that telecommuting does have a positive impact on the environment. Here’s a look at some of these impacts: 

1. Telecommuters Reduce Carbon Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has stated that the average car emits approximately 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year given that they drive an average of 11,400 miles per year.


 Going by the assumption that the average worker commutes 30 miles or less every day for work would put the figure at  7,839 miles per year. Therefore, telecommuters could as well reduce carbon emissions related to transportation by up to 69% or 3.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.


 This sums up to more than 79 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year. 

2. Telecommuters Reduce Air Pollution

Apart from carbon emissions, nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter are also produced by driving. These pollutants have major adverse effects on both the environment and human health.


 For instance, exposure to nitrogen dioxide can lead to respiratory problems like infections or even asthma. When these nitrous oxides react with ammonia, volatile organic compounds, and other dangerous compounds, the products affect the diversity of the ecosystem, ozone concentration as well as soil and water acidity. 


Vehicles on the highways contribute 10.9% of total particulate matter (PM10),  34.8% of total NOX emissions, and 13% of the entire VOC emissions. Reducing the number of cars on the road leads to a reduction in air pollution.

3. Telecommuters Use Less Energy

Telecommuters typically consume a measure of energy whether working at home or working in an office. However, in terms of the amount consumed, the office does take a stronger stand. This is because employees are more conscious of the energy they pay for at home than at the office. 


A study by Sun Microsystems showed that the energy used in the office is nearly twice that used in the home. They reported that each telecommuter reduced energy consumption by at least 5,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) every year.


Therefore, having 24.7 million employees working from home saved over 133 billion kWh per year. This was based on Americans using about 4,015 billion kWh in 2017. Therefore, telecommuters reduced total energy consumption by 3.3%. 


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