Last week I heard a news story on the radio about how telecommuting was hurting people’s pocketbooks because they didn’t stop to think about the added expenses to forgo the drive into work. One woman living in Atlanta had an old inefficient furnace in her home, and if she was out of the house at work, she wouldn’t use it. I don’t believe that many of us have stopped to think that even though we are telecommuting, that office sitting in town is still generating heating/cooling, electricity, phones, etc. while we’re not there! There’s an energy efficiency cost – the department copier/printer is still on for the rest of the department who is working, and you are duplicating this cost again in your home. People should take a moment to ask themselves where their energy comes from. In you region, if the bulk of energy comes from coal, there is going to be more emissions than if the energy comes from cleaner sources.
Statistics show that telecommuters drive as much as those working in an office. They say the reasons for this are that telecommuters have extra trips to have lunch with friends, to run errands, and to simply get out of the house since they are pretty much there all of the time. The truth is that a person’s commute between home and work makes up 20% of all car travel, and statistics also show that telecommuters will drive into work two times a week anyway.
The radio news story already touched on the energy costs of telecommuters who have to equip and power their own offices, but did you stop to think about the manufacturing process for computers and electronics? It’s pretty environmentally unfriendly (not to mention all this stuff ends up in landfills).
According to Arpad Horvath an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, he estimates that telecommuting lowers a number of emissions, in particular carbon dioxide. Great news, but that extra electricity used in your home office along with the electronics means that you are producing more nitrous oxide and methane as a telecommuter. Nitrous oxide is around 300 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide, and methane is 25 times worse – all according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I suspect the duplication of information (stored on your home AND work computers) and emails also figure into the equation as well.
There are all sorts of talk about telecommuting these days in the news, the Federal government and in the workplace. It’s important to remember that it is just that – talk. Everyone’s situation is different, and perhaps it is time to look at telecommuting on an individual basis. Does it work for you in your situation? What impact does it have on your finances? Is it causing more (environmental) harm than good? I’m in agreement with Robert Redford who once said “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?”