Working from home might not benefit the planet the way we think
Many of us have transitioned to working remotely in the past couple of years, which means we’re driving to and from an office less.
But has the shift to working from home led to a reduction in pollution?
Let’s make one thing obvious right away: harmful emissions from cars contribute to polluting our atmosphere. More cars on the road means more pollutants in the air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Besides carbon dioxide, cars also produce methane and nitrous oxide, which have a higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
So while driving less can help reduce this pollution, the things we do at home could outweigh the benefits.
No more holidays
Working from home helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions after the pandemic began, with a 5.4% decrease in 2020 according to NASA, but that was short-lived.
Working from home means working from anywhere for many people, so we’ve canceled commuting, but started doing more travel.
People saw this as a great opportunity to explore more and fuel up their cars and hit the road, leading to emissions returning to near-normal levels in 2021.
More energy at home
Our impact on the electrical and digital world has also increased in our homes.
We turn on the lights more often and keep them on longer. We also use our gas and electric stoves more since we can cook more at home.
With work, we make more phone calls and send more energy-consuming emails. When an email travels the Internet, servers use electricity to temporarily store it before transmitting it.
Viewing an email and using a network connection to view the email also consumes electricity.
A typical year of email for a business user creates a carbon footprint of almost 300 pounds. It’s the same as driving 200 miles.
What can you do to help
So working from home hasn’t completely helped our environment, but you can make changes today that could help in the long run.
Remember to turn off any lights you aren’t using and try to use more natural light during the day.
Send fewer emails if you can. Not all emails need a response.
Above all, try to use your car less. Jumping on public transport or using a bicycle can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Not to mention that you will save gas.