Nearly 30% of all greenhouses gasses produced on the planet comes from the use of electricity. That’s in addition to the extra 11% of greenhouses gasses produced by other commercial and residential enterprises. That also doesn’t include the fossil fuel emissions that are burned every day by millions of commuters traveling back and forth to work every day.
While offering telecommuting options is only one of the ways in which businesses can help contribute to sustainability, overall it is a significant one.
Here are 5 ways in which telecommuting contributes to sustainability.
1. Cuts down on electric consumption
When employees go to work in an office, they don’t stop using electricity at home.
While they may turn the heat or air conditioning down when they leave home, they still use natural gas or electricity keeping it moderately warm or cool.
In effect, this means that every employee that works in an office is consuming twice the energy that they would if they were working from home.
More telecommuting opportunities also mean individual businesses need less office space. Buildings can be shared by more companies, which in turn cuts down on energy consumption for each individual business.
Imagine that instead of one business taking up three full floors of a single office building, ten different companies were able to use that exact same amount of space. Those ten companies are not likely to consume any more energy than the one company that was taking up that same amount of space.
In addition, all of the employees working from home for those ten companies are also only using energy at home, not at home and at work simultaneously.
2. Telecommuting allows the population to spread out and reduce emissions
Cities actually contribute 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
On the one hand, densely packed cities offer the opportunity to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by offering better public transportation or even allowing residents to walk most of the places they need to go.
The more spread out a city is, however, the more greenhouse gasses it emits largely because people still need to drive almost everywhere they need to go.
Cut out the driving, you significantly reduce the emissions. Telecommuting allows larger, more sprawling cities an opportunity to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. For that matter, employees who telecommute don’t even need to live in a city at all.
3. Creates more urban real estate for housing, parks, and other open spaces
America’s housing shortage has reached a crisis level.
In truth, there are only so many resources to go around so commercial construction will always be in competition with residential. Whether you are talking about land, building materials or even the equipment and laborers used to build the buildings, every new office building that goes up is taking away residential resources.
In addition, every office building that is built takes up large parcels of land that could be used for parks and other open spaces that actually help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
More telecommuting cuts down the need for office space, which in turn creates more resources for residential building and more urban space for parks.
4. Significantly reduces a wide range of material consumption and waste
Imagine you are having a meeting with a team of 20 people. When you are meeting in person with a team, it can be far too tempting to print out handouts or other materials.
Much of the time, these materials simply end up in the trash or at best the recycling bin. Now imagine thousands of meetings taking place across an entire city, with handouts being distributed at each of them.
That creates an enormous amount of waste. With a teleconference, there is no such temptation or expectation to have printed materials.
Now imagine the trash created by 100,000 employees all ordering lunch. Then imagine instead those same 100,000 employees all getting lunch out of their own refrigerators and using plates and utensils that they can wash and reuse. That’s a significant reduction in waste.
5. Cuts down on a wide range of resources
It is no secret that we pay a high price for convenience, but convenience also creates a great deal of waste.
Not only does commuting contribute heavily to greenhouse gas emissions, but it also eats up a great deal of time. The fewer time people have, the more they rely on service providers to provide certain services for them, all of which also create waste.
Just consider the waste created by a single service, such as dry cleaning. While modern fabrics have cut down significantly on the need for dry cleaning, that doesn’t mean that commuters necessarily have the time to do their own laundry.
Not only does dry cleaning create a great deal of toxic waste in and of itself, but all of the materials used to deliver cleaned clothes such as plastic covers and wire hangers also generally end up in landfills.
When you consider that Dell alone has more than 100,000 employees worldwide and offers nearly 20% of them telecommuting options, that is one company that is cutting down on the waste created by 20,000 employees not having time to do their own laundry.
If you have 5 companies the size of Dell offering 1/5 of their employees’ telecommuting options, that is 100,000 employees that no longer have to have their clothes dry cleaned for work. That is a significant reduction in waste.
Telecommuting opportunities may prove to be one of the biggest advancements in sustainability seen in decades.
In addition to energy consumption, a lot of greenhouse gasses are created by waste. From the waste of paper products to the burning of fossil fuels by hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road every day, commuting to work every day creates a massive amount of waste – even if you don’t even drive to work.
With fewer employees in the office, businesses can not only cut down significantly on their energy consumption, but a greater number of businesses can all share a smaller space which in turn decreases their overall carbon footprint even further.
Telecommuting opportunities create a cyclical pattern of reducing more and more waste on a number of different fronts. Less time spent driving or getting to and from the office in the first place also creates more time for employees to do things for themselves which in turn generates less waste.
From cooking their own food to doing their own laundry, telecommuting, on the whole, is better for employees and better for the planet.