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Remotely Green: Why Working from Home is the Ultimate Green Move

3p Contributor | Friday May 27th, 2011 | 3 Comments

By Phil Green

Are you looking for a green career? Well, join the club. Many workers these days are on the lookout for ways to enrich the environment while they enrich their bank accounts. Some of the most sought-after jobs nowadays are those in the renewable energy industry or those where a direct positive affect on the environment is clearly visible. As a result, a growing number of corporations are becoming eco-friendly, touting their ability to provide gainful employment opportunities in the green workforce. Yet if you think about it, there is a segment of the workforce that may not have a direct connection to any environmental or eco-friendly industry and yet almost by definition embodies the greenest workers around. I’m talking about people who work from home.

When people talk about the benefits of working from home, saving the environment usually is not at the top of their list. Other more visible advantages typically get thought of first—for example, things like freedom, convenience, and flexibility. But when you think about it, one of the biggest “hidden” impacts of working from home is the huge positive effect it can have on the environment. In fact, there are several eco-friendly advantages that result from replacing the daily office commute with a workday in the home office. Here are a few of them:

  1. Your carbon footprint is minimized. Driving a car is just about the most air polluting activity an average person can engage in (aside from air travel). And yet this is how the vast majority of workers commute back and forth to their offices every day. A study commissioned by Sun Microsystems pinpointed the daily commute to and from work as being responsible for more than 98 percent of an employee’s work-related carbon footprint. The same study also found that employees on average save more than $1,700 per year in fuel and wear and tear on their vehicles when they work at home just 2.5 days a week.
  2. Your stomach solutions become greener. For most people, going to work every day means being away from home for eight hours or more. During this time, most of us will need at least one meal plus a coffee break or two. We don’t think much about it, but more often than not, we end up doing something harmful to the environment during these lunch and coffee breaks. Much of our food and drink is often stored or carried in disposable containers, plastic bags, or plastic cups. And for the large segment of office-workers who like to leave the office for a while, hop in the car, and go out somewhere for lunch, getting there usually means adding an extra component to their carbon footprint above and beyond the daily commute to and from home. But those who work at home can eat there too, without having to worry about food and drink storage or excess transportation.
  3. Paper is less of a problem. So you need to print something out to look at that you know you are going to throw away later. What do you do? If you are in an office, you are probably stuck with the company’s printer and the company’s paper. This often means using the same fresh sheets of paper you would use if you were printing important letters to clients. But at home you don’t have to do that. Maybe instead you can use the backs of already-used sheets of scrap paper in your printer and save a whole lot of trees in the process.
  4. Office space is conserved. Every person who works from home is one less person who needs to use an additional space resource when he or she goes to work. Your home is going to be there whether you use it or not. But the space your company needs to accommodate its employees can be conserved when fewer employees are required to occupy it.
  5. The master of your environment is you. Think about all the components that you need in an office—the desk, the chair, the lighting, the computer, the printer, the paper, etc. Then think about how just about all of these things come in eco-friendly versions. When you are at the office, you are at the mercy of your company’s decision-makers, who sometimes give a higher priority to other considerations over environmental awareness. But at home these choices are your own. You can make sure that your pencils are made from sustainable wood, your light bulbs are compact fluorescents instead of incandescent, and your paper is recycled.

Environmental responsibility comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it is highly visible and very apparent. Other times it is not. But just like skinning a cat, there are many ways to go green. Working from home is very definitely one of them and in many respects can be considered the ultimate green move.

***

Phil Green is a researcher on home-mortgage plans for the city pages Fresno Mortgage Rates on LeadSteps.com. In addition to his research for LeadSteps, Phil provides marketing and branding services to real estate professionals.


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  1. May 27, 2011 at 5:33 am PDT | Alethea Bielik writes:

    I’d like to see this article followed up by ideas for how to 1) find a work-from-home job (that is professional, not something like phone sales), and 2) how to get your current employer to allow working from home.

    I know many people who would like to be in this situation, but haven’t been able to figure out how to get there. Some of the reasons include small-minded corporate thinking, lack of legitimate posted opportunities on job boards, and sometimes the fact that certain kinds of work just can’t be done from home.

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  2. May 31, 2011 at 10:29 am PDT | Jacqui MacNeill writes:

    In my company I encourage a work/life balance that often means staff get to work from home when possible, but this is a completely new angle on this – we might have to look at doing more of this.

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  3. July 23, 2011 at 13:34 pm PDT | Bernard the Green Jobs Guru writes:

    Phil, you forgot the downsides of working from home… As a good sustainability citizen, and aware of heating and cooling costs, I change my thermostat when I leave in the morning to save electricity spent on heat or A/C. You can’t do that when you work from home.

    You also have to have a room in your house where you can work undisturbed, so that means a bigger house. I know couples who have bought a bigger house so they can work from home. One one them has a babysitter come to the house so she can work and not be disturbed by the kids. So the babysitter gasoline counts negatively in her case.

    Also, you need to have a significant number of workers in a company working from home for the company to reduce its office size. If only a few do it, the office size will remain the same, and nothing is gained.

    I worked from home many years, and I ended up always working a lot more, so it hasn’t been always positive from a quality of life point of view. When I worked outside the house, I enjoyed the 15 minutes in the car before getting home in the evening, so I could relax and forget the stress of the day, and enjoy my family more when I got home. And I got a small commuter car getting 35mpg, leaving the gas guzzler family car at home…

    And even in an office, you can be careful about excess paper printing, and coffee cups.

    So, while I agree that working from home can reduce your carbon footprint, I wouldn’t call it the “ultimate green move”.

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