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Five facts on how remote working helps the planet

Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing issues – we only have one Earth, after all. As industrialization continues to ramp up across the globe, businesses and individuals alike are called upon to make more eco-friendly decisions to protect our planet.

We need to start thinking about how we can do our part to combat the effects of climate change and reduce the burden we place on our environment. This includes developing more sustainable models of work. Currently, an office of 90 people in California, USA, generates approximately 234 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – which comes to about 2.6 tons per person. For reference, an average household of three people in California only generates roughly 1.39 tons.

Remote working has been touted as a simple way to drastically cut down on our carbon footprint. In this article, we’ll take a look at some hard facts to see if this is really true.

#1: The transportation industry accounts for 1/5 of global carbon dioxide emissions

Global CO2 emissions from transport
Accessed via https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions-from-transport

The transportation industry is the largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions across all countries. Nearly 50% of these emissions come from the road – or rather, passenger vehicles specifically. This is no surprise, after all, the importance of carpooling or using public transport to travel has been stressed time and time again.

However, remote working can have a much larger positive impact on the environment. While measures to reduce the impact of commuting to work do help, eliminating or drastically reducing the need to commute itself would have a much more significant benefit.

Sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? Well, there is data to back this claim up.

#2: If everyone were to work from home for just one day a week, global carbon dioxide emissions from transportation would reduce by 24 million tons annually

An annual reduction of 24 million tons is nothing to scoff at. In fact, you would need to plant 144 million trees to achieve this! This does come with some caveats – those who work within 6km of their home are not likely to achieve much reduction in their carbon footprint by working from home. However, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of the world works somewhere that is further than 6km from their house.

Additionally, alternative working options for flexible workers, such as coworking spaces and satellite offices, tend to be much closer to home. This offers a simple solution for remote workers who want to do their part for the Earth while also having an office-like environment to work from.

It’s amazing how such a small change in our current way of working can have such a huge, positive impact on our environment. Of course, the commute to work is not the only thing contributing to our carbon footprint. Our individual attitudes towards the environment matters too.

#3: Working from home incentivizes individuals to be more environmentally conscious in terms of electricity usage

Most offices have signs reminding employees to turn lights and fans off when not in use. However, with the lack of a financial incentive to do so, many do not bother to reduce their electricity consumption while in the office. This is not a malicious activity by any means – people simply prefer the more convenient option of leaving the lights on.

When working from home, on the other hand, people tend to be more conscious of their electricity usage. No one wants to frivolously run their bills up! Although this impact may be small when compared to the drastic effects observed by telecommuting, every little step counts.

Additionally, most offices have central heating and air conditioning. This means that if even one person is in the office, the amount of electricity used will be nearly equal to that of when the office is full of people.

#4: Digitalizing documents for remote workers reduces office supply usage – especially paper

Similar to electricity usage, workers are more likely to be conscious of their wastage when financially incentivized to do so, i.e., by having to use their own paper and other supplies. Instead of printing unnecessary documents, remote workers simply share them via email. Not only does this help the environment, it saves time and storage space.

Let’s break this down a little to understand the exact impact of less paper use. The average employee is estimated to use about 10,000 sheets of paper a year. One tree produces roughly the same amount of paper. One saved tree can help remove 14.7 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air. Over the course of a year, this one tree can dramatically cut down greenhouse gas emissions – and all that triggers this process is a simple shift to remote work.

#5: Remote working offers a great opportunity to reduce plastic usage

The amount of plastic produced globally is estimated to be around 300 million tons per year. About half of this plastic is single-use, meaning it is thrown away almost immediately! Plastic is non-biodegradable, and is dumped in landfills or oceans where it continues to accumulate and harm our natural ecosystems while also taking up valuable space. The negative impacts of plastics on our environment have been comprehensively described in a multitude of scientific studies, and it is clear that action must be taken.

Now, remote working on its own does not necessarily reduce plastic usage, however, it does open up several avenues for individuals to do so. Simply brewing coffee at home and cooking meals cuts down on the massive amounts of plastic wasted by food deliveries and takeaways. Drinking water from a glass cuts down on single-use plastic water bottles.

When working from the office, single-use plastic is certainly more convenient and practical. Working from home, on the other hand, enables individuals to easily make more environmentally conscious decisions that are also more cost-effective!

The benefits of remote working certainly stretch beyond those that are conferred to employers and employees. Of course, it is not necessary for businesses to transition to a fully remote work model – even flexible work arrangements where employees work from home part of the time can have a positive impact.

To aid businesses in becoming more environmentally friendly, FLYDESK will soon be introducing a CO2 and Tree-saving calculator in its analytics dashboard. This feature will enable organizations to offset some of their carbon footprint by sponsoring the planting of trees. Stay tuned!

If you’d like to learn more about remote working and how you can implement flexible work arrangements in your organization, contact us at FLYDESK.

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