Smarter Living: Office


Photo: RaeA/Flickr

Spending one day a week working from home saves you time and money—and shrinks your carbon footprint.

There's no question that the biggest impact working from home can have is on reducing transportation emissions. The average commute to work in the United States is 12 miles each way, and every gallon of gas burned emits 25.3 pounds of carbon dioxide. A fairly efficient car that gets 25 miles per gallon would emit 25 pounds of CO2 on a round-trip commute. A gas-guzzling vehicle could spew as much as 50 pounds per day. If you eliminated one trip a week, you'd save between 1,300 and 2,600 pounds a year. Multiply that by the number of commuters on the road, and it is clear that the overall emissions reduction could be huge.

The energy savings at your workplace aren’t as significant, but depending on how often you work from home, the numbers can add up. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) commissioned a study in 2007 on the energy savings associated with telecommuting and found that a single telecommuter could reduce overall energy consumption by 16 kilowatt-hours (kWh) every day he or she works from home. Using Energy Star–certified appliances in your home office can increase the savings; an Energy Star–certified computer can use 70 percent less energy than a typical one.

Telecommuting isn't bad for your wallet, either: The CEA study calculated that telecommuters could save an average of 1.4 gallons of gas every day. Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau, Americans spend 100 hours a year commuting (longer than the average 80 hours of vacation time). Telecommuting would whittle this down—and also save you from the stress of a traffic-filled trip to your workplace.

The next step? Virtual meetings and teleconferences that drastically reduce air travel, which the World Wildlife Fund says can save 3 billion tons of carbon emissions over a few decades—or about half of the current U.S. total.

last revised 2/2/2012

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