Many of us have switched to remote work over the past couple of years, meaning we’re driving less to and from an office.
But has switching to working from home led to a reduction in pollution?
Let’s make one thing apparent right away: harmful emissions from cars help pollute 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 offset the benefit.
Working from home helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions after the pandemic started, seeing 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 canceled the commute to work, but we started taking more trips.
People saw this as a great opportunity to explore more and gassed up their cars and hit the road, leading to emissions curving back toward near-normal levels in 2021.
More energy at home
Our impact on the electrical and digital world has also increased in our homes.
We’re turning lights on more often and keeping them on longer. We’re also using our gas and electric stoves more since we’re able to cook more at home.
With work, we’re making more phone calls and sending more emails which use energy. As an email travels through the internet, servers will use electricity to temporarily store it before passing it on.
Viewing an email and using a network connection to view the email also use electricity.
A typical year of emails for a business user creates a carbon footprint of almost 300 pounds. That’s the same as driving 200 miles in a car.
What you can do to help
So working from home hasn’t helped our environment completely, but you can make changes today that could help in the long run.
Remember to turn off every light you’re not using and try using more natural light during the day.
Send fewer emails if you can. Not every email needs a response.
Most importantly, try using your car less. Hopping on public transportation or using a bike can help lessen carbon dioxide emissions. And not to mention, you’ll save on gas.