OK, so, I telecommute, although I’ve always thought of it as working from home. I get that I’m lucky, but around Earth Day or every time some corporate entity either offers or rescinds its work-at-home programs, I get frustrated by the environmental pass telecommuting gives corporations and even web workers.
I would argue that it’s not environmentally better at all.
Let’s start with the assumption that I’m at home all the time. As a teleworker, I don’t have to be. Flexible work means I can wander around to coffee shops, drop off stuff at the post office or even run by the store to pick up something for dinner, while working in between. The result is I may drive as much as a commuter — or even more — depending on my daily errands.
And consider the days I work from home. I live in a state that hits 100 degrees on many days during the summer. I live in a green home, but my A/C is running nearly all the time because I’m there and want to stay comfortable. When I was at an office most of the day, I’d program my thermostat so my house stayed around 84 degrees during the day. Now it’s at 77 degrees 24/7.
A general rule of thumb is two degrees of A/C counts for 2,000 pounds of additional carbon over a year. So with my heating needs causing similar problems, I’m adding 3.5 tons of CO2 to the air all by myself. At least in an office the cooling load is spread across multiple people.
There’s also the issue of getting out of the house after hours. When most people are settling down to relax, I’m practically pushing my kid and husband into the car to drive somewhere to get dinner, ice cream or something, anything outside of these four walls. And, because I telecommute, we live fairly far from services, meaning my car puts on a lot of miles. Those miles may not equal a daily commute, but when added to my A/C bill, incidental trips taken because I work from home and the flights I have to take in order to physically commute to my workplace in San Francisco, I have to question how earth-friendly teleworking is.