With more people working from home – how can we balance this new norm with also considering sustainability and individual carbon footprints?
Working from home became a new experience for many people during the pandemic. In April 2020, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 46.6 percent of people in employment did some remote work. 86 percent of these people did so because of the pandemic, demonstrating a sharp shift in the working experience.
Remote working has, of course, reduced emissions from transport. In the UK, commuting emits 18 billion kg of CO2e every year. This is 25 percent of all transport emissions. Naturally, people working from home will contribute towards a reduction of these emissions.
Choosing a job that enables you to work from home can help improve your personal environmental impact and is a sure-fire way to reduce your commuting emissions. Plus you’ll have the added benefit of not sitting in traffic with a lengthy commute!
Remote working has become a more popular option for people in recent years. Even before the pandemic, Google searches for ‘work from home jobs’ had seen a steady increase. Between 2016 and 2019, searches for this term increased by 22 percent. By 2020, this rose to 73 percent over the past five years. Google search scores represent the popularity of a search term based on a scale of 0 to 100. In 2016, this score was 49. Last year, the score had an average popularity score of 85.
|Google search scores for ‘work from home jobs’ by year|
Homes and sustainability
Of course, when spending more time at home, our energy consumption will increase. Let’s look at an average working schedule of 40 hours per week, 47 weeks per year. In total, working from home means that you would spend an extra 1,880 hours at home per year. This is equivalent to 78 days. During this extra time, you’ll use your home appliances and heating more than usual, especially during the winter months.
On average, the annual CO2 emissions of the energy you use at home would be around 3.2 tonnes for electrical and natural gas use. This poses a slightly different eco-challenge for those who are making the most of remote working capabilities to live in more rural locations. Rural homes are more likely to use oil fuels to power their homes, a less sustainable fuel than natural gas which is more commonly used in domestic towns. However, for those working from home and in remote locations, improving your environmental footprint can still be achieved. Using off grid gas, LPG, as opposed to oil can reduce your carbon emission by around 20 percent.
Plus, the carbon emissions from the gas can be offset through purchasing carbon credits which will be invested in sustainable carbon offsetting schemes such as tree planting initiatives to avoid further environmental impact.
Aside from energy, what we do in our jobs may have a deeper environmental impact than we think. If you work in an office, you may be surprised to find out that the average worker will go through 10,000 sheets of paper per year and throw away 500 disposable coffee cups. And when it comes to our lunch break, expect 20 to 30 percent of your meal to end up in the bin.
Waste is a huge environmental problem in the workplace, but ultimately, it’s up to us to create the solutions. Fortunately, this couldn’t be simpler. Question whether you need to print out that email or document. Use a mug or reusable flask for your coffee and tea, and make sure you eat all of your lunch – or save the leftovers to enjoy when the afternoon slump kicks in!
Waste is much more than a space problem. The average landfill size is already 600 acres, but the emissions that these sites produce is the real issue. When this waste is broken down, the process releases methane, a gas closely linked to climate change. In fact, 14.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses were emitted by landfills in the UK in 2019. While the number is astronomical, we shouldn’t forget that we all contribute to this. Avoiding waste is key, especially in our own jobs.