Companies and organizations all over the world had to scramble last year when they switched from office work over to remote work, sometimes in a matter of days, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Now that we’ve been working from home for almost a year, some of us may be here to stay. While on the face of the matter, it may seem obvious that working from home is better for the planet than going into an office that requires much more energy output and emissions for commuting, heating, cooling, electricity-- not to mention the food waste! But is this actually true?
Well, that’s where it gets complicated. In order to look at individual consumption, we first need to look at energy usage and energy management. Energy use differs wildly depending on location and the energy management options available in their location. For example, a person working at home in the U.K. where temperatures are mild year-round will have less energy consumption than someone who lives in a more tropical or arid location, like Texas, U.S.A., where air conditioning for the entire house is used for at least three months of the year or a colder location that needs consistent heating for winter months.
How countries have derived their energy sources also makes a crucible difference. Countries that have integrated renewable energy sources into their infrastructure rather than relying on fossil fuels will also have lower numbers despite fluctuating temperates. Iceland, Norway, and Costa Rica have either already achieved a 100% or are less than 2% away from a completely renewable electricity grid so despite having climates that necessitate more intervention for living, we can expect their emissions from heating and cooling houses to be lower than that in the U.K. Iceland also uses geothermal powerplants to power and heat office buildings and homes which is a much cleaner source of power than natural gas or fossil fuels.
If you’re working from home in the winter— in a country that still uses natural gas and fossil fuels— and turning on your heat, the emissions that come from each person individually heating their house could actually be greater than the emissions that would come from heating an office. The same goes for individual electricity usage, too!
So how do you calculate your carbon footprint if you’re working from home? Are there ways to shrink your footprint at home? Absolutely!
Bulb, a carbon-neutral energy supplier in the U.K., has come up with equations that can help you figure out your carbon footprint from your home’s heating, cooling, and electricity usage. Additionally, any step you can take towards having precise energy measurements and usage of renewable energy sources in your home will help shrink the number of emissions. If you are able to install solar panels, like Grouphug’s compact window option, or purchase a smart thermometer to monitor your house’s temperatures, those are great choices that you can make while remaining cost-effective.
Have you noticed a difference in your energy use since you started working from home? What do you think of working from home as planet-friendly action? We’d love to hear more! Join the conversations via our Instagram channel, or say hi to the team at email@example.com