The answer is yes, normalizing remote work is an ally for our planet. To commemorate Earth Day by reflecting on the climate crisis, we want to share with you the positive impact that remote working has in respect to fighting climate change.
Amidst all the changes that the pandemic has left us, one of the strongest effects has been doing everything from home; meetings, birthdays, online courses, schooling, and the most revolutionary, working.
From one day to the next, thousands of people became remote workers (here at SheWorks! we have been since day one), and this has a direct impact on our surroundings. We stopped commuting, we started consuming from home, generated less waste, used less paper by digitally processing information, and much more. This change, which is here to stay, helps us reflect on where we were, what our habits and consumer trends were like, and most importantly, it allows us to act and decide how we want to build our future, today.
An agenda for potential development with remote work
Objective #13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is focused on lowering CO2 emissions by 45% between 2010 and 2030, and aims to decrease by 100% in 2050. Remote work helps lower energy usage by reducing commute to and from work. It also encourages less overall electricity use because at home we have more control over light, heat, and AC as opposed to central utilities in public spaces.
An antidote against greenhouse gases
One of the main factors that contribute to global working is commute. In the United States alone, transportation is responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions. A 2017 study reveals that working from home half of the week reduces 54 million greenhouse emissions, equivalente to removing 600,000 cars from the road.
Remote working reduces air contamination
It is estimated that 7 million people die due to pollution related causes, because the concentration of particles in the air can provoke inflammation and respiratory problems. The general shutdown in industries caused by the Covid-19 pandemic notoriously improved the air quality. In China, one of the biggest polluters in the world, CO2 emissions decreased 25%, equal to 200 million tons.
Impact on saving paper and other items
Remote work gives us autonomy, and it is proven that when teams and employees take responsibility over their work (and when leaders effectively manage results), productivity increases. But this also applies to our daily input, which has direct consequences on the planet. The digital revolution drastically decreases the use of paper, for example. It also positively impacts electric consumption: working from home means we know how much we consume, and incentivises us to be conscious about our resources.
Employees as well as employers prefer to work from home instead of going to the office. Between all the pros and cons of both systems, we are now aware of the altruistic motives of this new trend. The pandemic has taught us to look beyond our immediate reality, and to be more interested in our neighbors, our community, and our planet.
Are we becoming more conscious?
Covid-19 elevated the compromise that people have to environmental causes: a BCG study conducted last year revealed that people are more conscious now than before about their actions that impact the planet. Technology is an agent of change: wifi, data, cloud storage, 5G, and AI are tools with which companies count on to align their objectives with major causes, like sustainability. But it also inventivices individual actions.
I hope that Earth Day 2021 finds us more conscious of what we do at home and for the planet, and with the knowledge that the health of the planet is the health of the people.