How Working Remotely Lightened My Footprint (Without Me Even Realizing It)

by Darcy Boles December 18, 2019

If all people in the US who are allowed to work remotely did so half-time, it would equal the entire greenhouse emission impact of taking all of New Jersey and New York states off the road.
-Global Workplace Analytics
I don’t know if your jaw dropped reading that statistic, but mine certainly did when I reviewed The Remote Work Association’s roundtable on the environmental impact of remote work. 
So, the elimination of my 40-minute commute has not only had a positive impact on my mental health, but the environment, too? Maybe there’s something more here…
Reminiscing on my “past office-life” hectic commute, it’s hard to forget the crazy mornings of rushing to get dressed in my “work clothes,” (generally staple pieces from a fast-fashion store reserved only for work days), forgetting to grab a reusable bag for the infamous post-work grocery store run, and also completely forgetting to pack a lunch, resulting in yet another to-go plastic sushi package paired with my non-reusable coffee cup–because I NEEDED A COFFEE to get me through that exhausting traffic. 
I’ve been almost two years without a commute since joining TaxJar, a proud all-remote company (we don’t have an office anywhere!). Now that my “commute” consists of working wherever I want to be with my laptop and a Wi-Fi signal, I design my morning routine in a way that adds value to my life and the environment around me. 
On a busy Monday morning I like to walk my laptop to my local coffee shop and get a “for here” coffee and respond to emails to start the workday. When I need to give a presentation, I now put on one of my five favorite up-cycled outfits because I don’t need 15 pairs of poorly-made black slacks anymore. And even though I still forget sometimes, I keep my JarFest 10 veggie bag by my key hook so I don’t forget it on my late-afternoon romp to the Wednesday Farmers’ Market that takes approximately the same amount of time equivalent to eating a take-out sushi lunch in the breakroom. 

Environmental Impact Remote Work

Our goody bags from JarFest10 encouraging reusable products 

These may all seem like very small changes in the broader scope, but I’m just one person. These small changes lead me to think that if remote work makes such a sustainable impact in my life, what bigger changes would we see in the environment if everyone in the US all worked remotely, even just 50% of the time? According to the Telework Savings Calculator designed by Global Workforce Analytics, we’d:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases by 54 million tons – the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road for a year
  • Reduce wear and tear on our highways by over 119 billion miles per year, saving communities hundreds of millions of dollars in highway maintenance
  • Save almost 90,000 people from traffic-related injury or death. Accident-related costs would be reduced by over $10 billion per year
  • Save more than 640 million barrels of oil (37% of Persian Gulf imports), valued at over $64 billion
  • Reduce energy use – office equipment energy consumption rate is twice that of home office equipment energy consumption

Looking at these statistics, it’s hard to argue that remote work isn’t doing something positive for our planet. I’ve felt the benefits in my own life and can only imagine the other small changes remote workers have made, resulting in a much larger collective impact. 
At TaxJar, we’re proud to be remote. Personally, I can say that I am also incredibly proud that working remotely allows me to waste a little less and do a little more. We talk about the benefits of remote work a lot, and this is just another reason to add to our ever-growing list.
How has remote work impacted your life? Let us know in the comments!

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