Telecommuting leads to a significant reduction in carbon emissions even when increased home-based carbon emissions are taken into account.
That's according to a survey commissioned by the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The survey, The Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact of Telecommuting, found that telecommuting in the USA caused increased emissions of carbon from home-based offices. This is due to extra lighting, heating and power for electronic devices. However this was more than compensated for by the savings in petrol consumption.
Telecommuting reduces energy consumption associated with transportation to and from the office and, in some cases, a portion of the energy associated with commercial office space.
The report states that there are 3.9 million people in the USA who work from home at least one day a week. By avoiding an average 22-mile commute to the place of work, and taking into account the increased power use in the home, this practice saves about 840 million (US) gallons of petrol, equivalent to taking two million cars off the road for a year.
The study focused on workers who spend one or more days working from home each week and considered the energy consumed by their telecommuting compared with traditional work at the office or plant.
Gary Shapiro, the CEA's CEO and president, said: "With power companies looking to reduce electric demand, and our nation seeking to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, I believe there is terrific potential for the consumer electronics industry to drive emissions reductions and energy savings, if more workers telecommuted."
Naturally he is at pains to counter suggestions that use of consumer electronics devices is automatically bad for the environment because of the electricity they need: "This report demonstrates that consumer electronics are part of a climate change solution, as the use of electronics is preventing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing fossil fuel consumption. Statistics have been available to detail how much energy electronics use, but less was known about the environmental benefits of consumer products developed by our industry when used to communicate and conduct business."
The report suggests that an estimated 53 million workers could take up telecommuting in the USA, representing a pro-rata reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to taking more than 27 million vehicles off US roads annually.
According to Work Wise UK/RAC Foundation there are currently 3.4 million people in the UK that are home-based or regularly work from home. They save 3,153,055 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. For every additional million workers that do not commute by road, it would save 927,369 tonnes of CO2 each year!
With one average car emitting 4.3 tonnes of CO2 per year UK home working can be seen as removing 733,269 cars from UK roads each year.
All the Work Wise UK figures are based on averages: the average commute is 28km/day; average emissions per passenger km is 138g; the average occupancy of a car is 1.6 people; and so forth.
Work Wise UK promotes the benefits of smarter working, which includes home working, across the UK. The RAC Foundation is one of the Work Wise UK partners (others include CBI, TUC, BT, Transport for London, Association of Commuter Transport, British Chambers of Commerce and SCOPE).