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Save the World, Work from Home

In honor of the theme of this year’s Blog Action Day, we’ve decided to bring up the topic of commute reduction. After all, it is one of the reasons that drove most of our team to go indy. It’s as simple as this: we believe that a good number of people that work in the realm of technology can find ways to work from home and cut down on the number of days that they spend commuting back and forth to an office. Sure, this isn’t for everyone, but with a relatively small percentage shift towards this new trend, very real benefits could be reaped from the environmental perspective.

The Commute

Each and every day, I would wake up to go to work. The routine was familiar. Alarm, shower, dress, coffee, then hop in the car to sit in 40 minutes of traffic on my way to work. If there’s an accident on the freeway (which is an unpleasantly common occurrence in LA), that 40 minutes could easily jump to an hour or more. I’d spend the day at work, then hop back in the car for the same drive home.

For a 50 mile round trip commute, I was averaging 90 minutes a day on the road. I’ll spare you the math, but that translates to 1000 miles a month and a whopping 30 hours of drive time. 30 hours! Heck, you might say that I spent a week’s worth of labor sitting in my car every month. Take that scale to a full year and you have the staggering numbers of 12,000 miles and 360 hours.

On a personal level, the commute was obviously costing me a great deal of both time and money. If I carry those same numbers over to calculate my
carbon footprint, I get the frightening number of 5.5 tons of CO2 a year that were directly connected to my daily commute. Frightening, I know, but I’d venture a guess that my case was about the norm. I can’t speak for other major cities, but I know that within LA, a good portion of my own friends and family spend at least that much time on the road during their own commutes. When you start doing the math, the impact that commuting has on the environment is enormous.

Save the World, Work from Home

Enter my independent contractor phase. The first month that I felt brave enough to quit my job and freelance full time marked a dramatic change in my life for many reasons. Most of them were obvious: being my own boss, the freedom to work on my own schedule and the satisfaction of running my own business. That and the immediate cessation of my daily commute. Sure, I still drove around town on errands and appointments a couple times a week, but it was minuscule compared to my mammoth 30 hour monthly commute from before. Even with me driving out to coffee shops a couple times a week to escape cabin fever, my average monthly drive time (as a result of work) had gone from 30 hours to under 6 hours. You don’t have to be a statistician to know that that is a a relatively dramatic change.

From the environmental perspective, I shaved my carbon imprint from 5.5 tons of CO2 to just a hair above 1.1. That’s just one person though. The National Transportation Board estimates that only 3.4% of workers do their work from home right now.

NEPI has calculated that if 10 percent of the nation’s workforce telecommuted one day a week, they would avoid the frustration of driving 24.4 million miles, breathe air with 12,963 tons less air pollution, and conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel each week

Want to help the environment, there’s a good place to start.

The Trend & The Lifestyle

We talk a lot about efficiency, balance, and general quality of life issues here at S&P. As a team of contractors we’re all incredibly grateful that the things that we’re passionate about in life allow us the freedom to work from home. Certainly this isn’t the case for everyone, but as Internet based technologies are altering the economic landscape of many aspects of the workplace, it seems only natural that more of this work can be done remotely. I already know of several non-contractors that are allowed to complete work at home and only visit offices a couple days a week. Obviously your plumber can’t work from home, but it’s our belief that this trend can and should become the standard for relevant jobs. Not only would this reduce congestion on the roadways, enhance the worker’s quality of life, and increase efficiency. The environment would reap the benefits from the lower emissions from fewer cars on the road, making a happier world all around. That and you can add low mileage to your car insurance and save a few bucks.

I should add a caveat here. Working remotely has it’s own set of responsibilities and rules: Remote work is still work. You still have to wake up and get it done. If you spend your day playing online poker you’ll get fired. Despite popular beliefs, most remote workers don’t work in their PJ’s because we find ourselves more productive if we dress properly. Remote workers also still have to regularly meet at the office to maintain good channels of communication, so don’t plan on kissing the office goodbye completely. There’s many more things to take into account, but the bottom line is this: working remotely takes discipline, focus and, more than anything, the right habits to be successful at it. Having said all that, if you treat remote work with the same amount of respect and responsibility that you would normally treat your on-site work, you’ll do just fine and there are plenty of great tools to assist you.

So, want to take action? Measure up how much time and distance you spend on the road. Determine whether or not you have a reasonable argument for requesting the ability to work remotely, then take the issue to your boss. You might have your request denied, but chances are that over time more companies will see the benefit in having more work done remotely.

Already doing this? Then share your experience below. We don’t have a prize for the reader who’s saves the most mileage, but it’s a good way to encorouge others to make this happen.

More Resources and Articles on this:

Companies Cut Pollution Through E-commuting

Bureau of Transportation stats

How do you get to work? US commuting statistics

Poll: Traffic in the United States

Climate Calculator

The Myth of Remote Work