For the past two years, many of us have been working from home, and now that things are seemingly improving, will the home office concept also be near an end? Common sense states, working from home has a lower environmental impact than commuting to a business location, but this is not necessarily the case. When it comes to energy use, there are so many variables, the savings from working from home are not as considerable as one may think. Such impacts can vary substantially by an employee’s individual characteristics, such as awareness, attitudes, family size, wealth, home energy ratings, and even geographic location and season. Less commuting, especially with the price of fuel being what it is, has a positive impact. Still, there is emerging evidence from rebound effects, including increased non-work travel and more short trips. A recent study showed an increase of 26% in short trips, plus a decrease in transit ridership, which leads to a severe increase in costs. These, of course, are ultimately paid for by you and me. From a technology perspective, an interesting fact is, when one works at an office, the energy cost in online work (emails, etc.) is equivalent in carbon dioxide per year, as driving 300km in a car. This number has gone up dramatically because of zoom, etc. Additionally, a number of companies have duplicated equipment by giving employees laptops and other equipment for use at home. In Canada, recycling increased during the first lockdown, mainly because people have adopted more sustainable waste practices at home than at the office. Sadly, in numerous locations, especially in the US, recycling has not yet become as acceptable. There is also a risk of increased electronic and electrical waste, an estimated 50 million tons a year globally, only 20 percent of which is formally recycled. As working from home becomes increasingly popular, fewer employees’ sustainability impacts are likely to take place under employers’ physical roofs. However, they will still occur on their watch. This means everyone has a responsibility to keep our planet as clean and supportable as possible.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.