The Hidden Eco-Benefits of Working from Home


Image credit: Sami Grover

Some time ago I posted on how we built a home office in an storage old barn using reclaimed materials. And I have to say that working from home is one of my favorite thing about my current job(s). Every now and then, of course, we hear of studies that claim that telecommuting is more polluting than working from an office—studies that Lloyd usually debunks in pretty short order. But nevertheless these get me thinking—telecommuting has way more eco-benefits than just saving on gas from your commute.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Yes, some of them involve peeing.)Peeing in Your Yard: Not many offices are equipped with a waterless urinal, but my home office certainly is. It's called my yard. And by peeing on my mulch I even get an unput of nutrients for my sadly neglected garden. I could argue that there is less demand for the courtesy flush too, but that may be taking my well-documented toilet obsession a little too far.

Making Your Own (Waste Free) Lunch: Sure, the economy has more people "brown bagging" their lunch, and many of the more eco-conscious among us may remember to bring reusable containers. But the fact is that working away from home means we are always tempted to eat out. And eating out—at lunchtimes in particular—often means extra waste and limited green choices. At home, I even get to eat the leftovers from last night—which means less food waste too.

Fewer Electronics & Office Equipment: Chances are, most modern homes would have computers, a printer and even some form of office space—whether you work from home or not. So working from home reduces the need for all kinds of duplicate equipment, from printers to desks to computers and more. We home workers may even use fewer disposable pens, now that we can't steal them from work.

Less Infrastructure: For those of us who work from home on a permanent basis, we should also factor in some more major infrastructural savings. No office building means less streetscape to put the office building on, and less freeway space or railroad (or hopefully bike track) needed to shuffle us all from one place to another. True, at the present rate of homeworking these savings are largely theoretical, but a broader cultural shift to working from home would mean a significant decrease in infrastructural needs—and the ongoing maintenance they require.

Less Spending: Saving money isn't often thought of as green in-and-of itself. But as this excellent video on the Plenitude Economy shows, it is. By spending less, we reduce our need to work. And by working less, we increase our time to do other, more constructive things. And by doing mroe constructive things, we can consume less too. At least, as long as we don't use that extra money to fly around the world and kick back on the beach.

More Happiness: Any sane approach to environmental sustainability must include cultural sustainability and human wellbeing. And as we begin to explore Slow Business and other alternatives to the rat race, we often find that more happiness and better mental health is part and parcel of that rethink. And that's got to be a good thing.

i suspect this is the tip of a much bigger ice berg. From nurturing a vibrant neighborhood economy through our support of coffee shops, to reduced maintenance on your car, there are plenty of other pro-home working arguments to be made. Feel free to share yours below.

More on Working from Home
Building a Home Office from Reclaimed Materials
Office Workers May Emit Less CO2 Than Telecommuters
5 innovations to Make Telecommuting Easy and Green

Tags: Economics | Transportation | United States