Working from home may not be as green as you think

On the face of it, working from home is the eco-friendly way to do the nine-to-five – no commute, no office energy consumption, and everyone is in control of their own energy efficiency.

But the reality isn’t quite that straightforward.

What’s the carbon foot print of your daily commute?

Have you ever stopped and wondered what the carbon footprint of your daily commute is? Whether it’s car or bus engines constantly running or the amount of electricity it takes to run a train, we all use a lot of energy and produce a lot of CO2 on the runs to and from work.

And then when you eventually do get to work, your working day is one of office heaters, lighting and computers running all day, along with the constant clicking on and off of the kettle.

Sustainability relies on everyone cutting their carbon footprint and reducing the emissions spewed out by petrol and diesel engines and the huge amount of energy office buildings use just to keep ticking over each day.

Working from home effectively eliminates all this and, when working from home, everyone is more likely to conscious of their own energy efficiency, not least because they’re paying for the power themselves.

It should be a no-brainer that working from home is the more eco-friendly option, but creating a more sustainable future of work isn’t quite that simple.

Why working from home isn’t quite so eco-freindly

Research from WSP UK, a London-based consulting firm specialising in engineering, shows that remote work in the UK may only be more environmentally friendly in the summer. Examining the carbon output of 200 UK-based workers across different locations, researchers found that the environmental impact of remote work was higher in the winter due to the need to heat individual workers’ buildings versus one office building.

Whereas we’ll all have the heating on at home all winter, not many of us have air conditioning for the summer, so energy usage falls dramatically. And the cumulative effect of everyone heating their home for more hours each day means more energy is used than if we all turned up at the office.

David Symons, Future Ready Lead and Director of Sustainability at WSP UK., said: “Energy management in buildings is generally more sophisticated than at individual homes. We don’t have air con in the UK, so as a result it’s much more carbon efficient to work from home in the summer because you haven’t got heating.

On the other hand, cutting out the emissions from the daily commute can’t be underestimated, so it could come down to how energy efficient we are when working from home.

How to save energy when working from home

There are all sorts of ways to save energy when working from home, but here are a few simple changes you can make to cut your carbon footprint and your energy bills:

  • Only heat the room you’re working in
  • Never leave lights or electrics on when not in use
  • Turn the thermostat down – wear more layers, if necessary
  • Only fill the kettle with the water you need, and don’t reboil

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