Work From Home – It’s American!

I recently participated in a focus group where we visited Stubbs Legendary Kitchen, Inc to discuss their technology needs and challenges. One of the small business owner’s top goals was to implement one green day a week where people worked from home and took meetings by conference call in order to reduce his office’s carbon footprint. His challenge was budgeting for the transition from desktop to laptop which would enable this arrangement.

Visiting this customer made me reflect on the whole “green day” concept. I love working from home, avoiding traffic and the frequent distractions that arise in a cubicle environment. It’s also nice to have the flexibility to throw in a load of laundry during lunch if needed. It turns out that working from home, or telecommuting, offers very real environmental & financial benefits too.

When I think of global warming I picture gas guzzling SUV’s and cities whose sprawling growth without public transit forces more cars on the road than the infrastructure – and our environment – can support. While these are certainly major contributors to global warming, I didn’t realize that nearly half (48%) of all annual greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from buildings. In fact, the average U.S. house creates double the greenhouse gas emissions of the average car.

Perhaps telecommuting is the answer to many of our global warming woes. According to a study released by the Consumer Electronics Association, the average telecommuter saves about 215 gallons of gas per year which is equal to 3.6 tons of carbon dioxide emission. Plus the country’s 3.9 million telecommuters save enough energy to power 1 million U.S. households for a year, as Kim Hart noted in her blog last September.

Fortunately several companies are taking action, including Sun Microsystems who is saving millions of dollars on office-space costs – while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions – by encouraging employees to work from home, as noted in an interview with Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, an organization that addresses the world’s sustainability challenges. Dell is also doing its part by powering 100 percent of its 2.1 million square-foot global headquarters with green power, and has committed to making all company owned and leased facilities “carbon neutral” in 2008.

There are numerous ways that companies and individuals can make a difference, and several fun blogs and books, like Hey Mr.Green, that you can read for inspiration. If you’re looking for advice on how to request permission to start telecommuting, or if you’re an employer evaluating this option, visit Telework for additional information. You can also calculate your telework savings on Telework Exchange.

We’d love your thoughts on telecommuting and other ways small businesses can go green. Afterall, “Green is the new red, white and blue.”

Anita Benner, Dell employee

About the Author: Anita Benner