4 Environmentally Beneficial Reasons to Work For Remote-First Company
Since the onset of the pandemic, Virtual Peaker has worked to protect our employees’ health and safety. While that initially meant work-from-home protocols enacted by the challenges of COVID-19, we’re proud to announce that we are now a remote-first company. As a remote-first company, our employees are free to work remotely or in the office as they choose, which internal surveys have shown increases both happiness and productivity for almost everyone who participated. This decision reflects our core values to remain open-minded, inclusive, and decisive, which applies equally to our commitment to our employees and our fight against climate change. Fortunately, the data suggest that remote work has the potential to help the environment just as much as it helps employees everywhere realize a flexible work-life balance.
Culture Shifts In Remote Work
By most metrics, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted workplace cultures everywhere. Surveys indicate that prior to lockdowns, only about 20% of polled companies allowed for remote work. However, after March 2020 around 70% of surveyed employers plan to adopt remote work practices. The economic benefits for any remote-first company include growing your workforce beyond the employee pool in your city, cuts real-estate and supply costs, and lowers utility costs. Fortunately, these financial positives have a net positive environmental effect.
1: Less Carbon Emissions
There are many types of greenhouse gases that lead to air pollution, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. The most common is carbon dioxide, which is a natural bi-product of life and essential to photosynthesis. Prior to the industrial revolution, the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). That figure has increased in the time since then, both due to a rise in deforestation and in industrial and automotive emissions from burning fossil fuels.
In contrast, in 2019 carbon dioxide emissions averaged 409.8 ppm, a 46.35% increase that is expected to continue to grow. As those emissions increase, so do global temperature averages, which are a leading cause of climate change. COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in a 7% drop in fossil fuel emissions, illustrating the potential power of collective environmental actions. As the majority of these emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and power, reimagining your daily commute can have a net positive environmental impact. By working for a remote-first company, employees are able to better minimize their carbon footprint, by simply driving less.
Reduced Power Consumption
As of 2010, 72% of all utility energy was consumed by commercial and industrial properties, with residential use at 37% and transportation consuming only an annual .2%. For commercial and industrial properties, much of that energy is used for climate control or lighting. By adopting a remote-first company plan, you can immediately lower costs by minimizing the use of unnecessary lighting and appliance use, and by raising the average temperature on the HVAC. Having fewer people in an office means less need.
Furthermore, that .2% attributed above to transportation has surely risen since then to reflect increases to electric car manufacturing. For context, as of 2020 more than triple as many electric vehicles (EVs) were registered as in 2016. This increase in cars has increased the need for EV charging stations, which have raised the percentage of utility usage from the U.S. transportation sector. As we mentioned above: less driving is fewer emissions, but now we know it’s also less energy usage.
More at Home Usage? Enroll in Demand Conservation
While minimizing commuter traffic is invaluable to mitigating climate change, employees at a remote-first company are more likely to consume more energy at home throughout the day than in the past. These increases in usage will continue to strain overworked grids but can be offset through demand conservation programs. Demand conservation is a voluntary program that allows utilities to turn HVAC systems off for brief periods of high consumption to prevent outages. Utilities can enhance their demand response programs, which participating employees can use to help offset increases to their daily at-home energy consumption.
How To Help Demand Response Efforts
For workers at home, participation in a demand response program has never been easier. While utility companies and their affiliate partners can offer demand response programs, participation is up to the individual. To boost engagement, utility companies typically appeal either to a financial incentive or altruism. There is good news about the latter appeal, as studies indicate that customers in the U.S. are far more likely to participate if they understand the benefits to the environment.
Fortunately, initiatives like bring your own device (BYOD) programs have made enrollment easier than ever. Unlike centralized demand response efforts that rely on each utility company to install a physical device at every participating customer’s home, BYOD programs are designed to allow individuals to choose the qualifying device of their choice, which is then tied into a virtual system.
2: Improved Air Quality
We mentioned above that greenhouse gas emissions increase air pollution, which can increase global temperatures. Pollution isn’t just an environmental concern though, as it has the potential to decrease standards of living for anyone who has to suffer through poor air quality. Air pollution has a direct impact on public health, with effects ranging from respiratory concerns to increased risk of heart problems. By instituting remote-first company strategies, employers can help sustainability efforts and health initiatives.
3: Less Fossil Fuels
We mentioned above that remote-first company policies lead to lower utility usage in commercial, residential, and transportation sectors. By working from home, fewer fossil fuels will be consumed. Due to COVID-19 mitigations, petroleum oil use plummeted by 40% for gasoline and 62% for jet fuel. Those declines represent a drop in usage, which helps preserve a finite resource, while simultaneously producing fewer carbon emissions.
4: Less Material Usage
Not only does working from home minimize fossil fuel dependence by lowering gasoline and oil consumption, but it also reduces the use of material goods that were made with petroleum. Working at home means fewer single-use items, like the type of cups, containers, and disposable utensils. In fact, in 2018 Americans produced 14.5 million tons of plastic waste. A remote-first company allows employees the opportunity to spend their lunch hour at home, to make coffee without the need for coffee pods, and to use washable (and thus reusable) utensils. All of that waste has an enormous environmental toll, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reporting an estimated 850 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2019. That’s an incredible amount of damage for waste disposal, and one that we can lessen through reusable solutions.
Conclusion: Remote-First Company
Adopting remote-first company policies has only served to enrich our community. We have expanded our employee pool beyond our immediate proximity, which has opened up a world of possibilities. More importantly, remote-first work helps to realize our goal to build a better world by centering our work around our employees, while simultaneously helping the world. Are you looking for work and share our passion for a decentralized, digitized, and decarbonized future? Visit our careers page and let’s get started.