Carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 3D bush
Petmal via Getty

While leaving the office behind cuts down on vehicle emissions, remote work can tangibly increase carbon emissions, as discovered by Purdue University, Yale University and Massachusetts Institution of Technology.

The collaborative study unveiled some not-so-surprising pandemic work trends, including a 20 per cent surge in internet use and a reduction in travel-related CO2 emissions. What is pressing, however, is remote work’s environmental impacts. The study predicts that the work could contribute another 34.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions if the trend continues until 2021.

In addition, the study pegs the total energy consumption of data centres at one per cent of the global total. This, the report says, is higher than the energy consumption of many countries, and the figure will continue to rise as more applications and services take to the cloud.

Breaking down the figures more, the report noted internet use has a carbon footprint of 28 to 63 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per gigabyte. Although technology improvement is constantly increasing efficiency, it can’t scale against the demand for better services.

There are peripheral environmental damages to working remote as well. Whereas office buildings order supplies in bulk, they’re now being shipped in smaller quantities to houses which increase delivery transport emissions.

So what can remote workers reduce their carbon footprint? Global News reporter Madison Wong noted the following tips in her article:

  • Turning off cameras during remote meetings can reduce the meeting’s carbon footprints by 96 per cent.
  • Streaming in standard definition as opposed to high definition can cut down carbon dioxide levels by 86 per cent.
  • Moderate the air conditioning or use a smart thermostat.
  • Buy supplies in bulk and buy local.
  • Delete old emails and cloud storage.
  • Switch to LED lightbulbs.
  • Make small adjustments to reducing waste, they’ll build up over time.

In the end, the article noted that not everyone needs to do all of these things at once, even making one or two changes can amount to large reductions if we do them together.