In November representatives from 200 countries will gather in Paris to hash out a plan of action to reduce climate change. Some see this as a ‘last chance’ for action as the the amount of human produced CO2 in our atmosphere is on the rise. Population growth, deforestation and increased consumption of fossil fuels are all to blame.
For many modern companies with a social conscience working in a distributed way is well aligned with reducing environmental impact. Eric Bieller argues that working remotely could be an important factor in reducing climate change and makes a call for companies to seriously think about changing the way they work.
Eric is the co-founder of Speak, a tool that provides instant communication and presence for remote teams. His team’s goal is to enable a future where the office is no longer a necessity and people are free to work from anywhere in the world. You can find Eric on Twitter (@ericbieller).
Over the last century, motor vehicles have become commonplace in our society, becoming a hefty contributor to this increase in CO2 emissions.
Increase in registered vehicles on the road since 1975
(IHS Global Insight and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC)
In fact, transportation is estimated to account for as much as 31% of human emissions.
Meanwhile, deforestation has reduced the planet’s ability to filter CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Continuing on this path could mean devastating consequences for future generations, including rising global temperatures and shrinking of polar ice.
And while the financial crisis of 2008 may have reduced car ownership, subsequently reducing the amount of human produced CO2 in the atmosphere, in the last few years this number has started to creep back up towards pre 2008 levels.
Unfortunately there is no single solution to this problem. If we are going to solve climate change and help dial back CO2 emissions, we’re going to need to attack the problem from multiple angles, starting with our reliance on motor vehicles.
The death of the commute
One of the biggest reasons for increased car ownership, and the subsequent rise in CO2 emissions, is that commuting has become commonplace over the last century.
Cars have made it possible to live in the suburbs but work in the city center. And while this has afforded many people the freedom to live and work where they want, it has also made commuting a way of life for our culture.
In fact, a commuter spends an average of one work week in traffic over the course of a year.
All this time adds up to literally tons of extra CO2 building up in the atmosphere. This also adds up to years of collective productivity that is being lost as we sit in traffic on our way to work.
Ditch the commute and start working remotely
Knowledge workers are in an especially unique position to ditch the commute and start working remotely, as their jobs can typically be done from anywhere. The only requirements are a solid internet connection and the right tools.
In fact, several large remote teams have managed to build extremely successful products, despite being separated by distance and time zones:
Automattic has created a celebrated culture of remote work, with hundreds of employees scattered across 28 countries.
Github is another great success story, with approximately 75% of their employees working remotely.
Buffer has also managed to build a fun and unique culture by embracing remote work.
Taking real steps toward working remotely
I’m not saying that your entire workforce should become remote tomorrow. After all, you can’t just flip a switch and suddenly have a happy and productive remote team.
But why not dip your toes in the water by allowing employees work from home one or two days out of the week? Even a modest remote work policy can give workers a greater sense of freedom and lead to increased productivity. It’ll also show them that you trust them to be autonomous and self managing.
These are certainly small steps, but on a global scale this can really add up! Every minute spent working instead of commuting equates to less CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere and more time spent being productive.
Climate change is a serious matter that’s going to call for serious action if we’re to solve it. But this means that society’s old habits are going to have to change.
Technology has made it possible for us to stay connected to each other even when we’re working on opposite sides of the planet. We’re no longer shackled to the office and doomed to spend hours of our lives stuck in traffic. But it’s up to us to make a change. It’s time for us to cut our ties to this old way of life and start embracing the future of work.
What do you think? Can working remotely make a serious dent in reducing climate change? Let us know in the comments section below!