Telecommuting might save your butt, but will it save the planet?

By Tom Laskawy on January 29, 2011

By Jess Zimmerman.

Just as teleworkers in the Northeast were patting ourselves on the back for avoiding the hell commute , public radio has to go and harsh our buzz. Telecommuting may have many advantages , says Marketplace—cheap lunches, 24-hour pet snorgling, hefty savings on shampoo, the ability to sit snugly at home while others endure an endless purgatory of snowbound freeways—but it’s not actually the green option . For certain people. Maybe.

The plural of anecdote is not data: Marketplace reporter Adriene Hill talked to the following people:

a woman who thinks the carbon costs from her antique furnace outweigh the 172 miles a week she doesn’t drive because of telecommuting. a woman who feels she doesn’t save anything by telecommuting because she used to bike to work.

Two people, and one of them lives in Brooklyn. What is this, a New York Times trend piece ?

Still, there is some data: Brian Palmer of Slate wrote about this recently , too, with a few more numbers. Turns out inefficient home heating does counterbalance—though not outweigh—the carbon you save by not driving.

As much as you may hate your workplace, with its detestable politics, stale break-room coffee and interminable small-talk obligations, it’s a more energy-efficient work environment than the average American home. For one thing, that cramped cubicle farm means that less air has to be heated or cooled to keep the worker bees buzzing. Stay home, and you have to climate-control at least your own home office, if not the entire house. Office workers also share certain equipment, such as printers and fax machines. At home, you’re probably running your own peripherals.

These inefficiencies can significantly reduce the carbon savings of working in your pajamas, according to a 2005 study by Erasmia Kitou and Arpad Horvath of the

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By Tom Laskawy| January 29, 2011
Categories:  Live

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Tom Laskawy

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