Covid-19 boundaries drive up CO2 emissions – watts with that?

Guest contribution by Eric Worrall

Giving up the commute may be a simple way of protecting the climate, but other factors like the relative inefficiency of home heating outweigh the CO2 savings.

Is remote working better for the environment? Not necessarily

Organizations have a rare moment to reset work models. Climate calculations for remote v-office work are complex, however

Amanda Schupak
Tue Aug. 3, 2021 01.00 AEST

Stacy Kauk was finishing Shopify’s 2019 sustainability report when the pandemic forced the company to work remotely.

“I kind of followed in my footsteps and said, ‘Oh oh, what will happen if we close our offices during Covid and stay remote for the long term? What does this mean for Shopify’s carbon footprint? ”Said Kauk, who heads the Canadian e-commerce company’s annual $ 5 million sustainability fund.

This is an important question companies may need to ask themselves as they redefine their work models in the aftermath of the pandemic – although sustainability experts fear not all of them do.

When workers’ homes become their offices, the commuting may fall out of the carbon equation, but what happens in those homes has to be added in. How much energy is used to run the air conditioning or heating? Does this energy come from clean sources? In some parts of the country, average home electricity consumption rose more than 20% on weekdays, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA’s analysis suggests that workers who use public transport or travel less than six kilometers each way could actually increase their overall emissions by working from home.

Looking to the future, the questions multiply. Many Shopify employees live near the office and walk, bike, or take public transit. Will remote work mean moving from townhouses to sprawling suburban homes that use three times more energy on average? Are they going to buy cars? Will it be electric or gas SUVs?

“You are in control of the company over what happens in the office,” noted Kauk. “If everyone works from home, the company’s discretion is now the discretion of the employees.”

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Clearly, the real problem is that people stuck at home can still afford heating and air conditioning.

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