Is working from home good for the environment?: Today So Far

  • Working from home may not be as good for the environment as we initially thought. That heavily depends on us.
  • Also, why is it taking so long to get body cameras for the King County Sheriff’s Office?

This post originally appeared in KUOW’s Today so Far newsletter for May 10, 2022.

Working from home may not be as good for the environment as we initially thought. And I say that as a member of the pajamas-optional workforce.

Consider that many major offices already upgraded their buildings to be more efficient. They’ve purchased carbon credits, or established a commute program, etc. Now, a worker like me is not commuting to work, but I am turning on all the lights at home that would have been otherwise off. And my heat is on, or the AC is turned up.

That’s what Reuters reporter Paresh Dave considered when he asked 20 large companies about how they factor work-from-home scenarios into their climate goals. As NPR reports, that list of companies included Northwest brands like REI, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Microsoft believes working from home will cut down on emissions in the long run. Over the past two years, it made calculations based on someone working from home for eight hours with a laptop, two monitors, and three light bulbs. I don’t work for Microsoft. But if I did, the company would not be taking into account that I keep Slow TV on the big screen, providing the illusion that I’m working while on a Norwegian train ride. And while I’m not currently that guy who microwaves fish at the office, I am able to cook up a healthier lunch on my electric stove.

REI evolved its company into a work-from-home model, with satellite offices, in 2020. But it is waiting for industry standards to be established to guide how it would calculate its carbon impact. If such industry standards emerge, will they take into account the coffeepot that I consider an essential coworker? Or my vinyl playlist spinning throughout the workday, filling my home office with Tears for Fears and Sam Cooke? Or how I sometimes dictate this newsletter while taking extended, hot bubble baths?

OK, that last one wasn’t true. It’s just a shiatsu foot spa.

Amazon doesn’t calculate for home workers. As KUOW’s John Ryan recently reported, Amazon doesn’t exactly add up its carbon impact the same say as its competitors.

Working from home, or hybrid models, are certain to be part of our work life moving forward. So taking into account carbon impacts may not just happen at the office anymore. I think I’m going to need to keep a lot more home office plants alive to offset my carbon. Read NPR’s full story here.

Let’s talk about body cams in King County. The sheriff just did.

Some things seem like pretty obvious, good things that no reasonable person would be against. Winning the lottery. A good education. Mr. Rogers. Clean water. A damn fine cup of coffee. And police body cameras.

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