Telecommuting and Beyond: What you can do to reduce vehicle emissions

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While in many ways catastrophic, COVID has undeniably created space for a complete reinvention on how we view work and the workplace. As more companies adopt telecommuting, the benefits are evident, and it is redesigning our approach to the way we work.  

Many companies, including leading tech firms such as Facebook, Salesforce and Twitter, now expect a large portion of their workforce to work remotely, permanently. A University of Chicago study suggests that remote work could grow to as much as one-third of the workforce. In Silicon Valley, it notes, the number reaches nearly 50%.  

Benefits of the transition to telecommuting 

Environmental gains due to telecommuters range from gasoline savings of over $20 million globally, reduced greenhouse gas emissions (equal to 54 million tons yearly), decreased traffic, improved air quality, reduced equipment waste, reduced carbon footprints, less impact on transportation infrastructure, and significant energy savings.  

The continuation of telecommuting post-COVID is likely to lead to a decrease in transportation impacts on the climate. With fewer people on the road commuting, there is an improvement in traffic flow which can lead to reductions in vehicle fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. 

To learn more about reducing greenhouse gas emissions through transportation, explore the Clean and Efficient Transportation section of the City’s Climate Dashboard. 

In addition to this, various studies have shown that telecommuting can improve personal productivity and mental health, reduces operating costs, and keeps older generations in the workforce through accessibility, extending the benefits of adopting this practice beyond the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Beyond Telecommuting 

It is also important to acknowledge that some jobs cannot easily or ever transition to telecommuting, as they operate brick and mortar establishments, such as restaurants, construction sites, movie theaters or factories.  Despite this, there are still many options to reduce work travel related emissions beyond telecommuting that have benefits of their own.  

Employees who live close to their workplaces can incorporate exercise and time outdoors into their commute while reducing their emissions by choosing to bike or walk to work. Others who live farther away can opt to take public transportation, freeing up commute time previously spent waiting in traffic to relax or read. Employees could also create a carpool or join a vanpool program, reducing congestion on streets and highways while providing opportunities to develop stronger ties to coworkers.  

What you can do  

Speak with your current employer and ask about the possibility of continuing telecommuting post-COVID, due to the many benefits it offer the business, the employee, and the planet. If you own a business, depending on the roles and industry you are in, it may also be beneficial to consider offering telecommuting options for your workforce. If telecommuting is not an option, encourage or establish alternative commuting programs that incentivize biking to work, carpooling, or taking buses and trains as less carbon intensive transportation alternatives. 

Join the City of Encinitas and take the pledge to clean the air by leaving your car at home and commuting alternatively on Clean Air Day, October 7. For inspiration, check out some other Clean Air Day actions and activity options at https://www.cleanairday.org/.  And commit to telecommuting, carpooling, taking transit, biking or walking to work beyond COVID.