Could Working Remotely Save Our Cities’ Air? claracbennett January 28, 2022

Could Working Remotely Save Our Cities’ Air?

Most of us have heard the stories of people taking less pay if it means they can work from home. As its plain to see, there are many benefits to working from anywhere. There is also a significant impact on something larger than any of us — the overall health of our planet.

I currently live in Salt Lake City, where the air quality due to the geographical location of the city causes something called temperature inversion. In a temperature inversion, the normal physics of cold and warm pressure systems “invert,” and cold air at the surface gets trapped under a layer of warmer air. This means that all carbon emissions from people on their daily commute get trapped at a level where all the residents of the city are breathing it in. Which leaves us all with sore throats, at a minimum.

One day, I saw a sign asking the public to consider working from home to prevent severe air quality metrics. According to the EPA, transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, I felt grateful that my remote job and my Prius do their part to prevent the climate crisis, but I was curious as to what our world would look like if everyone had these same luxuries.

Congested freeway with a digital sign that reads "Poor air quality, travel wisely."
Up and down the valley along the interstate, there are air quality warnings like this one.

Here are a few statistics regarding the relationship between working from home and the climate crisis:

  • In 2018, 28.2% of greenhouse gas emissions came from the transportation sector.
  • If 3.9 million people worked from home at least half the time, carbon emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of 600,000 cars per year. This is equal to planting 91 million trees!
  • In 2015, Xerox reported its teleworkers drove 92 million fewer miles — reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 41,000 metric tons.

These are just a handful of examples of the impact teleworking has on the environment and the air we breathe. As the modern workforce continues to evolve, many experts believe that remote work could be a viable solution to cleaning up the air quality in our cities.

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