Published 3 years ago.
About a 7 minute read.
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It is my belief that remote work is part of the solution to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide coordination, and making even the smallest changes, can make significant differences for planetary health.
In recent months, we have seen an economic shake-up of unprecedented levels, as
the COVID-19 pandemic
has stained our economic system with the fluorescence of vulnerability. As
nature takes command, What does this teach us?
I write this article as a remote worker. I made the transition from my
traditional, office-based role to working remotely a year ago. At the start of
the year, I was in a minority. Thanks to COVID-19, I am now in a majority.
We are in a climate crisis. Just because the impacts haven’t hit with the
immediacy of COVID-19, does not suggest they will be any less consequential.
As more companies adopt a virtual business
structure, I will evaluate
associated reductions in emissions from transport (29
sources that account for half of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the United
States in 2017.
So, how do the climate and COVID crises compare? Climate change includes both
natural and man-made causes. Natural cycles occur regardless of human
intervention, determining a temperature range within which our planet lies. What
we are changing, however, is the composition of our planet's atmosphere to
influence the temperature of our planet.
How are we doing this? By short-circuiting the carbon cycle. Fossil fuels take
millions of years to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, chiefly by
volcanic activity. We are accelerating this carbon-dioxide return by ripping out
fossil fuels to power our economies. The chart below illustrates this.
Greenhouse gases Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide have all
significantly increased in our atmosphere post the industrial revolution. (Source)
Probing into stored carbon sources that take millions of
to form, we are disrupting a delicate cycle, tilting the balance outside what is
known. I ask you: Could the consequences be anything but bad?
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global
two of the top risks are related to human-attributed climate change.
Our safety window is shrinking.
The IPCC asserts that drastic
action is needed to avoid the worst
effects of climate change. Procrastination threatens our future and the very
fabric of our way of life. If we want to reach the recommended 1.5°
warming limit, the world has to curb carbon emissions by 49
percent of 2017 levels
If we have learned anything in recent months, it is the fragility of our
economic system next to the raw power of nature. Judging from recent reports, we
continue to fail to address our climate crisis. Economic turbulence is on the
horizon as we catch whiffs of what is to come from the fires of
and increased frequency and strength of typhoons and
in Asia and other parts of the world.
As I step out of my house for my one hour of isolated freedom, I notice an
absence of cars, of white-streaks scouring the sky, of fixed humming from nearby
construction sites. Our frantic world has decelerated; and, despite the
financial toll, so far, we have seen environmental wins from COVID-19. In just a
The continuation of remote working could help maintain these reduced emissions.
Without downplaying the crisis, I look at the COVID-19 pandemic with the term
“silver linings” in mind. For a long time, the West has been relatively stable,
with no real consequences. COVID-19 has made us realize our actions have
reactions. What is the rejuvenation of nature telling us? With small changes,
we can make a substantial difference for the health of our planet.
I am in no means suggesting indefinite lockdown to the extreme levels we have
experienced due to COVID; sustainability does not include widespread job loss
and economic slowdown. However, cherry-picking good change from the bad can
bring much-needed alterations in the business world — alterations that will
address our climate crisis without sacrificing the health of our economy. One
such alteration is the continued adoption of virtual business processes where
Software developer Process Street is an example of a
virtual business. Process Street provides Business Process
and does so without a physical presence. At Process Street …
Our team communicates across the globe using platforms such as
Slack and Zoom
We follow documented processes for training and quality insurance purposes
The service provided is stored and accessed in the Cloud
used to streamline business processes improving efficiency, effectiveness
and productivity of business operations.
Having worked both in more traditional offices and remotely for a virtual
business — I evaluate the question: Can taking a business virtual significantly
reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
As a remote content writer at Process Street, I never commute. Everything I do
is online. Relative to my previous, office-based job, my diesel costs for the
year at Process Street have more than halved.
If you look at the total US GHGs by economic
transportation takes the lead spot, accounting for 29 percent of emissions.
Of those transportation emissions, up to 53 percent can be related to work
commutes. According to the Center for Sustainable
Systems at the
University of Michigan:
41 percent is attributed to passenger car travel
2 percent is associated with rail travel
9 percent is expelled from air travel
1 percent comes from motorcycles and buses.
These emissions will all be reduced by cutting down the daily work commute and
business travel, in general — a change that comes with an increase in virtual
The third-largest contributor to GHGs is the industrial sector, accounting for
22 percent of global emissions. For most industrial processes, workers have to
be physically present to carry out the task in hand. As a result, the positives
of virtual work become less direct — but they are there.
To exemplify, let’s consider how the company
Renegard uses Process Street to document business
operations in the cloud, adding a system that supports virtual work to its
Renegard produces protective coatings for pickup trucks, boats and large-scale
industrial equipment, the application of which requires onsite workers. However,
certain business operations can be transformed into remote, cloud solutions,
reducing work time onsite.
Using Process Street, Renegard was able to
streamline its industrial
operations, all on one platform that could be accessed virtually, from anywhere.
The most illuminating benefit, however, was the significant efficiency increases
recorded. Efficiency is all about achieving maximum productivity with minimum
use of resources — and human error is reduced as a documented process can be
followed more closely. Reductions in error brings greater productivity, and less
energy use and waste.
Improving the efficiency of industrial processes can only be a good thing for
our planet. Less use of energy and resources means less emissions, helping us to
keep within that 1.5° warming limit.
It is my belief that remote work is part of the solution to cut greenhouse gas
emissions. Worldwide coordination, and making even the smallest changes, can
make significant differences.
Published May 22, 2020 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
I am a Content Writer at Process Street. While earning my degree in Biology, specializing in Environmental Science, at Imperial College London, I developed an enthusiasm for writing to communicate environmental issues. I continued my studies at Imperial College's Business School; and with this, began looking at sustainability in a business sense. When I am not writing, I enjoy being in the mountains, running and rock climbing.