The Effects of Working from Home on Our Carbon Footprint

April 8, 2020

I’m writing this post during the strange time of the Coronavirus outbreak. I live in Italy where we were forced to work from home starting in March. We call working from home ‘smart work’.

After a couple of weeks of many people doing ‘smart work’, I started talking with my friends to see how they’re transitioning to this new way of working. Every single one had the same response: “I can’t even breathe!” They were surprised at how their work days had become so dense; no coffee machines, no chats with colleagues, no time traveling in cars and airplanes. Only work.

The Impact of the Work Slow Down

It might seem as though this new way of working may be putting greater stress on our human resources, however, Italy has seen lesser consumption of other resources. We have even seen a recorded drop of 25% in electricity demand – a majority of which is most likely due to industry shutdown. This made me wonder, “What is the reduction of their carbon footprint when a normal worker becomes remote, or a ‘smart worker’?”

The Environmental Benefit of ‘Smart Work’

I came across this study that claims the amount of CO2 that could be saved annually in carbon emissions from now until 2030 through the adoption of ’flexible working’ is 214 million tons. Xerox touts that annually, their teleworkers drive 92 million fewer miles, saving 4.6 million gallons of gas, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 41,000 metric tons and saving over $10 million.” These are big numbers for sure, but what is not clear is how they are calculated.  I googled this topic a lot but was unable to find a precise answer. I suspect that these numbers come primarily from the gas savings of the workers who are no longer commuting on a daily basis.

But gas savings are only one slice of a much larger carbon footprint impact. Let me explain…

Assessing KBMax’s Carbon Footprint

At KBMax we have always been ‘smart workers’. We’ve never leased or owned a building, and we’ve never hosted a server farm. When speaking about KBMax, I like to say that “we have no bricks or papers”.

These are the other areas where I think KBMax saves on its carbon impact:

  • We are not driving to and from work.
  • We are not purchasing new cars. Example, I have owned the same car for 12 years. I don’t need one since I literally don’t use it and many colleagues say the same.
  • There is no building or leasing of an office.
  • There is no energy consumption for an office that we don’t have.
  • Our cloud application is hosted 100% in Azure.
  • We are efficient, collaborative, and we don’t use paper – simply meaning, we don’t cut trees.
  • We are not buying the extra clothes, shoes, accessories and everything else needed to go into an office.

A Building Is A Building, Right?

Realistically, we still have a small carbon footprint from heating and cooling the houses where we work. But buildings are responsible for more than 40% of global energy used in the world so KBMax not having an office building results in significant carbon savings. You might think, “instead of heating/cooling the office, you heat/cool the house”, but that doesn’t mean that these are equivalent. The maximum load of power consumption of a system is during the ‘transitories’ – when you transition from a set temperature to a different temperature. It’s similar to driving a car; braking and accelerating is much more ‘expensive’ than driving at a consistent speed. Every office will have two temperature transitions in a day; one before you arrive in office, and another when the office empties. If you stay at home, you likely don’t have these major temperature transitions.

Can the Cloud Help?

Having our software hosted in a big cloud provider is very efficient for our business needs, but also for the needs of the planet. Amazon AWS reported that: “a typical large-scale cloud provider achieves approximately 65% server utilization rates versus 15% on-premises”. KBMax runs on Microsoft, (Azure) who runs their cloud operations in a carbon neutral way. Since KBMax started hosting in Azure, we can say that we are 84% more efficient than an on-premise application. Not bad!

Considering Other Ecological Opportunities

Moreover, since I started working from home, I’ve reduced my meat consumption by becoming mainly vegetarian. Livestock farming produces from 20% to 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Smart working makes this a lot easier since I can select and plan what I want to eat every day instead of settling on whatever is available at or near the office.

It is a challenge to exactly calculate the amount of carbon saved by KBMax and its employees, but I suspect that it is substantial. So, I’m quite proud to say that KBMax contributes to saving the environment, even if I am not able to directly quantify how much. And now other companies are doing the same as well.

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The Author

Luigi Ottoboni

Luigi Ottoboni
VP, Research & Development at KBMax

Luigi wrote his first software when he was eight years old. He started his first company, the first Internet Service Provider in the area, while he was still in university. He graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and proceeded to found six other tech companies. As a KBMax Co-Founder, Luigi leads our Research and Development because he loves finding new technologies to keep KBMax 'on the cutting edge'. He's proud to say that he has seen more of the USA and Greece than an average American or Greek resident.

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