Telecommuting and the Road to Sustainability
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The United States contributes about 25% of the world’s CO2 to the atmosphere annually, 20% of that is from driving cars, and 16% of that is from commuting, making the American commute responsible for roughly 1% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions. Furthermore, as sprawl continues to envelope the countryside surrounding our major urban areas, public transportation systems have not kept up, and the distance between worker and workplace continues to grow. The information and communication technology revolution of the late 1990’s has enhanced the sensory experience that can be delivered via electronics, allowing coworkers to communicate and interact live via video, text messaging, shared white boards, and other technologies. From the convergence of these two trends – a workforce that lives farther and farther away from work, and the advent of internet and communications technologies - the concept of “virtual work” should’ve gained popularity, but its adoption rate by corporate America has been sluggish. There are myriad reasons for why Americans, and their counterparts all over the world still choose the dreaded commute over virtual work. Relatively low gasoline prices throughout this period, until two or three years ago, and America’s love affair with the automobile are part of the problem, but corporate culture, human need for interaction, and technological shortcomings are also contributing to the problem. This masters project will discuss how the commuter carbon footprint is largely being ignored by organizations that seek to improve their sustainability and reduce their impacts on the environment, and how, with the right approach and better technology, reducing the CO2 emissions of employees can become one of the easier, less costly components of an organization’s sustainability strategy. Through case studies and a variety of research, this masters project will attempt to demystify the process of virtual work and act as a “telecommuter’s handbook” of sorts for employers and employees alike who seek to establish a telecommuting policy in their place of work.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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