In 2020, the average Washington DC Metro area employee spent 43 minutes getting to work, and the same amount of time getting back home. More than a third traveled 45 minutes or more to work every day, including me. My commute at the company I worked for before 8x8 was almost two hours each way, five days a week — and most of the time, like most commuters, I drove alone. Beyond work/life balance, my drive and others’ was no doubt having an impact on the environment. So what happened in 2020 when commuters around the world stopped getting in their cars to go to work? Global Workforce Analytics, in their Business Case for Remote Work 2021 Report, reports a 30% reduction in U.S. gas consumption for the period of March through early July 2020. When compared to 2019 in total, researchers estimate this and other shifts in energy consumption led to an estimated 15% reduction in U.S. daily carbon dioxide emissions.

Here are eight more stunning statistics from the IEA, an organization that works with governments and industry to shape a sustainable energy future. These show how the move to remote work and education, reduced transportation including air travel, and related events in 2020 impacted the environment for good. All come from their article, Global Energy Review: CO2 Emissions in 2020: Understanding the Impacts of Covid-19 on Global CO2 Emissions, featuring analysis done across 69 countries representing 85% of the world’s population and 97% of global CO2 emissions:

  1. Daily global CO2 emissions decreased by –17% by early April 2020 compared with mean 2019 levels, with just under half of the decrease coming from changes in surface transportation alone.
  2. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by –26% on average.
  3. Global emissions from surface transportation fell by –36% by early April 2020, and made the largest contribution to the total emissions change.
  4. CO2 emissions declined by –60% in the aviation sector during the same period, and by –21% in the public sector.
  5. A small growth in global emissions occurred in the residential sector (+2.8%), representing the move to work from home.
  6. As primary energy demand dropped nearly 4% in 2020, global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8%, the largest annual percentage decline since World War II.
  7. In the United States specifically, stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic led overall annual CO2 emissions to decline by more than 10%, or almost 500 metric tons of CO2.
  8. Transportation emissions decreased the most in the United States, with a 14% decline as activity plummeted in April.

Consider this additional statistic from Global Workplace Analytics: "If 3.9 million people worked from home at least half of the time, that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equivalent to removing 600,000 cars from the road for an entire year." To replicate that reduction, it would take planting 91 million trees, according to 2017 Global Workplace Analytics data.

I now consider myself fortunate to work in a permanently remote position for 8x8 with 8x8 technology. Our company and others are moving toward more long-term fully-remote and hybrid workplace options, certain to benefit the environment in the long-run.