About two years ago I had a debate with a neighbor of mine. He was the proud owner of a brand new Toyota Prius and was explaining to me how my ownership of an SUV was irresponsible and borderline criminal.
My argument was simple… since I – the vast majority of the time – work from my home office (i.e., telecommute) while he drove almost an hour each way, every day, back and forth to his office – my overall energy consumption was still far less than his.
Using a simple online total carbon use calculator it was simple for each of us to input our consumption and determine which solution provided a lower energy use and therefore carbon footprint.
The simple reality is that using a car less is the most effective means of reducing your energy usage.
While my car based energy consumption was far less than his, I was shocked to see the immense impact of air travel. It turned out that my overall carbon usage was significantly higher due to my frequent flights to silicon valley and San Diego for work.
All of this research led me to another hypothesis: What if we could eliminate 30 – 40 percent of the average commute for the US as a whole? What if we could convince our corporations to encourage work from home scenarios for 30 – 40 percent of their total workforce?
The numbers are simply staggering. The net result is not simple a 30 to 40 percent reduction in commute miles driven every day – but a vast decrease in energy consumption by corporations due to reductions in the office space required. Once corporate cultures shift (and as a long time telecommuter I can tell you this is no small shift) we can also see huge savings from reductions in business travel.
So what is the green technology that enables this? IP Communications – voice over IP, desktop video conferencing, and collaboration technology coupled with residential broadband and the internet.
I would love to see environmental organizations and our elected officials take advantage of this opportunity to do some thing real to reduce both our collective carbon footprint as well as our dependence on energy sources from unstable parts of the world. This is a once a generation opportunity to significantly change the way business gets done.
That would be a real innovation…