There is great potential for snarkiness associated with today's blog.
Here's the thing: I have read (and written) about how technologies such as videoconferencing, broadband Internet access and power mobile devices are having a green impact on the way that companies do business. But even as I've tallied up how much I've cut my own gas consumption and carbon emissions in the year that I personally have been working at home, all I have to do is pull out my own electricity bill to see that all that lovely air-conditioning I enjoyed in an office building for almost 18 years comes at a cost.
So, here's the big question: When a business "cuts" their carbon emissions by introducing a flexible work or telecommuting program, is it really just shifting the load to its employees. I think the answer is Yes and No.
Sun Microsystems came out with some data this week from its Open Work Energy Measurement Project that attempts to answer this question.
Here is the positive news: - Sun found that the office equipment in a typical Sun office used energy at two times the rate of the home office equipment that their telecommuters were using (about 64 watts per hour at home vs. 130 watts per hour in the office). Could this be because consumer technology is usually newer than office equipment? Less powerful? Need more data.
- By skipping the commute to work 2.5 days per work, Sun figures that each employee reduces the energy consumed for work activities by 5,400 kilowatt hours per year. Personally speaking, the employee also can save $1,700 in gas and vehicle wear and tear. I'll bet that number has gone up slightly since Sun crunched its data. Indeed, Sun figures that commuting to and from work accounts for 98 percent of each employee's work-related carbon footprint.
About 19,000 Sun employees, or 56 percent of its worldwide workforce, works at home or as part of a flexible office environment. Here are some more stats about how Sun's Open Work program is affecting the company's carbon footprint.