With gas prices nearing almost $4 dollars at the pump, we need to seriously reconsider our dependence on oil. While public transit, biking and walking help tremendously towards that end, the biggest untapped opportunity in eco-friendly transportation is probably -- telecommuting.
A new paper from The Mobility Choice coalition by Justin Horner (PDF) finds that the average telecommuter saves 40.6 gallons of oil per year by telecommuting just twice per month.
Currently roughly 5.2 million Americans telecommute at that rate, saving approximately 10 million barrels of oil annually (the average telecommuter’s normal on-road round-trip commute is 35 miles). This significant reduction in car travel not only reduces our usage of oil, but also lowers harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
As the study says, "Telecommuting gives employees the flexibility of working from home, reduces transportation costs, stands as a competitive benefit for businesses to attract employees, takes cars off the road to reduce peak congestion, and cuts vehicle travel, reducing the imperative to use oil and pollution."
In most urban areas Americans are already wasting the equivalent of a full workweek stuck in traffic every year, the study says. In the top 15 large urban areas (such as Chicago and Houston) the average commuter uses 39 excess gallons of fuel and spends $1,166 in extra congestion costs. Imagine avoiding all of that from the luxury of your own bed!
If the 10 million Americans, who currently have an option to telecommute, actually did so at least twice per month, telecommuting could save us a whopping 21 million barrels of oil annually and save American households a total of $1.7 billion per year, the study finds.
But it's not just you who gains from telecommuting. Employers can save tons of money on expenses resulting from workspaces, parking, and energy use. In real world terms: currently 40 percent of IBM’s employees telecommute, saving the company nearly $2.9 billion in reduced office space needs since 1995 (this doesn't even include the energy cost savings).
We already have the technology today to do most of our work from home. And with telecommuting you not only buy yourself an extra half hour to sleep in the morning (the time you would spend in traffic), you also provide economic benefits to yourself and your employer. To sweeten the deal, certain auto insurance carriers also offer lower premiums to frequent telecommuters.
While telecommuting is not for everyone, most studies have found that it actually increases productivity. So the next time you know you're going to be spending 10 hours in front of a computer, stay home and do it.