Is remote work hurting the environment?

No, it does not. This is a clickbait title.

Remote work helps me see the world, contribute more to our products and lets me enjoy life to the fullest. From the stereotypical Thai Beach office to escaping open space, it’s a clear benefit for my employer and me.

Hard work

But what gets me most excited about remote work is the environmental impact. If people don’t have to move to big cities, they can stay in their home towns, close to friends and family. Outside of metropolis, it is possible to consume locally grown food, eradicating the need for transport and packaging of perishables.
With a smaller density, the housing can be cheaper, and living conditions improve considerably. People working remotely from areas like Kentucky, Idaho or Ukraine can spend their fat tech salaries locally, raising the living standards for the entire community, providing new jobs and example for future generations.
According to WWF, the commuters in the USA alone are generating 1786 metric tonnes of CO2. That is 26% of all US emissions that remote work can help curb.

But of course – there is an element of hypocrisy in that grand vision of remote work saving the environment.

Producing CO2 in Cape Town

I fly a few times a year to meet my coworkers in person, and air travel is a contributor to greenhouse emissions.

Haunted by this fact, I decided to count how much harm did I do. I added up my flights for each year:

  • 2016: 4.4 tonnes
  • 2017: 8.11 tonnes
  • 2018: 5.51 tonnes

That makes a total of 18.02metric tonnes of CO2 emitted due to me flying over the past three years. I do not feel happy about this, but I found a way to ease the impact of lugging my ass all over the world.

CarbonFootprint.com lets you contribute to carbon offsetting projects around the globe. Their air travel calculator will help you figure out how much harm did you do while getting these Instagram photos:


I decided to fund tree planting in Kenya since it will both plant trees and provide work for the local community. I happily shelled out 280 EUR to buy the land, plant trees and help them grow. The trees should consume 20 tonnes of CO2 caused by my air travel, helping me sleep better.

Carbon emissions due to flying is a downside of working for a globally distributed company, but I still can do something about it.
I also believe that long-term remote work can be the answer to the climate crisis we are experiencing right now.