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Working from Home Not Necessarily better for the Planet


While the shift from offices to homes during the coronavirus pandemic has reduced smog in major cities, some environmentalists say working from home can leave a damaging carbon footprint as well. Watching videos, navigating the Internet and online conferencing require technological infrastructure that needs to be powered. And before more people began working from home, data centers and networks already accounted for 2 percent of the world’s carbon pollution — which is the same amount the airline industry produces, says Shift Project director Hugues Ferreboeuf. “When we’re using our cars, we see that we’re using gas,” he says. “But when you use a computer or a smartphone, it is not so obvious that it’s also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.” The good news is it could have been a lot worse. While data centers have increased their processing ability over the past 10 years, technological advancements have resulted in them using less energy, says University of California Professor Eric Masanet. “We’re consuming much more data than we used to for not that much more energy,” he says.

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