Protecting the Environment: A Guide to Work From Home Careers

About 3.7 million professionals in the United States now work from home at least part-time, according to Global Workplace Analytics, and that number will continue to grow. There is no doubt about it that telecommuting and remote jobs are here to stay. From young college graduates seeking their first job to seasoned employees who have been working at the same company for years, people of all types are interested in work-from-home opportunities.

There are many reasons why. Some may be tired of the long commute to work, especially as rush hour traffic add hours. Others may want to save money on gas. Most are looking for a better work-life balance where flexibility is a pillar of their job. Working from home can cut down on commuter stress and give people more time in the day to do other things that make them happy. The trend towards finding a positive work-life balance is one of the driving factors of a growing work-from-home (WFH) workforce.

However self-serving a WFH career may sound initially, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported that working from home saves nine to 14 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year, which is roughly the amount of energy needed to power 1 million US households for a year.

Telecommuters can save more than just time and money. They can have a positive impact on the Earth, too. Read on to discover ways remote workers help protect the environment as well as ten remote jobs to “go green.”

[Please note that you can calculate your current carbon footprint by using this tool available from the Nature Conservancy.]

How Working From Home Protects the Environment

Here are three ways working from home can benefit the environment and society.

Cuts Down on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This is one of the obvious ways remote workers can benefit the planet. When we no longer drive to work, we no longer emit carbon dioxide into the air. The further the drive to work, the greater the opportunity to decrease one’s carbon footprint when they choose to telecommute.

Some companies are already noticing this environmental advantage and calculating that favorable effect on the environment. For example, when three international corporations Aetna, Dell, and Xerox implemented new telecommuting policies, they saved almost 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Society for Human Resource Management. More granular details for Xerox shows that telecommuting workers, which included finance directors, software programmers, and systems developers, saved 4.6 million gallons of gas and drove 92 million fewer miles.

Overall, the nation could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons, which is the equivalent of taking almost ten million cars off the road for a year, according to Telework Savings Calculator.

Decreases the Construction of New Office Spaces

Not everyone realizes how expensive office space it, but it can be a significant overhead for large companies that need to build new offices or small companies that need to rent expensive space. According to Telework Savings Calculators, companies could save more than $500 billion a year in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover and productivity, that’s more than $11,000 per employee per year.

Outside of the construction of a new building, which can be financially and resource-intensive, heating and cooling the space also has a huge carbon footprint. Office spaces have to be stocked with costly essentials like desks, chairs, conference tables, copy machines, printers, servers, whiteboards, and phones, as well as small items like Post-It notes, pens, paper clips and even business cards. People who telecommute may already have many, if not all, of these things at home. They may even choose to use their kitchen table, extra bedroom or the surface of a bed for desk space. Additionally, their home already has a system for heating and cooling.

In other words, telecommuting can help to cut down on construction costs, but also the need for companies to create a working environment and to purchase a closet full of office supplies.

Reduces Traffic-Related Deaths and Injuries

Despite the fact that many of us get in cars every day, driving is dangerous. According to the latest data from the National Safety Council, American vehicle deaths barely declined in 2017 with about 40,100 people killed in accidents. There is a consensus that traffic deaths constitute a public health crisis.

By working from home, professionals can significantly reduce their chances of getting into a car accident. Global Workplace Analytics reports that telecommuters could save almost 90,000 people from traffic-related injury or death. Accident-related costs would also be reduced by more than $10 billion a year. Additionally, by not driving, telecommuters are reducing wear and tear on U.S. highways by more than 119 billion miles a year, saving communities hundreds of millions in highway maintenance. All of these cost savings can be allocated to more sustainable efforts.

Regardless a person’s position on climate change, the hard facts are that telecommuting may positively affect the Earth’s overheating. Details like those above suggest that there are individual, national, and global benefits of working from home.

Here are ten green telecommuting careers to consider.

Ten Green Telecommuting Careers

There is a wealth of WFH job opportunities, ranging from one or two days a week of remote work to 100 percent remote employment. Explore ten green jobs that may allow professionals to telecommute.

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists earn an average annual salary of $76,220 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017). They can find jobs as teachers or professors in distance-learning programs, allowing them to teach classes remotely, lead student conversations online, provide distance-based instruction and even conduct academic evaluations. If they prefer to take the research route, environmental scientists may be able to carry out research and peer-edit reports from home.

Environmental Economist

At the heart of this job is weighing the costs and benefits of extracting natural resources against one another and helping to make the best choice that benefits the planet. An environmental economist could be responsible for creating policy, running complex computer-based modeling programs, and communicating research findings to governmental organizations, according to Environmental Science. In fact, many environmental economists are employed by federal or state governments or scientific institutions, many of which could offer telecommuting opportunities.

Grant Writer

Grant writing can be a great career for anyone who enjoys working from home. After all, writing requires great concentration and the ability to pull together essential pieces for a proposal. The key to this job is to submit a grant application that is so convincing that the grantor must say yes to funding. A remote position like this could write proposals for nonprofits dedicated to all kinds of initiatives—from organizations spreading education about recycling to after-school facilities in need of solar power, and even groups interested in animal conservation, like the one protecting whales that come in to the New York City harbor.

Because many grant writers are self-employed, the occupation can be a good fit for someone who wants to run a business out of their home. The BLS (May 2017) does not have wage information for grant writers specifically but estimates the annual average salary for writers and authors to be $72,120.

Stormwater Plan Reviewer

This may sound like a particular field, but it is not. After all, stormwater drainage systems are built into communities all across the country. This job simply requires that someone be skilled in doing plan reviews and implementing stormwater programs. In some cases, these tasks can be completed remotely. Typically, stormwater plan reviewers have different backgrounds, such as environmental science, environmental engineering, hydrology, or stormwater management. Hydrologists usually need a bachelor’s degree and earned an average pay of $84,290 annually (BLS May 2017).

Scientific Journal Editor

Similar to grant writers, editors can often find opportunities to work from home and may have a beautifully set up office there as a result. In fact, the BLS reports that 20 percent of all editors are self-employed while 7 percent work in professional, scientific or technical services. When it comes to editing in the environmental science, energy and sustainability fields, professionals may need to ensure that specific instructions and scientific terminology are used. A degree in science may be required as well as editing experience. Many editing jobs can be entirely remote while others can offer part-time, temporary, or alternative schedule opportunities at a distance. Editors usually need a bachelor’s degree and earned an average annual salary of $68,230 (BLS May 2017).

Research Assistant

Research assistants helpful when investigating projects or issues in sustainability, wildlife protection, and climate change. Research assistants can find positions in government, non-profits and even scientific establishments, any of which may seek remote help. A background in writing, science or both may be necessary for the field. The BLS (May 2017) reports the mean pay for social science research assistants is $49,030.

Environmental Law Firm Paralegal

For those interested in working for a law firm may be able to score a position as a work-from-home paralegal, and there is no shortage of demand for paralegal work in the environmental world.

Paralegals gather facts for a case and research background information that may be helpful in defense or prosecution. A paralegal might work for a firm that focuses on prosecuting companies that violate environmental code or even a firm that works with intellectual property, such as a new invention that more efficiently powers energy from the sun. An associate degree is typically required to enter the field, although some firms may require paralegals to have a bachelor’s degree. The mean pay for paralegals is $53,910, according to the BLS (May 2017).

Water Treatment Salesperson

Prior sales experience could garner remote employment in sales of water treatment products and systems. These salespeople might service existing accounts from a work-from-home or telecommuting position as well as find new customers and set up new accounts within a specific market. Many people are interested in water treatment including the ability to reduce or eliminate their water and energy waste. Someone in sales in this area may even be able to help clients to set up systems that operate the premise of reusing water. Higher education is not required, although a proven track record may be helpful when seeking a position. Sales managers earned an average annual pay of $137,650, according to the BLS (May 2017).

Professor of Environmental Science

There may be nothing like inspiring people to think more about green living that teaching students about the field of environmental science. This discipline looks at topics ranging from climate change to air and water pollution to protecting water resources. It can encompass many different scientific fields, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. A job like this may require a doctorate in the environmental science or other science field and the willingness and ability to teach students online using a school’s chosen learning platform. However, an online professor of ecological science job could be available 100 percent remotely. As stated, a doctorate is typically required to instruct, although a master’s degree may be acceptable at some community colleges. The wages typically depend on the discipline instructed. Postsecondary teachers in biological science, for instance, earn a mean pay of $93,010 a year, according to the BLS (May 2017).

Senior Solid Waste Engineer

This may not sound like the most alluring job of all of the telecommuting jobs out there, but the truth is this field does afford flexibility for those interested in using their environmental engineering skills to efficiently and correctly dispose of solid waste. These professionals may offer consulting to various waste disposal entities. This waste can include garbage, refuse or even sludge generated through industrial, commercial or residential uses.

A senior solid waste engineer working remotely might oversee the design and management of landfills, prepare engineering design reports, double-check building plans and even manage the permit application process. They may even look at new and not yet imagined ways of disposing of solid waste (that is, waste that is typically unwanted or useless) including through biomass waste-to-energy systems. A solid waste engineer typically has a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or another type of engineering field.

The Telecommuting Takeaway

To summarize, saving the planet can be as simple as finding a remote job. However, this is not the only option. There is a growing demand for green jobs, many of which can be conducted from home. Adults can double their impact by being employed in a remote job in an environmental or sustainable field.

As the world becomes more connected, remote positions will become more widely available. Employees might be able to find the right telecommuting job that utilizes their editing, engineering, and science backgrounds to exact positive change in the world.

Maggie O'Neill
Maggie O'Neill

After graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in English, Maggie O'Neill followed the call to move across the country to the land of open-space and awe-inspiring views and vistas. She settled in Northern Nevada, where she pursued a career in journalism, writing for several newspapers and covering beats as varied as education, crime, and the outdoors. She launched her own business, RenoFreelancerLLC, in 2014. When she isn't busy writing, researching, and interviewing, she is having fun with her two girls and the menagerie of animals that now comprise their home.

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