A New Study Says Watching Netflix Instead Of Going Out Actually Helps Save The Earth

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Looking for a way to convince your boss that you should telecommute a few days a week? If they're green-minded and environmentally conscious, a new study that's just come out in the journal Joule may help sway them. According to the scientists behind the new research, staying at home in general, and especially for work, has helped Americans lower their energy consumption significantly from 2002-2012, and a large part of that is down to avoiding transport to get to and from work. In a world where telecommuting and is becoming more popular and social activity is centered around Netflix, that's a slightly unexpected, but very welcome, bonus.

The findings made headlines in Science magazine, in part because they're part of a broader trend: Americans are becoming homebodies. It's not just you and your mates staying home more often instead of going out to clubs. It appears to be part of a general shift in the ways in which Americans structure their days. From 2002 to 2012, the 11,000 Americans that the researchers surveyed spent a full eight more days at home per year. "Increased residential time is mainly due to increased work at home, video watching, and computer use," say the researchers.

Not only is our work landscape changing, so is our entertainment industry; with the rise of Netflix and the enduring popularity of video games (not to mention spending hours wasting time on Twitter), people are becoming less likely to leave their houses in pursuit of things to do. And you can't blame the trend on oldies, either. According to the researchers, the people over 65 in their survey spent more time outside their homes and traveling in 2012 compared to 2002, often because they were staying in the workforce.

The U.S. workplace is becoming more and more friendly towards workers spending at least a day or so a week working from home. A Gallup survey released in early 2017 of 15,000 Americans revealed that 43 percent had spent at least some time working remotely, according to the New York Times. And data gathered by the company Global Workplace Analytics reveals that working from home is an increasing part of the American workplace: the amount of people who work from home and aren't self-employed (in other words, are salaried employees rather than freelancers) has grown by 115 percent since 2005, and 2.8 percent of the workforce — 3.7 million people — now work from home at least 50 percent of the time.

This isn't surprising for various reasons: working from home lowers office overheads, is easier than ever thanks to improvements in telecommunications (hi, Skype conferences), and is convenient for people who are self-motivating and don't need access to a physical office to do their work effectively. And now this new study has revealed another benefit: lowering your carbon footprint.

This increase in staying home adds up. According to the researchers behind the study, those extra eight days at home add up to a saving of 1,700 trillion BTU (British thermal units, a measurement of energy). That's a whopping 1.8 percent of all of America's energy usage in 2012, and is enough to power 50 million homes across the U.S. for a year. A large part of the reduction in American energy consumption is the energy spent traveling to and from non-residential places; if you're not hopping on a bus or into a carpool to get to an office, you're cutting your energy consumption massively. Motor gasoline is the source of around 4 percent of all the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the Energy Administration Administration, so not commuting definitely makes a dent.

Those of us who do work from home, and encounter the scheduling mayhem and occasional lack of motivation to shower that can involve, will welcome the news that we're doing our bit for the environment. And it's yet another reason for people who've been considering a bit of flexible working to get motivated, make the leap — and stay at home.