woman working on laptop in her living room

My mom worked from home as a seamstress all of her life. Customers brought their clothing to the house for tailoring and picked them up when she was done. I have vivid memories of the sound of her large, factory-sized machine as she worked, and images of her clients’ clothes hanging from the mantle and closet doors.

Grandma Jennie worked from home, too. As long as I can remember, she was an Avon lady. She didn’t have to leave home because most of her clients worked with Aunt Connie at the Yankee Maid factory. It was a family affair. My aunt handled the sales and delivery for her.

In contrast, I commute to work every day — or did until COVID-19. Thinking about Grandma and Mom made me realize how much of my environmental impact is caused just by going to work. If I didn’t commute, I would seldom use a car. I can shop at the local grocer and walk to the post office, bank, and library right here in my neighborhood.

And if I worked from home, I would need to do far less laundry and ironing. Mom and Grandma didn’t need a different set of “work clothes” to earn a living. Like them, I would just wear what is comfortable. And, though I wear a different outfit every day for my job, if I worked from home, I wouldn’t mind wearing the same set of clothes two days in a row. I would definitely use less makeup and personal care products if I worked from home.

I would also eat less take-out food and vending machine snacks — which I tend to eat when I forget to take my lunch to work. There is always something to eat at home — or available by a short walk to the store. Making my own meals is a healthier, cheaper, and more eco-friendly way to eat.

What if our current social distancing measures inspired more businesses to allow workers to telecommute — even after the pandemic? Although telecommuting doesn’t work for all jobs, allowing those who can to do it could drastically reduce our environmental impact.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.