Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

March 3, 2010

Working from Home: Green and Productive

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Observations,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:56 am

Energy Circle

My new home

After five years of talking about energy conservation, and all the things we have done in our house, I am now proud to report that I am officially … working the talk — I have joined Energy Circle LLC.

Energy Circle helps home owners learn how to make an energy efficient house, sells home efficiency products, and now, we’re creating a set of tools and services to help home energy efficiency professionals find customers (and home owners find them).

Now I am now working at a company with an unabashedly green mission — this is important to me. Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about Energy Circle — we have been collaborating since last Spring, and then I did some consulting last year until that was pretty much all I was doing. I am the Chief Technology Officer, and working to make a top notch website, with expanding services and capabilities, reliable, easy to find, and with a strong brand. I hope you’ll check out Energy Circle — I joined not because it was another job, but because I completely believe the mission, and know that good people are out to “do well by doing good”.

Working From Home Is Efficient

But, the company is too far away from my home to commute — so I don’t. I work from home most of the time, and I have to say, working from home is almost always a good thing. It’s very efficient.

Commuting Footprint

Obviously my commuting footprint is as small as possible (although for several years I commuted to my old job on my bike, at least when the weather didn’t suck, and I drove my Prius the short distance when it did). But there are many other benefits of working from home, and a few things I am beginning to learn.

New Technology Supports Home Offices

Back when I was in charge of software development at Ask Jeeves, we had multiple remote offices — we had tried to set up state of the art video conferencing and other systems. But in 2001 technology was expensive, and it failed in one way or other as often as it worked.

Today, we use Skype for voice, video and screen sharing, and it’s awesome (and free!). I have a MacBook (built in microphone and camera), so I can start a video chat in a matter of seconds where ever I am — it’s very reliable, and does a great job of getting past the various little hurdles that can cause you to feel isolated. We also use instant messaging, and sometimes have fun setting our status messages — a kind of virtual water cooler.

All sorts of other tools make virtual companies like ours work well. Gmail, of course, but Google Apps is getting better and better, DropBox is an awesome virtual file-server, a central secure source control server holds our source code, a central issue tracking service keeps us organized, and all sorts of other great tools and services make everything work great (except for when the power is out, or the Internet is flaky).

The company has very little actual computer hardware — this was also where we took my last company, moving everything to “cloud computing” — no more servers to look at, listen to, and chew up expensive electricity. Now we use only what we need — “slices” of computers that serve our needs, and which we can add to and extend at will as we grow.

We Hire the Best People

We can hire people who are best at their talents, regardless of where they reside.

But productivity is high, too. We don’t spend any time commuting, and I am able to focus when I need to. A co-worker Mike uses the time to tend his vegetable garden (just getting started for the coming New England springtime).

Convenient, Flexible, and Saves Money

I can crank tunes as loud as I want and no one cares.

We now qualify for the low-mileage discounts on our car insurance.

I can write off my home office as a business expense — because it is.

I can do a load of laundry, or pick stuff up at the store if I need to (theoretically, at least). I have had lunch with possible business associates, old friends, and others.

And other things — I save money by eating real food that Theresa and I cook, and save leftovers for lunch. I must admit, I’ll miss my favorite Harvard Square taqueria, Felipe’s, but my “super veggie burrito, whole wheat, salsa, guacamole, jalapenos, cilantro and onions and lots of hot sauce” was almost $6 per day.

I don’t have to miss work if the kids are home from school for snow, or sickness. Or, for that matter, if I am sick! I have had a cold all week, and no one has caught my virus through Skype!

(I will say, it’s a little weird to be at home when the kids are back from school but not really be “there”. We’re working on how to make that be OK.)

To be sure, there are some intangibles that I miss being in the same room with other people.

But lately Theresa has been working from home a few days a week. Between the two of us, our carbon footprint has continued to fall. And it’s nice to each lunch with my honey :-)


  1. Congratulations Tom! I thought something might be up because the flow of posts at has dropped noticeably in the last couple of months. But you couldn’t have joined a better company.

    So is this the end of FivePercent? If so, I want to thank you for educating me about energy efficiency in so many ways.


    Comment by David Fay — March 3, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  2. Thanks David — yeah, my writing has been subsumed largely by my new responsibilities at EC. But I’ll keep on posting.

    I have been thinking perhaps a new format might suit my new work schedule, perhaps more of a Haiku instead of a tome :-)


    Comment by Tom Harrison — March 3, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  3. Dear Tom,
    I appreciate your move into the business, and I like your website.
    Now we finally have a global cooling about climate change.

    Comment by Samuel Zhou — April 6, 2010 @ 3:03 am

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