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Want to Save the Planet? Slack Off at Work.


Are you terrified by the melting polar ice cap, rising sea levels, extreme weather, and other growing threats from global warming? There’s something you can do about it, new research shows. Just don’t work so hard.

David Rosnick, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning Washington think tank, has produced a study finding that we could substantially reduce climate change if we all just didn’t work as hard—or, as he also puts it, if we took “a more European response to productivity gains.”

How big a difference could we make? “By itself, a combination of shorter workweeks and additional vacation which reduces average annual hours by just 0.5 percent per year would very likely mitigate one-quarter to one-half, if not more, of any warming which is not yet locked-in.” In other words, if you work 50 weeks a year, just cut back a quarter of a week out of the year. Or, in each 40 hour week, work 12 minutes less.

How could this be? The study cites research showing that every 1% increase in working hours leads to a 1.5% increase in carbon footprint. Or, as Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones sums it up in reporting  on the study, “Basically, we’re using a whole lot more of everything when we’re working—electricity, gasoline, heating, air conditioning, etc. Leisure is requires [sic] less greenhouse-gas-producing activity.”

There is a catch, though, slacking off won’t be as effective in the U.S. as elsewhere. Why? Income inequality. The study states:

Still, you may feel you need to do whatever you can to save the planet, even if it means leaning back and putting your feet up. And you’ll even do more than just save the planet, the study adds: “In fact, a reduction in work hours may increase hourly productivity or (when employment is depressed) increase the employed share of the population.”

While you so selflessly relax and recline, read the study justifying your inactivity here.



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