Kicking Back for a Greener Tomorrow

New research shows that slowing down is good for us -- and suggests that our time off gives the earth a break, too.

| May 24, 2007

Overworked Americans who think they lack the time to help the environment should, perhaps, just take a vacation. A report published in December by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that lighter workloads reap substantial environmental benefits -- specifically, the report suggests, if Americans reduced their work hours to the level of many European countries, the United States could decrease energy consumption and significantly reduce its contributions to global warming.

Writing for AlterNet, Dara Colwell breaks down the 'never-ending treadmill' of American workaholism. Citing statistics from the United Nations' International Labor Organization, Colwell explains that US workers labor 250 hours per year (the equivalent of five weeks) more than the British and 500 hours more than Germans. When combined with more efficient technology, this excess of American labor leads to increased production, greater exploitation of resources, and more overall consumption. 'If the world started clocking American hours,' Colwell cautions, 'then it would be detrimental to its environmental health.'
The alternative to our relentlessly producing economy, suggests Charles Siegel in the Berkeley Daily Planet, is to provide viable options for people who wish to work shorter hours. Currently, Siegel reports, many part-time jobs have low pay and no benefits; but, he argues, if US employers accommodated part-time workers by offering equal hourly earnings and benefits, more Americans would have 'the option of working less and consuming less.' In addition, Siegel writes, better part-time jobs would allow Americans 'more time for their families and their own interests, rather than having more freeways and bigger SUVs.'

A number of organizations are rising up against the 40-hour workweek. Take Back Your Time, a joint US and Canadian initiative, challenges 'the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine' by advocating for more vacation and family-leave time. The Vancouver-based Work Less Party campaigns for a 32-hour Canadian workweek that would allow people to 'work Less, consume Less, and live More.' ?

Go there >> Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment?(pdf)

Go there, too >> Why Working Less is Better for the Globe

And there >> Commentary: Work Time and Global Warming

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