Kicking Back for a Greener Tomorrow

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

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

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

And there >>
Commentary: Work Time and Global Warming

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