I don't know about you, but any excuse to relax piques my interest. It's not that I'm necessarily lazy (even though I am a freelance writer by trade); it's just that doing nothing is so fun. And apparently I'm not alone in my quest for more hammock-time, either. Washington's Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has just released a proposal suggesting trimming down the workweek to slow global warming. Catch up on my DVR full of Turner Classic Movies and reduce greenhouse gases? Go on…
CEPR says that an annual 0.5 percent reduction in work hours could eliminate between 8 and 22 percent of each degree of global temperature warming between now and the year 2100. CEPR estimates that fewer work hours equals a significant decrease in carbon emissions—one of the leading causes of global warming—from energy in powering buildings and factories to the gases released on the daily commute. But there are other factors, too, including the industries that support the standard workweek: restaurants, clothing and accessory stores, even health clubs and gyms would see a decrease in energy expenditures if we decreased our work hours.
Mother Nature Network reports that when Utah closed its state offices on Fridays back in 2008, energy use decreased 13 percent. And as to be expected, employees reported being happier and the number of sick days also dropped. So did the expense on commuting, "state employees were estimated to save between $5 million and $6 million annually," just by not driving into work one day per week. But while it's an idea most people would embrace, it's not necessarily feasible for much of the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of income gains in the U.S. between 1973 and 2007 all went to the top one percent earners, meaning the rest of the country would likely have to make serious sacrifices to reduce their workweek hours.
And what if (ok, this may now qualify as a "semi-relaxed daydream"), on that reprieve from work, we spent our time gardening or updating our own homes to be more energy efficient?
One need only look to Europe where month-long vacations and hours-long lunches are the norm, to see happier and better-adjusted citizens. They value nationalized health care—including longer paid time off for new mothers—and because they work less, they stress less too, which is also better for your health. That's something CEPR didn't note, but it's as worthy a point as any. It used to be, until the early 1990s, that a typical workday started at 9 AM and ended at 5 PM with a full paid hour for lunch. That's a full paid for the entire eight-hour day, except you only actually worked seven. Now, many people get 30 minutes—unpaid—for lunch and start earlier or end their days later.
It's no wonder we gravitate towards unhealthy, processed fast-junk food and plop onto the couch in an exhausted haze. Our bodies can only handle so much stress, and its effects can plague our sleep, our weight, our immunity, and our libido.
And CEPR suggests that efficiency in productivity—and even the ability to do some work from home—can be friends to the climate, not create more damage. CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot noted: "Increased productivity should allow workers to have more time off to spend with their families, friends, and communities. This is positive for society, and is quantifiably better for the planet as well."Sources:http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/climate-change-workshare-2013-02.pdfhttp://www.mnn.com/money/sustainable-business-practices/stories/can-working-less-save-the-planetKeep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettingerLearn more about Jill Ettinger