We’ve heard the arguments about the benefits of four-day work weeks. Whether it’s the benefits it can provide your company, or even your health, people are asking for Friday to become the next Saturday.
Now, while this argument has been proven to have merit, an area that’s often ignored when discussing the option of four-day work weeks has an effect on the environment. With climate change being the biggest threat to longevity, a shorter work week could be the sustainable push that the planet needs.
Four-Day Work Week Can Beat Climate Change
A recent report from the The Washington Post compiled research from the past few years, examining the impact that a shorter work week can have on carbon emissions and climate change. The report cites a 2012 study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute that looked at over two dozen countries from 1970 to 2007.
The report suggested that a 10% drop in work hours could lead to drops in ecological footprint, carbon footprint, and carbon dioxide emissions by 12.1%, 14.6%, and 4.2%, respectively. If you’re looking for a real-world analogy, The Netherlands has the shortest average work week. According to statistics, the country was responsible for 8.42 tons of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
To put this into perspective, the United States, which is a country that doesn’t seem to sleep, is the largest emitter of CO2, to be responsible for approximately 416 738 metric tons of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.
Now, we’re not saying that a longer work week is the sole reason for such high levels of carbon emissions. However, it is fair to wonder if reduced working hours can help put a dent in our carbon footprint. So, how exactly can shorter working hours protect the health of the planet?
Less commuting curbs emissions
According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector was responsible for approximately 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Coupled with the fact that stay-at-home orders during the height of the pandemic resulted in reduced global emissions and improved air quality, less movement may be exactly what the planet needs to survive.
That said, there is a worry that the benefits of a four-day week will not be felt should people choose to spend their day off traveling, especially if they do so by car or plane.
Reduction in energy usage
In the Washington Post article, the author cites a 2006 study that found that should Europeans adopt the United States’ working standards, then they would consume at least 15% more energy.
The report also found that by 2050, should the world adopt the American work model, the total energy consumption would be 15-30% higher than it would be if they had adopted a more European model.
However, energy consumption can still increase if individuals spend their days off doing energy-consuming activities.
How are you outside the office?
Yes, it is possible that reduced working hours can help in the fight against climate change. However, the effects will be much larger if it happens alongside other sustainable and conscious habits. After all, it doesn’t matter how many days you’re working if you continue to engage in unfriendly climate behavior.
So, how can you make an impact on the environment with the extra time that you have on your hands? Might we suggest implementing more plant-based meals into your day? Small changes matter when it comes to climate change, and research has proven that eating more plant-based meals can help save the planet.
Le Quéré, C., Jackson, R.B., Jones, M.W. et al. Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 647–653 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0797-x
Rosnick, D., & Weisbrot, M. (2007). Are shorter work hours good for the environment? A comparison of U.S. and European energy consumption. International journal of health services : planning, administration, evaluation, 37(3), 405–417. https://doi.org/10.2190/D842-1505-1K86-9882
Venter, Z. S., Aunan, K., Chowdhury, S., & Lelieveld, J. (2020). COVID-19 lockdowns cause global air pollution declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(32), 18984–18990. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2006853117