Do Something Good for the Planet: Take the Afternoon Off


Photo credit: much ado about nothign

Want to do something good for the planet? Punch out a little early. Take the afternoon off. Work less. This is the argument of Juliet Schor, a sociologist at Boston College, in "Sustainable Consumption and Worktime Reduction," a paper published by MIT's Yale University'sJournal of Industrial Ecology. So, how does less work equal more sustainable consumption patterns?

Professor Schor argues that as the global economy has increased its productivity rates, its workers have just continued to make more stuff, as opposed to making the same amount of stuff and cutting back on the amount of work. Generally, more stuff made = more stuff consumed, so if we all just cut back on the amount of time we work, there'll be less stuff, and we'll collectively consume less. Makes sense, right?Sure, but not all by itself; Schor notes that population and technological innovation have taken the most of the spotlight when it comes to sustainable development, leaving worktime reduction waiting in the wings. Population trends are widely variable around the globe, and have been changing rapidly over the past decades in North America and Europe. Technological innovation -- like the kind highlighted in Cradle to Cradle evangelized by Amory and Hunter Lovins -- is necessary, for sure, but not sufficient to pull consumption patterns back to sustainable levels.

That leaves less production -- though not less productivity, necessarily -- as the third spoke in the wheel, according to Schor. Ultimately, "inhabitants of the global North can and should opt for a new economic and social vision based on quality of life, rather than quantity of stuff, with reduced worktime and ecological sustainability at its core." We're off to email this to the boss and punch out early. ::Journal of Industrial Ecology via ::Dot Earth

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