Curbing Climate Change in Four Days

Updated on January 23, 2018
Jorge Cruz99 profile image

Jorge Cruz earned a doctorate in Plant Physiology and studied the effect of environmental conditions on carbon metabolism in wheat and rice.

Rising Seas. Greenhouse gases. Global Warming. Climate Change. They feed the most controversial and yet imperative issue of our era. They split society into the scientifically literate who understand the dangers, and disbelievers, comprising the spectrum between those who recognize the facts but do not dare to acknowledge them and those who fall victims of populist media that supports anything but the scientific fact. Regardless of which group are you in, there is one unmistakable truth we all have no choice but to admit: We are polluting the planet. Ad Nauseum.

The release of greenhouse gases is polluting the atmosphere and changing the climate.
The release of greenhouse gases is polluting the atmosphere and changing the climate. | Source

Even if climate change were not happening today, at the current levels of pollution it would start happening soon, very soon. The math is simple. You cannot dump garbage forever and expect it to vanish, eventually, it will fill the World. However, significant hurdles impede slowing down pollution, particularly that related to atmosphere's contamination such as the discharge of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. Sustainable energy production, improvement in combustion engines, "green" cement production, reduction of deforestation and beef consumption are, among others, clear paths to reduce air pollution, but they will take years to show a noticeable effect.

There is, however, a faster option. An action that could be implemented today:

Shorten the work week.

The seven-day week—framer of today's 5/2 week—was introduced four thousand years ago in a different World; since then, different cultures and nations modified it slightly, but it has never changed much. During the last 50 years humankind has transformed itself and with it the planet, more than in the previous twenty thousand years of civilization. Yet, we are still dominated by a week system introduced millennia ago.

Centuries old runic calendar found in Estonia. It divided the year in thirteen months of 4 weeks each.
Centuries old runic calendar found in Estonia. It divided the year in thirteen months of 4 weeks each. | Source

Most workers today are not subjected to the hardships of rough labor that predominated few decades in the past. In the developed world we count with tap water, electricity, transportation, and many other conveniences that make our work and home life easier. For most of us no longer is intolerable to work one or two more hours per day; moreover, we leave work at the time when our productivity is at the highest when we are fully engaged.

Why then not change the status quo?

A week comprising four-days of work with ten or fewer hours of work per day would immediately reduce energy expenditure up to a 20%. Much more if that third free day, the "green day", is not the same day of the week for each person, in such a way that while everyone has the same two weekend days (Saturday and Sunday in North America) there is a rotating green day when 20% of the employees are off from work. It is more efficient. It was proven.

How a four-day work week restrains climate change?

1. Reduce commute transportation by 20%. In Canada, a nation of 36 million, 15 million commutes to work every day and more than two-thirds of the vehicles on the road are passengers cars used mostly to commute. Eliminating one day of the work week would automatically reduce emissions from passenger cars in almost 20%—a conservative estimate.

2. Minimize road congestion. With a shorter work week not only you have one day less to drive to work, but your commute will be more pleasant. Since the green day is a different weekday for workers within the same workplace, and some organizations could choose to be closed altogether one day between Monday and Friday—which might be a different day for each company—there will be fewer cars on the road and the probability of road congestion will plummet; cars will run more efficiently, gas usage will improve, and pollution per commute will shrink.

Passenger cars are a significant source of greenhouse gases during peak hours.
Passenger cars are a significant source of greenhouse gases during peak hours. | Source

3. Cut consumption of electricity. For those organizations that could close the doors a third day of the week, there are significant savings in electricity, water, and other resources. Particularly during summer thanks to less air conditioning usage. Green day's midday hot hours are replaced by cool early mornings and late afternoons the rest of the days of the work-week. In fact, in 2008 Utah introduced 4-day work-weeks for many of the state employees. They estimated reductions of 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually from only building shutdowns.

4. Curtail dependency on foreign oil. Savings on fuel consumption translate directly into fewer imports of it, which leads to less fuel used for fuel transportation. The energy saved with a four-day work week has a cascade effect on other areas, such as supply chains, that would work more effectively, use less fuel, and pollute less.

A tanker aground in Galapagos. Maritime oil transportation is a major source of pollution.
A tanker aground in Galapagos. Maritime oil transportation is a major source of pollution. | Source

The environmental advantages of reducing the work week to four days are as clear as the sky before the industrial age. The four-day work week, however, brings more than just tangible ecological benefits, it also provides many other economic and life-improving gains.

Additional benefits of the four-day work week:

1. Boost productivity.

A hundred years ago workers around the World won a battle to prevent employers forcing them to an undetermined large number of work hours. A time when most houses did not have electricity, tap water and other facilities. A time when motorized transportation was the privilege of few and most workers had to walk long commutes. A time when excessive work in factories was done with poor tools, lack of worker-protection means, and insufficient indoor climate comfort. Under those harsh circumstances, the labor movement achieved an unprecedented victory: the establishment of the 8-hour per day, five days a week work shift.

Times have changed. For most workers, not any longer is difficult to work one or two hours more. In fact, many of us do it already, effortlessly. Simply because occasionally at the end of the workday something has to get done, and we stay finishing the task.

In many professions, preparation for work takes significant time. This is a prep work that would take the same effort whether it is for eight or ten hours, except that it would be more efficiently exploited for ten hours. Quality work is accomplished best when uninterrupted.

It has been proven internationally. Germany and Netherlands have shorter work weeks than UK and USA, yet their economies are stronger. A shorter work week, with four-days, will revamp productivity.

2. Stimulate motivation. An extra free day of the week represents a big incentive to do better in the hours workers spent at work. In the 2008 Utah experiment, it was shown for three years how the system improved productivity, worker fulfillment, and work-life balance. Absenteeism and overtime dropped significantly. After the first year, 75% of employees preferred the four-day week and more than 50% considered themselves more productive, while 82% said they wanted the 4-day week to continue.

3. Increase the free time, which will lead to more recreation time, healthier lifestyles, second jobs, higher consumer demand, and economic growth.

4. Strengthen democracy. Extra free time would enable wider and stronger participation in community and political activities.

5. Improve health. With fewer days at work stress levels decrease, people have more time to unwind from work issues. They also lean to have more time for outdoor activities, exercise, and sleep leading to better physical and mental health, which also conduces to higher productivity and fewer days lost to sick leave (as mentioned above). Also, the green day can be used for doctors visit without affecting work hours.

6. Facilitate parenting. Parents will find less dependency on child care services, even more, if parents have a different green day, then they will need child care for only three days of the week.

Concluding remarks

The idea of a four-day workweek is not new but its importance as a key strategy to dwarf climate change escalates with the ingress into the air of each new molecule of greenhouse gas.

The success of the scheme has been proven in a growing number of companies, institutions. The Utah experiment was flawed in that the free day was fixed on Fridays and the government offices were closed. When the population complained about lack of services on Fridays they had to return to the 5-day work week. An issue that could be easily fixed with planning and organization of the workforce to ensure availability of qualified personnel and services every day of the week.

The time is right. A four-day work week only needs the will and political concert.

It is up to us.


Are you in favor of a four-day work week?

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Regardless of your position in relation to climate change; do you think a four-day work week will help to protect the environment?

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© 2018 Jorge


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    • Jorge Cruz99 profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Canada

      Thank you, occasionally I have worked 4days ten hours each day with three days off, and it is much better.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting. Maybe, even try an experiment so we could assess the results.


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