Economists: Let’s all Work Less

happy workers in a factory

We all work too much. Indeed, millennials are the hardest working generation due to structural effects of poor policy from preceding generations (like the 2008 crash and encouraging rent seeking behaviour). Both the boomers and Gen X earned more for their work than millennials, so what’s the point of current working culture of itself isn’t working? It’s high time that we rethink productivity in relation to wages and time. Economists are on board, plus there are a litany of other reasons to work fewer hours.

Working fewer hours was once seen as an essential indicator of economic and social progress. I explore this history in my book Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society?

It’s time to put reduced working hours back on the political and industrial agenda.

There are strong arguments for working fewer hours. Some are economic. Others are about environmental sustainability. Yet others have to do with equity and equality.

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Canada’s Supreme Court Rules Companies Have to Pay for Environmental Damage

industryIt might seem obvious that companies should pay for damaging property, but that wasn’t the case for years. Up to now companies in Canada were able to extract resources from land (poisoning entire ecosystems) and leave the cleanup costs to be covered by the government. Privatize the profits and socialize the costs. The Supreme Court ruled that if a company goes bankrupt then environmental expenses have to be covered before creditors get their money back.

Hopefully this discourages banks from loaning to companies that pillage and flee.

The top court ruled 5-2 to overturn the earlier ruling. In doing that, it said bankruptcy is not a licence to ignore environmental regulations, and there is no inherent conflict between federal bankruptcy laws and provincial environmental regulations.

“This is good news for landowners, taxpayers and the environment,” said Keith Wilson, a lawyer who represents landowners with oil and natural gas wells on their properties. Among his clients are those with wells sitting idle on their land for decades.

“The concept of polluter pays is alive and well in Canada.”

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Living a Zero-Waste Life is Getting Easier

beans

Zero waste living seems like an impossibility given the amount of packaging everything is put in. Ordering a small item can lead to 10x the packaging of the item itself. The use of packaging seem so out of control that we can’t avoid it. We can.

Back in 2010 a UK based family created only one bin of trash throughout the year. In 2012 we looked at a town in Japan that already practices zero waste living. In the years since it’s actually gotten easier to practice a zero waste lifestelyl. Stores are popping up that are reducing their waste to save costs and the environment by providing customers with alternatives to recent packaging trends.

For most zero-waste shops, the pitch is simple: Customers arrive with their own packaging materials — jars, tote bags, whatever, or buy one of the jars on sale at the store, weigh them, and then subtract the weight of the receptacle from the weight of the goods added to get the final price. That way, nothing ends up in a landfill, at least on the customer’s end.


For the business itself, however, things are more complicated. Owners, who are responsible for the shipment of all products, are tasked with finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of the complicated process of shipping goods, and some goods are more high-maintenance than others.

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Wrap Experiences Instead of Objects

Finding the perfect physical gift for someone can be hard so don’t do it. Instead you can gift someone an experience through UnWrapIt. A friend of mine (clearly I’m biased) created the company to make it easier to gift experiences to one another. The goal is to reduce the amount of shipping of goods while providing more meaningful gifts. It’s a very neat service which also works with traditional gift giving.

“We had someone from Sioux Lookout build a scavenger hunt for a family member in Newfoundland. It had him going around St. John’s to eventually reveal what the gift was: dinner at his favourite restaurant,” says UnWrapIt founder Peter Deitz.

“A lot of people reported anxiety about picking out the right kind of gift,” he says. Other stressful factors included the actual wrapping of the gift and, if ordered by mail, worrying if the gift would arrive on time — a pressing concern this year given Canada Post’s cancellation of its holiday delivery guarantees.

The flexibility of experience gifts can minimize that stress. By gifting dinner at a restaurant of the recipient’s choice, instead of a meal at a specific location, “They won’t worry about whether they picked out the right restaurant,” Deitz says.

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Save Money and Lives with Smaller Fire Trucks

the suburbs
Firefighters are making cities harder places to live in, this might seem like an odd thing to read. It’s counterintuitive since we’re used to thinking blindly that the firefighters (and EMS as a whole) have our best interests at mind. In North America, fire fighters are blocking initiatives to make cities more livable because of the size of their trucks. Places want to add bike lanes, widen sidewalks, add housing, and other civic enhancements but this makes it harder for massive trucks to navigate streets. The solution: make fire fighters buy smaller vehicles. Smaller response vehicles can also help with life saving too!

Another potential safety improvement: Don’t send a truck unless you have to. In the U.S., only 3 to 5 percent of fire department calls nationally are related to building fires, according to the report. Dispatching a 80-ton fire-fighting vehicle to respond to a possible heart attack doesn’t necessarily make sense. American cities could take a page from international peers that use smaller vehicles—even motorcycles and bikes—to respond to less-urgent medical calls. (And perhaps to those poor kittens caught in trees.)

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