Lazy man eating on sofa and watching television. Photo: DreamPictures (Getty).
Go ahead, rest of the world, make your silly little cracks about Americans being fat, lazy slobs with dumb accents and poor judgement. Well, actually, just the first part (those last two parts really hurt our feelings).
As it turns out, Americans in general — but 18 to 24 year olds specifically — have been spending a lot more time on the couch over the last decade and change. Yet, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, this deviation has lead to nationwide energy conservation on the whole. Talk about your all-time case of win-win.
American Laziness Conserves Energy Nationwide
Now, before you go taking that cheeky intro the wrong way, it would be wise to consider that young people these days aren’t usually just loafing around, regardless of their location. You can be sitting on the couch while on your laptop doing work. In fact, commuting (or lack thereof) was a humongous reason behind the shift in energy consumption, as lifestyle changes caused by upgrades to information technology and other socio-technological trends from 2003 to 2012 (the years the study was conducted) have lead to less traveling and more time spent at home.
Here’s a quick overview straight from the source:
We study the energy effects induced by lifestyle shifts via tradeoffs in time spent in performing activities. We use the American Time Use Survey to find changes in times performing different activities from 2003 to 2012. The results show that Americans are spending considerably more time at home (7.8 days more in 2012 compared with 2003). This increased home time is counterbalanced by decreased time spent traveling (1.2 days less in 2012 versus 2003) and in non-residential buildings (6.7 days less in 2012 versus 2003).
And that’s just an average. As it turns out, those between 18 to 24 spent more like 14 additional days at home in 2012 compared to 2003.
But the biggest takeaway here is the actual energy being saved — national consumption went down by 1.8 percent in the 10 year gap, saving around 1,700 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat. That’s the same amount of total energy consumption the state of Kentucky used in the year 2015. Impressed now? Well you should be. All that time spent at home (while technically increasing home energy consumption) “was accompanied by reduced driving (the most energy-intensive activity per minute) and operating fewer commercial buildings, primarily offices and retail outlets.”
An almost throwaway fact from the study also points out that the younger crowd (a.k.a. millennials and Gen Z) spends much less time nowadays physically shopping for anything outside what they need to live. This signifies that they lean more towards buying their material goods online. Hey, can’t blame them for taking advantage of some the lazier perks of modern technological advancement.