Despite what you may have learned as a child, sloth isn’t always a sin. A new study in the journal Joule suggests that the spread of technologies enabling Americans to spend more time working remotely, shopping online — and, yes, watching Netflix and chilling — has a side benefit of reducing energy use, and, by extension, greenhouse gas emissions.
But the findings also highlight how tricky it can be to estimate how Americans’ changing lifestyles affect the way we use energy.
Researchers found that, on average, Americans spent 7.8 more days at home in 2012, compared to 2003. They calculated that this reduced national energy demand by 1,700 trillion BTUs in 2012, or 1.8 percent of the nation’s total energy use.
The lifestyle shift was especially pronounced among 18- to 24-year-olds, who spent an extra 14 days at home and roughly four days less in travel. The findings represent a significant change in lifestyle in less than 10 years. Those fewer travel days are particularly important when it comes to saving energy.