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Parents contribute to more pollution than non-parents, study finds

Researchers suggest that having children makes consumers less eco-conscious

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Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and organizers will be trying to host a massive online event to make consumers more aware about the dangers of climate change. But a recent study shows that there may be one section of the population that is less likely to absorb this information and use it in their everyday lives.

Researchers from the University of Wyoming have found that parents are less likely to be as eco-friendly as non-parents. The team says the finding was surprising because of how important climate change can be to future generations.

"While having children makes people focus more on the future and, presumably, care more about the environment, our study suggests that parenthood does not cause people to become 'greener,'" said researchers Jason Shogren and Linda Thunstrom. 

"Becoming a parent can transform a person -- he or she thinks more about the future and worries about future risks imposed on their children and progeny. But, while having children might be transformational, our results suggest that parents' concerns about climate change do not cause them to be 'greener' than non-parent adults."

Convenience and time constraints

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing the spending habits of parents and non-parents in Sweden. They found that families with children utilized services and consumed goods that emitted higher levels of CO2. The research team explained that this might be the case because more importance is being placed on convenience because of the time constraints that parents face each day.

“The difference in CO2 emissions between parents and non-parents is substantial, and that's primarily because of increased transportation and food consumption changes," the researchers explained. "Parents may need to be in more places in one day...They also need to feed more people. Eating more pre-prepared, red meat carbon-intensive meals may add convenience and save time."

Shogren and Thunstrom note that these findings are particularly significant because they were conducted in Sweden, which is widely accepted to be more eco-conscious than other nations around the world. This means that the CO2 statistics for other Western countries could be even more pronounced.

The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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