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‘Time is money’ view hurts environment: study

By Stefania Seccia

Putting a dollar value to your time has a negative impact on environmental behaviours, according to a University of B.C. paper.
(Fotolia)

Putting a dollar value to your time has a negative impact on environmental behaviours, according to a University of B.C. paper. (Fotolia)

If the attitude of “time is money” is applied to the environment, the environment always loses, according to a University of B.C. researcher.

Psychology PhD student Ashley Whillans, in her paper published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, found a problem if people associated a price tag to their time.

In one experiment, a group of undergraduates were asked to cut out shapes in construction paper. Some participants were assigned an hourly wage and told that scrap paper could be tossed in a trash can inside the room with them or in a recycling bin outside the room — only a few extra steps away.

The “hourly wage workers” were not as likely to spend a few extra seconds to make the environmentally friendly choice.

“College students asked to put a price tag on their time were five times less likely to recycle than students who weren’t asked to put a price tag on their time,” Whillans said.

The paper featured five other studies covering more than 7,000 individuals, and in most cases economically minded people were less likely to make the more sustainable choice.

“Knowing and thinking about economic value can undermine environmental behaviour,” she said. “It seems when an individual is asked to think about time in an economically valuable way they’re less likely to engage in that behaviour and it seems outside of their own awareness.”

Whillans hopes employers consider their billing practices and payment schedules to support environmentally friendly behaviour in employees.

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