Study – Becoming a parent may make you less environmentally friendly

As parents, we are always thinking about what the future holds for our children such as the planet they’ll inherit, but new research suggests that having children doesn’t necessarily make you ‘greener.’

Researchers explained, “the open question that we explore is whether this transformation might imply a person will be greener. Do parents have a smaller carbon footprint?”

A recently published study in Sweden found that even those who are dedicated to protecting the environment experience a shift in their priorities when faced with the reality of parenthood. The study compared adult parents to adult non-parents in Sweden and researchers discovered that households that consisted of the former often emitted more carbon dioxide due to transportation, food, heating, and electricity.

Researchers found two-adult households that included children were actually responsible for roughly 26% more carbon emissions than two-adult households without children.

“Our findings suggest that having children might increase CO2 emissions both by adding to the population and by increasing CO2 emissions from those choosing to have children,” researchers explained. This study is one of the first rigorous studies that examine whether parents behave ‘greener’ than other adults. However, researchers indicate there is still a lot of question and further studies needed, “What causes parents to emit more of CO2? The higher CO2 emissions from parenthood could be the net outcome of two previously documented counter-veiling effects: parents care more for the future [4,5], while being more pressed to satisfy immediate needs under tighter time constraints [24]. In this study, we cannot directly observe these underlying consumption motivations. While our study suggests the difference in CO2 emissions between parents and non-parents is substantial and therefore warrants policymakers’ attention, we encourage future research to examine the strength of the underlying factors that might cause the consumption differences.”

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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