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Study finds men could be harming the environment more than women

It has to do with different spending habits, according to the study.
Credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber
A customer pumps gas at a station in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — We know that traditional gender roles can put harmful social pressure on people. But did you know that they could also play a role in harming the environment?

One study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that on average, men have a bigger carbon footprint than women.

The study looked at the spending habits of single men and women in Sweden, tracking things like food, housing, transportation, healthcare, clothes, and travel.

Although much of the data was recorded in 2012, the results are pretty eye-opening.

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It found that on average, men were responsible for 16 percent more greenhouse gases than women, despite the fact that men only spend two percent more on goods in total than women do.  

The reason for the disparity? The study says that men tend to spend more money on "greenhouse gas-intensive items," like gas for cars, while women typically spend more on "low-emitting products," like healthcare, clothes, and home furnishings.

The study also found that transportation and travel have higher emissions among single men than among single women, due to car use. The study found, however, that spending habits between men and women were similar when it came to food and drinks.

Leading world organizations, like the United Nations, say that a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions is needed over the next ten years.  And the study gives some suggestions on how to do this.

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It says buying clothes and home furnishings second-hand, or buying new pieces that can be repaired can promote sustainability. The study also found that shifting vacation spending from car and plane trips to train trips and staycations reduced emissions significantly. 

The lead researcher on the study, Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, told CNN that men "could really learn from women's expenditure habits, which produce significantly less carbon emissions despite the similar amount of spending." 

Another researcher pointed out the idea that fixed gender roles could have a negative impact on the environment, as masculine identities are more commonly associated with high-emissions consumption and resistance to sustainable diets, per CNN.

CNN reports these researchers also suggested that world leaders could take this data into consideration in how they approach the fight against climate change.

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