California environmental regulators have proposed a multitude of new rules that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below their 1990 levels. Virtually every measure would cost a lot of money, either through mandated new investments in alternative energy or energy efficiency technologies, or in foregone economic opportunities to expand industries in California.

However, there is at least one strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that costs absolutely nothing, could save workers and businesses time and money, and even make people happy — the use of four-day/ten-hour work weeks.

Imagine: by shortening the work week by one day, a worker would not only free up that day for personal use, she would spend less money on gasoline and automobile expenses, reduce congestion on the roads, and reduce smog-forming pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

A commuter with a 30 mile round trip commute (the Southern California average is 38 miles) that gets 20 mpg, would reduce his carbon footprint by one ton a year by adopting a flexible work week (not to mention save $300 in gasoline bills). If only 10 percent of the California workforce adopts this flexible work week, then that would be more than a million tons of carbon reduced from the atmosphere – without costing the economy a dime. That reduces as much greenhouse gas as building a high speed rail system for $50 billion, or capturing all the methane from dairy cows, or controlling all landfill emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Seems like a great idea; what’s the catch?
It’s against the law!

The California Legislature has made it illegal for employers to provide workers with 4/10 work schedule unless they are members of a labor union. And since most California workers do not belong to unions, they cannot take advantage of this convenient, money-saving, environmentally-friendly work policy.

As part of the compromise budget package Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed, there is now the chance for Californians to get the flexible work schedules both employers and employees want. This common sense policy would give our workers — and the environment a well-deserved break.