#2. Your Toilet Paper Murders Rain Forests (For No Reason)
We think (and also hope) it's safe to say that pretty much everyone reading this wipes their asses on a regular basis. Hell, even Zooey Deschanel probably gets the occasional attack of taco poops. It's just life -- shit happens, and toilet paper is what happens next.
Above: The 2012 spokeswoman for Taco Cabana and Charmin Ultra.
The Horrible Downside:
Do you use nonrecycled toilet paper? Maybe a brand made from virgin wood? Well, that makes you almost as bad for the environment as every Hummer-driving frat boy spending his trust fund money on extra-leaded gasoline.
No, sorry, we're telling a lie. Your taste in toilet paper actually means you have a much bigger impact on global warming than Captain Hummerjock.
"I need the extra space for all the dead baby seals I have to haul."
Delicate American bottoms prefer plush, bleached white, multi-ply paper with all the toppings. We also use three times as much paper per person as, say, Europeans. In fact, the 36 billion rolls our nation goes through every year is 27 percent of the world's total TP wood harvest.
The thing is, only 2 percent of the toilet paper used in the U.S. is made from recycled wood. For the rest, Big Buttwipe does use manageable, Earth-friendly tree farms whenever they can. However, these can only meet about 25 to 50 percent of the quota set by our needy, needy butts. The rest comes from irreplaceable North American virgin forests. You know, the same forests we rely on to trap greenhouse gases and act as heat sinks, so we can keep the pace of global warming down to a light sprint.
"Well, this is breathtaking and priceless. Let's turn it into ass wipes."
Sure, there are options. We could just use water to clean ourselves, like 75 percent of the world's population. Sadly, this is such an alien idea to us that even usually media-invincible Will Smith got sideways glances when he bought a paper-free bidet toilet. Increasing the volume of toilet paper made from recycled cellulose doesn't work, either. They've tried. We just won't buy it, even though we'd save 425,000 trees per year if every household in the country would replace a single roll of triple-layered Charmin with a recycled alternative.
But it's brown and scratchy and we, as a nation, are huge wussies.
#1. We Waste Fuel on Things Nobody Cares About
Most of us know the usual ways to save gas: get a smaller car, ride a bike, take the bus. We also often have pretty damned good reasons for not doing those things (we need a car that can hold three kids, we live 20 miles from work, the bus is full of smelly hobos).
On the other hand, that SUV won't fondle your package.
And maybe we do common sense things to save electricity around the house -- for example, we don't leave lights on in rooms we're not in. Hell, maybe we even start unplugging devices that drain that vampire electricity we mentioned earlier. That's about all you can do without trying to read in the dark or sweating out every summer without air conditioning, right?
The Horrible Downsides:
What we tend to forget are the little things. Do you always remember to put your gas cap back on after you refuel? A lot of people don't, and gasoline evaporates. That trivial brain fart amounts to 147 million gallons of wasted fuel per year. And that's small potatoes compared to the 1.2 billion annually wasted gallons caused by driving around on underinflated tires. A further addition to the Pissing Away Fuel score are the 838 million gallons wasted by commercial trucks left to idle overnight to keep them warm.
In their defense, few things are less appetizing than cold meth.
But what about our houses? Say we use air conditioning sparingly and have decent insulation. Short of installing our own solar panels, it doesn't get much greener than that. Yet despite our best efforts, our homes still leak energy like a beached oil tanker.
For instance, not many people know that insulation degrades over time. As your house gets older, your insulation gets leakier, up to the point where all the minuscule fractures amount to the same effect as having a hole the size of a basketball in your living room wall.
After replacing your insulation, the old stuff is a decent cotton candy substitute.
But the main reason our houses are energy sieves is one you'd never guess in a million years: roof color.
Most houses have dark roofs, because they're often proofed with black tar and we have grown to think dark colors are the way to go. However, you know from elementary school that black absorbs light and heat -- it's why people wear light colors in the summer. A black roof absorbs heat, which your air conditioner has to fight to keep up with.
Bards will sing of their glorious battle for generations.
The problem could be fixed by painting our roofs white, a color that can reflect 85 percent of sunlight. But until we get around to that, we're stuck with a completely pointless annual waste of 14 power plants' worth of energy, not to mention absolutely insane greenhouse gas emissions.
Why don't we paint all of the roofs white, then? Because they're ugly. But the time is coming when we might just have to get over that.
The homeowner's associations of the world aren't going down without a fight.
For more big time game changers, check out 6 Tiny Things That Have Mind-Blowing Global Impacts and 5 World Changing Decisions (Made for Ridiculous Reasons).
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what ecosystems Brockway's toilet paper destroys.
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