5 'Innocent' Things We Do (Are Environmentally Catastrophic)
If you're anything like us, you do your fair share to preserve this fragile planet of ours for future generations: You recycle your plastics, you take a carpool to work rather than driving your monster truck, and you enjoy black rhino steaks only on special occasions (such as a successful black rhino hunt from the window of your monster truck). But it turns out that even staunch conservationists like ourselves can be unknowingly dealing Mother Nature swift and repeated kicks to the shin, because the little things we do every day without so much as a second thought can have unbelievably massive effects on the environment. For instance ...
Your Video Game Console Wastes Energy When You're Not Even Playing It
This one's going to sting a bit, so let's just grab the Band-Aid by the horns and rip that sumbitch clean off: By owning a video game console, you're killing the planet. You will be remembered as one of history's greatest monsters. And here's the kicker: It doesn't even matter if you use the damned thing.
The problem, as we've discussed before, has to do with vampire drain -- basically, the tendency of modern appliances to slurp electricity even when you're not using them. The newest round of game consoles are guilty of this, and in fact they take that shit to a whole new level, like some kind of super vampire. You know, like a video game boss.
"Why do you think the air looks like that?"
Most appliances that suck up energy in this fashion do so because they're never really turned off but rather in a constant sleep mode. Your video game console, on the other hand, sleeps with one eye open, listening to you. Always listening. With the move from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One, for example, Microsoft transformed the Kinect from an utterly superfluous peripheral into an always-on device. This is ostensibly so you can power on the console by angrily shouting at it, but it also means the console is perpetually draining electricity. The PS4 isn't much better in this regard, with most users putting it into a "rest" mode that lets it download software updates and such overnight. In fact, all modern consoles have been shown to use more power per year while they're "off" than they do when they're actually being played.
How bad is it? Well, a report found that Xbox Ones and PS4s would combine forces in supervillainous harmony to dump 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thanks to energy usage that's two to three times that of previous-gen consoles. Oh, and that's only considering the units sold within the first two months of their release -- 8 million total -- not the over 55 million that have been sold to date. Go ahead and extrapolate those numbers if you feel like making Al Gore shit himself inside-out.
"Honestly, my lift doesn't go any higher."
To put this all in even more perspective, it takes the average American around two months' worth of driving to produce just one metric ton of carbon dioxide. So, basically, doing actual donuts in a mall parking lot is only marginally worse for the environment than doing the same in Grand Theft Auto, assuming you don't take out any strollers in the process. You could just unplug your system every time you finish using it, but then you wouldn't get the aforementioned automatic updates required to play every modern video game until the next time you turned it back on, and most of us would rather slowly poison the Earth than have to wait for a download.
Chewing Gum Creates More Waste Than Car Tires Do
Once we finally grew tired of giggling at our toddlers' attempts to operate Zippos and finally listened to what Russell Crowe was trying to tell us in The Insider, gum-chewing surpassed smoking as America's No. 1 pastime. In fact, there's a damned good chance you're chewing gum as you read this, in which case we have some disturbing news -- you're generating more landfill waste than the tire industry.
Don't feel too bad, though, because you're not alone: The world chews around 560,000 tons of gum every year. As a point of comparison, Americans burn through about 3 million tons of car tires each year. Big deal, right? Gum is candy; tires are part of a huge manufacturing industry. Now, here's the more important statistic: Thanks to recycling, only 10 percent of those tires -- or 300,000 tons -- end up in landfills. When's the last time you spat your gum into a recycling bin?
People actively choose to touch other people's mouth garbage so they can stick theirs to this wall.
Probably never, because there's no such thing as gum recycling. All that gum goes straight into the trash, then into a landfill, or spat onto the sidewalk where it costs cities more than $2 per wad to clean up.
The free elves option was struck down by unions.
For those wondering why we used tires to put this issue in perspective: It's because Goodyear, the famous tire/blimp conglomerate, also manufactures the base ingredient of most chewing gum. See, at some point humanity decided that natural tree resins weren't nearly as fun to chew as a crude oil byproduct that will never, ever go away (unless you're referring specifically to its flavor, which vanishes almost instantly). So while gum doesn't really stay in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it, if you spit it out it absolutely will remain undecayed in a landfill until the heat death of the universe.
Washing Your Car In Your Driveway Dumps Dangerous Chemicals Directly Into Rivers And Lakes
Thanks to 1980s music videos and the existence of cut-off jeans, washing a car in a driveway with a bucket of suds and a garden hose is a powerfully erotic image of suburban America that kick-started an entire generation into puberty. It's also the sensible thing to do, right? Gently washing the car yourself rather than running it through some automated car wash that douses vehicle after vehicle with multicolored suds and whatever chemical they're using for their "Platinum Spot-Free Wax" option?
But all that sexy driveway car-washing impacts far more than the blindingness of your rims. The average American water hose pumps out about 11 gallons of water every minute, meaning that if you spend just 15 minutes rinsing your car, you'll blast through over 150 gallons. Automatic washes, meanwhile, use at most 70 gallons, while the timed self-serve variety use less than 20. The presence of cut-off jeans and Def Leppard does not positively or negatively affect this.
"Montage charges may apply"
Another difference between commercial facilities and your driveway is that the commercial facilities recycle their water for multiple washes before sending it off to a waste treatment plant, while the water you spray at home ends up in a storm drain that empties directly into nearby rivers and lakes. Even if you dump your dirty wash bucket into the toilet (which no one does), you're still rinsing all those harsh cleaning chemicals, in addition to the oil, gasoline, and rust residues from your car, straight into some fish's goddamn living room. You may as well drive out to the nearest watershed and beat an otter to death with your spotless rims.
Greek Yogurt Creates An Insane Amount Of Toxic Byproduct
Greek yogurt's meteoric success over the last few years is a testament to the efficiency of capitalism -- you can build a multi-million-dollar industry out of any standard product by marginally changing its appearance and marketing it as miracle health food. "It's thicker! Like a healthier ice cream!"
Truth be told, Greek yogurt is normal yogurt, just with most of the whey -- the gross liquid left over after milk has curdled -- strained out. This results in a product that is denser in protein, making it attractive to the fitness-minded consumer as well as people who enjoy eating spoonfuls of spoiled milk. It takes three or four ounces of milk to make a single ounce of Greek yogurt, meaning that the amount of waste produced is actually greater than the amount of product.
Plus there's, like, the whole rest of the cow.
... yogurt companies had absolutely no idea what the hell they were going to do with the leftover toxic whey.
Now, when we say "toxic," we don't mean that falling into a vat of it at the Dannon plant is going to turn you into a mutant. The main problems are that A) it's acidic, and B) it's being pumped out at an unmanageable rate. The Northeast U.S. alone produces more than 150 million gallons of the stuff a year. You can't simply dump all that in a river and hope for the best, because "the best" in this case would be an oxygen-deprived dead zone for marine life.
Thus far, the yogurt producers' best plan to deal with the ocean-sized whey problem has been to sell it to farmers. It makes decent fertilizer when mixed with good old-fashioned poop (remember, this is the same product you're willingly trading money to eat). But you can only feed a cow so much of its own dregs before it starts wishing it had bigger horns to gore you with, which is why others are looking to solve the dilemma by bottling all that whey up and selling it back to you as health drinks, because the human race is doomed to extinction by pretentiousness.
Pictured: bottled acidic fertilizer waste with a trendy label.
Junk Mail Creates More Greenhouse Gases Than Heating 13 Million Homes
You probably think of junk mail as an everyday, mostly harmless annoyance of the modern world -- the tottering granddaddy of email spam -- but in actuality it's more like a parasite hell-bent on devouring the Earth by slowly burying it in colorful, obnoxious advertisements.
Every year the process of producing junk mail pumps over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That's the same amount produced by heating 13 million homes in the winter. And things only go downhill after all that crap gets delivered -- over three-quarters of all junk mail ends up in landfills, with nearly half of it never having even been opened (who out there is opening half of their junk mail?!?).
"Five percent off yogurt whey drinks? Ka-ching!"
You know what they say, though, about there being two sides to every coin. Anyone who's watched the financial perplexities of the United States Postal Service over the past several years knows that it's facing obsolescence thanks to newer, more instant nudity-friendly forms of communication. And considering the fact that junk accounts for more than half of our mail, you might say that junk mail is the reason we even still have a postal service at all. Of course, the third side to that severely warped coin is that the USPS pumps out its own 10-plus metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.
Add that to the aforementioned 50 million, and the result is an ocean of polar bear tears.
So what can we do about it? Well, for starters we can toss the junk in the recycling bin rather than the garbage. It won't stop the bulk mailers from producing it, but at least if it gets recycled you can eventually get it back as toilet paper and wipe your ass with it. Next, with a few phone calls and emails, you can remove yourself from the vast majority of junk mailings. It takes a bit more effort than tossing it straight into the garbage, but that's kind of the point: Saving something generally takes more work than destroying it.
If you're upset about the fact that everything you do kills the planet, Nathan can try to cheer you up on Twitter.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
For more ways we're killing ourselves, check out The 6 Most Insane Ways Going Green Can Backfire and 6 Awesome-Looking Things That Are Destroying The World.
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