"I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting ... I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required." —Musician/climatologist Sheryl Crow
Dear Gaia, Mother Earth, Giver of All Life,
I'm sorry. I had no idea.
There I was, in the bathroom rolling out the Charmin like it was going out of style, and all the time I was killing you. And I didn't even know it.
To be honest, until I heard environmental expert Sheryl Crow speak out on the subject, it had never dawned on me to "count the squares." When I think "destroying the Earth," I think giant meteors, solar flares, or maybe a tear in the space-time continuum if Rosie O'Donnell and Michael Moore ever mated. But toilet paper?
Who knew that the future of the entire planet would come down to the question "one ply or two?"
I didn't think. I didn't care. Not like Sheryl does.
(By the way, Earth Mother, do you happen to know if Sheryl is one of those rock stars who throws her underwear into the crowd? Yikes.)
Me, I'm the insensitive oaf who ignores the paper-free electric hand dryer in public bathrooms and goes straight for the waste-creating paper towels. (If there are no paper towels, I rely on my environmentally-friendly trouser seat.)
If the paper towels are secured inside one of those motion-sensing "one towel at a time" dispensers, I'll stand there waving frantically for minutes at a time to get two, three, four environment-destroying sheets and ... killing the earth!
Of course, Earth Mother, the electric hand dryer runs on electricity (duh!), and that electricity comes from burning coal, but what does that prove? After all, the Prius runs on electricity, and every Earth Mother worshipper drives one of those.
(Except, technically speaking, Sheryl Crow. According to her performance contract, every "Stop Global Warming" concert includes six cars, four buses, and three tractor-trailers.)
Driving a Prius proves we love you, Mother Earth, because it shows we're willing to spend an extra $6,000 to get the same gas mileage we'd get from a regular Toyota Corolla, while simultaneously creating more pollution.
Not to burst any bubbles here, Ma, but because hybrids are so much more complex to make and use more exotic materials, far more coal is burned to make a Prius than a Camry, an Accord or even a Jeep Commander. Plus, according to Consumer Reports, the average hybrid actually gets around 30 miles per gallon — about the same as my unimpressive, unloved, "nobody will drive it to the Oscars®" VW.
And as for emissions, auto expert Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research points out that while Americans driving hybrids might reduce emissions here, they increase pollution in Asia where the cars are made. "In effect, [hybrids] are exporting pollution and energy consumption."
Would Sheryl Crow do all that if she didn't really, really love you?
Sheryl is also big on recycling. I'm not. I just throw everything in a landfill where it sits and rots, sometimes creating methane gas which can then be captured and used to create electricity.
If I recycled, I could pay higher taxes (recycling is far more expensive than regular trash collection) to have my old beer bottles driven across country in a diesel truck, dropped off at a energy-guzzling factory and converted — thanks to gazillions of megawatts of coal-powered electricity — into new beer bottles.
That's what I would do for you, Mother Gaia, if I really cared.
Instead I buy my gas and pay gas taxes. I air-condition my home and pay utility taxes. And — yes, I must confess it — I wipe my butt. With toilet paper. Lots of it.
Would it help if I told you the gas I buy has ethanol in it? Probably not, given the fact that, as Cornell University biologist David Pimentel found, we use more energy making a gallon of ethanol than we get back out of it.
But buying ethanol is something. Sure, it's a useless gesture, a meaningless effort that accomplishes nothing for you, Mother Earth. But it makes me feel better about myself.
If that really any different than Sheryl Crow counting squares of toilet paper in a bathroom stall?
I may be not the environmentalist she is, but at least nobody thinks twice before shaking my hand.