Traditionally environmentalists have not been known for their sense of humor: saving the planet is a big and depressing job. But this latest item made some of us here at AXP World HQ smile regardless -- if only in the sardonic sense of "I guess we should have seen this one coming." A study just out from the University of Illinois reports that "as American waistlines have expanded... so has their consumption of gasoline." The increase in average American adult weight has been 24 pounds since 1960... and carrying all those extra pounds around costs over 900,000,000 extra gallons of fuel annually. (To head off any wisecracks about our 18-wheel trucker friends, this study excluded all commercial vehicles.)
Now in my case that 24 pounds is pure muscle (and actually the limited details provided so far do not indicate if the study adjusts for the fact that Americans have gained height since 1960: extra pounds related to that gain would include bone and muscle and other good stuff as well as pure flab). However, point taken: what we haul has an impact as well as how we haul it (in a compact versus an SUV for example). The 900 million gallons is of course a drop in the bucket compared to the excess fuel consumed due to added vehicle weight and horsepower, but I wonder if there is a hidden secondary effect: do we demand those bigger vehicles because we ourselves are getting porkier? It is well known within the car design community that Americans have indeed been asking for cars that are easier to get in and out of (higher sills, wider doors, broader seats), and that preference must be in some part linked to growing waistlines (as well as an aging driver population). Even the notably fuel-sipping Honda Civic has gotten larger with each redesign since it was launched years ago.
Anyway, next time you congratulate yourself for turning down the Big Mac in favor of the side salad, you can cite another bit of motivation: every pound less you weigh does its own (very tiny) bit for the environment as well.