How to save gas money: don’t be fat

I’m looking forward to discussing further why we choose to interact with the environment the way we do, but an article I came across yesterday got me thinking even more and more about the impact of our consumption habits specifically those that lead to obesity.

The “What if no one were fat” article says the following (emphasis mine):

We’d save billions of dollars in gas. Airlines would double their profits. A dearth of diabetes and other diseases would save billions of dollars more…Productivity would rise, potentially creating tens of thousands more jobs or higher wages all around.

Add up the savings up on health, food, clothing and efficiencies, and you could buy a professional home gym for every U.S. household — or hand each $4,270 in cash.

Damn, that sounds like a better economic stimulus package than that $600 people are supposed to get later this year. But beyond the money, we’d undeniably increase the health of our bodies and the health of our environment.

Fat is Expensive

The article has many interesting stats about the real cost of obesity. In short, it causes cars and airplanes to use more gas, it causes [bigger] clothes to cost more, it causes people to be measurably less productive at work, and it causes our health care to be more expensive.

What this boils down to is that your personal habits can and do indeed have an impact on everyone. The next time you complain about plane tickets being so expensive, think about how you actually contribute to that expense. Remember when they floated the idea of charging obese passengers more to fly? I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that, but it does raise an interesting question about people needing to understand that they have to pay for what they consume.

If not being obese saves so much money, why don’t more people try it? Maybe because we don’t apply sustained effort towards health, instead looking for quick fixes and trendy diets (which explains why there are so many people making so much money of stuff like “diet pills”). Hmmm… that sounds a lot like how we approach environmental challenges, but I digress, and I’ll be back on that soon.

The Human-Earth Connection

The Earth and the human body have a whole lot in common. When people eat more than their natural, healthy limits, they do damage to their bodies. When humans continuously consume more than they need, disrupting the natural balance between man and the planet, they do damage to the Earth. And you know what we typically call things that uncontrollably grow beyond their natural limits? Cancer.

To put it in really stupid simple terms: over-consumption leads to spending more money during an ever-shortening, unhealthy life. Let’s do ourselves a favor and take a hard look at why we consume the way we consume.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

3 responses to “How to save gas money: don’t be fat”

  1. Ellen says :

    If this math is correct, and being obese really costs society that much more money, then maybe there isn’t anything wrong with the idea of charing more. I’m not sure. On one hand it seems to make sense. And it seems that Americans only respond to problems when they effect our pocketbooks. So maybe charging obese people more for plane and train tickets, boat rides, and health care premiums would be what it would take to turn people away from junk and demand healthier food. On the other hand, there seems to be something that seems innately wrong about that. Maybe that is just the notion that still floats around in my head that things should be equal and equal is fair… I’m not sure…

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