Friday, October 21, 2005

The Toothpaste Protest

Over at, they note that Wal-Mart "controls" 25% of the U.S. toothpaste market, and we should not buy toothpaste from there to "get Wal-Mart's attention."

So let's run some numbers. Assume 300 million Americans buy 1 tube of toothpaste every other month. That's 1.8 billion tubes of toothpaste sold per year (300,000,000 x 6). Therefore, Wal-Mart sells 450,000,000 tubes per year. Let's assume shoppers buy 2 tubes at a time. If all Wal-Mart shoppers decided to buy toothpaste somewhere else, as per the protest, we would have to DRIVE somewhere else. Let's say that trip is 1/4 mile. That means 225,000,000 (450,000,000/2 tubes per visit) trips of 1/4 mile would have to be made, resulting in 56,250,000 miles of NEW driving being made to conform with the protest.

Let's further assume the average car gets 15 miles per gallon. Therefore 3,750,000 gallons of gas would be burned annually travelling somewhere else to get our toothpaste (56,250,000/15 mpg). Just so we can protest. At today's prices, this would cost consumers an extra $11,250,000 to "protest."

But wait. One barrel of oil produces 19.5 gallons of gas when refined. Therefore, 192,307 barrels of oil would be consumed by this protest (3,750,000 / 19.5). The U.S produces about 6 million barrels of oil per day. So this protest would consume 1/2 of one day's production of oil in the U.S.

Is this protest environmentally friendly?

(And please check my math, I'm on my 6th cup of coffee)