Send all your eco-inquiries to Jennifer Grayson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.
Seeing what's happening with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes me feel so helpless. I desperately believe this country needs to get off oil, but like a lot of Americans, I can't afford to buy a hybrid car. What else can I do?
I'm not a religious person, but I can't look at the horrific images of the Deepwater Horizon engulfed in flames at the onset of what may be known as the worst oil disaster in American history without thinking, this is biblical. And I'm not talking the apocalypse; in fact, a very different fiery allegory comes to mind, and that is of Moses and the burning bush.
In the Old Testament, God used the burning bush as a way to capture Moses' attention and convince him that it was time to take action to free the Israelites from slavery; now, the message from the oil slick–fueled inferno in the Gulf of Mexico is Enough already! It's time for America to liberate herself from a devastating dependence on fossil fuels.
Kill baby, kill. How many more lives need to be lost -- our soldiers protecting our fuel interests in the Middle East, the 11 workers on that ill-fated oil rig, the untold thousands of marine creatures that live in the Gulf -- before we come to terms with the fact that our relationship with oil is not sustainable?
For you and many people I've spoken with in the days since the spill, the answer to that question is: no more lives; not a single one. Much as Hurricane Katrina may have been the tipping point for the Bush administration, this recent disaster -- following so closely on the heels of the calamity at West Virginia's Massey coal mine -- may help spur a final farewell to fossil fuels.
At least perceptually. The Obama administration is now reconsidering its plans for new domestic offshore drilling; on Monday, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrew his support for a drilling project off the California coast. Sadly though, the climate bill may ultimately be stalled now that offshore oil appears to be off the table.
But don't get overwhelmed by politics as usual. There's plenty you can do to help reduce our country's reliance on oil -- our oil footprint, if you will -- and it doesn't have to involve buying a Tesla and plugging it into your solar home-charging station. (Though if you have the means to do so, please, go ahead.)
Here, my top 10 tips for a reduced oil diet:
You don't have to buy a hybrid to reduce trips to the pump. Walk and bike for short-distance outings, take public transportation, and reduce car trips by consolidating errands.
Just making the plastic containers for our nation's bottled water habit wastes 50 million barrels of oil a year. Get a filter for your tap, and sport a reusable stainless steel bottle when out and about.
Do you really need your pears in a plastic clamshell? Buy produce loose, choose bulk items over individually wrapped ones, and cut down on processed food purchases.
For food storage, choose long-lasting glass over flimsy disposable plastic. Bonus: No worries about toxic plastic additives like BPA leaching into your food.
Nearly 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used each year in the US, to the tune of 12 million barrels of oil. Use canvas bags for grocery shopping, and clip a mini expandable tote to your keychain for errands.
Reusable trash bags may not yet exist, but you can still buy a brand made from recycled plastic; check out the 40 percent recycled ones from Green Genius, which are also biodegradable.
Surprise! Refineries churning out gas for your car are also making moisturizers for your lip balm. And your body wash. And your night cream. Scour the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database to find cosmetics free of petroleum byproducts.
How ironic that the very Dawn dishwashing liquid being used to clean oil-soaked animals is itself -- along with most conventional dish soaps -- made from petro (read: oil) chemicals. Choose a plant-derived cleaner instead.
And polyester (as though I had to ask you twice); both fabrics are petroleum-based. Instead, choose natural textiles like organic cotton, wool, and hemp.
Spring is in the air, but it's never to early to think about insulating your home. For every million homes weatherized, 3 million barrels of oil are saved.
Over 200 years ago, a bunch of scrappy would-be Americans stood up to the seemingly almighty British empire; by adopting these tips, we can send a message to British Petroleum -- and our oil companies here at home -- that we will not stand for dirty oil business as usual. Let the Tea Party Patriots get behind that.
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