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Eco Etiquette: How Can I Reduce My Oil Footprint?

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Send all your eco-inquiries to Jennifer Grayson at eco.etiquette@gmail.com. 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?

-Karla

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:

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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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