I’ll never forget the first time I saw the footage of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. I was having a beer at a local sports bar with Mr. Right. My heart! It was tearing out of my chest as the plumes of oil puked into the sea. I wanted to stand on the bar and scream:
How could this happen? Who is to blame? What now?
I pointed fingers in a couple directions. BP. The Federal Government. Hummers. But the more I tried to dump blame, the more I felt the real blame belonged to me. One of billions that’s doused in petrol. One of billions that never thinks my carryout box, plastic water bottle or sexy lipstick is burning more barrels.
Sure, the green movement is spreading. But one look at the oil gushing into the ocean and it’s undeniable: we aren’t doing enough, fast enough. The shift to renewable, clean energies needs to happen NOW.
So I asked myself: What are you going to do about this?
Hear me out. I realize I’m not directly to blame for drilling that oil well. I’m not responsible for taking so long to plug it. But it is my problem. It’s yours, too. We can shift blame and point fingers until we’re dead. I’m done with that. Today, I want offer some ways we can all make a difference.
How many people would it take to reduce our dependence on oil? 100? A thousand?
In my opinion: one.
Ban Styrofoam. Don’t use it, don’t accept it, don’t buy it. It’s just bad stuff. Bring your own dishes to restaurants for leftovers. Ask your favorite places to use tin foil or compostable alternatives instead.
Bike and walk with a purpose. The mindset that walking and biking is only a form of leisure needs to change. Start biking to the grocery store. Walk to the post office. Make using your car the last resort instead of the first choice. If you own a business, offer incentives to employees who bike/walk commute. Read Rowdy Kittens for more on living car free.
Use public transportation. Make a goal to try it for a month.
Dress warmer in the winter, use fans in the summer. Use less gas to power heating and cooling units. Use green products and specs for home construction and renovation.
Stop buying things in plastic containers. There is even a milkman in Green Bay again! Eliminate plastic water bottles, soda and juice wherever possible.
Garden organically. Don’t use plant fertilizer. Some of the products in fertilizer came from petroleum products. Start a compost pile instead. If you’re worried about the eyesore and mess, start a compost bin in a garbage can.
Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Pesticides are chemicals used to protect crops. Since many cannot afford the expense of organics, the best bet will be to start a garden this summer. If you live in an apartment, see if there is a community garden you can join or support a CSA.
Buy clothing and household goods made from natural fibers. Man-made fibers are created using petroleum by products. These fibers are then used for many things we buy – clothing, carpeting, curtains, blankets. Choose items made from natural fibers like cotton and wool.
Avoid canned food. Food additives are yet another petrochemical. Stick to a menu of fresh food that you grow yourself to save money. Shop the local farmer’s market.
Don’t buy CD’s. These are made using petroleum products. Download MP3′s instead.
Use natural beauty products. Make-up, nail polish and lipstick are all made, at least partly, from oil. Hair dye is also created using petroleum products. Looking for some alternatives? Try:
- Aveda products. Ninety-nine percent of Aveda’s demi-permanent dye is plant-derived, and the permanent dyes are 97 percent plant-based.
- Read these eco-friendly tips.
- Research your brands on the Cosmetic Safety Database.
Switch to natural detergents and cleaners. Most laundry detergents and dishwasher soaps are made from oil products. Try cleaning with these alternatives:
- Seventh Generation
- Baking Soda
- Plain water
- Essential oils for fragrance
Use soy candles instead of wax. Wax is a raw petroleum product. It is used to make candles, milk cartons and polishes.
Use Low VOC or VOC free paint. Many pigments, dyes, solvents, oil-based paints, plastic paints, and paint additives are manufactured from petrochemicals. Here’s a list of Low VOC and VOC free brands.
Have some tips to add?
Please leave a comment below. Finally, if you need a reason to try any of these solutions, click here.
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Special thanks to John F. Katers, Associate Professor, Natural and Applied Sciences (Engineering), Co-Director, Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI), University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who helped validate my information.
Photos by ecstaticist, payalnic, marcp_dmoz