The oil spill in the Gulf has gone on a horrendous length of time. It has directly taken 11 human lives, countless animal lives, and the effects of the spill has ruined the livelihood of many in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas. We won’t know the full effects for a long time.
While there’s no way to quickly wean our society from its need for oil, this disaster should serve as a reminder for why we need to find alternatives. It is not an excuse to drill closer to land or on land. It is a reminder that these disasters happen because we use oil so freely and in so many ways.
Cut Back on Driving
Cars are what most people think of when they think about cutting back on petroleum products. People know that we drill for oil to produce gasoline for cars. Cutting back on your driving is an easy, feel good way to use less gas.
Unfortunately, this is not an easy thing for many people to do. There are places most people have to drive, or feel they do, such as to work or to run errands.
If you want to get serious about cutting back on your driving, you need to do better than that. Can you live closer to work? Can you live closer to public transportation that can get you to most of the places you go regularly? Can you carpool?
You can do more. If there isn’t good enough public transportation in your area, start demanding it. If you get it, make sure to use public transportation more so that your local government sees the demand for it and keeps it up. Encourage family, friends, coworkers and neighbors to do likewise.
Buy a bicycle to do your more local errands. Install a basket on it so you can carry groceries on it more easily. You may need to ask your local store about installing bike racks if they don’t have a place for them already. If there’s demand, they’re more likely to do it. Tell them what you need.
Stop Buying Plastic
Plastics are another major use of petroleum. Plastic is so ubiquitous that it’s really hard to avoid. It packages food in the grocery store. It’s in many children’s toys. It’s in so many things we use every day that plastic is incredibly hard to avoid.
Do your best.
Buy reusable shopping bags, including some lightweight produce bags so that you can avoid plastic bags at the grocery store. Avoid foods purchased in plastic containers, although if you buy foods such as yogurt this can be next to impossible to do.
If you need more food storage containers, go for glass. I like to buy spaghetti sauce in glass jars because they’re so easy to reuse. You can even put some kinds of leftover food in them, although they aren’t the right dimensions for everything. You can buy glass food storage containers in many shapes and sizes.
I hope I don’t need to add not to buy bottled water. Get yourself a good reusable bottle! I’m loving my stainless steel Intak Thermos bottle. Keeps my water cold and convenient. There’s a little plastic involved with the lid, but it’s going to last me for years and years! Much less plastic waste than using disposable bottles.
Don’t buy plastic toys for your kids. Younger kids will get quite a bit of delight from wooden toys. When the kids start asking for the latest hot toy, talk about why you don’t want to buy it. They won’t always be sympathetic to what you say; kids want what they want, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in all the time. If they have a toy they just begged and begged for that is now sitting in the closet or toy chest completely unused, give that as an example of why you don’t like to buy too many toys.
Avoid Petroleum Products in Your Personal Care Products
Many personal care products have petroleum derivatives in them. Avoid products with propylene glycol, mineral oil, petrolatum, and anything with the word “petroleum” in it. There are many other ingredients you should try to avoid, and I suggest using EWG’s Skin Deep database to review products you use.
I don’t use a lot of traditional personal care products myself. Mostly toothpaste. I love my handmade soaps, and I was my hair with baking soda and vinegar. Coconut oil or jojoba oil make for wonderful moisturizers. I use an aluminum free deodorant. I almost never wear makeup and have never dyed my hair. These habits are great for avoiding not only petroleum products but other harmful chemicals found in the usual products people use.
That’s not the lifestyle for everyone, of course. Do your research and you can find the types of products you love to use in versions that are safer and use fewer or no petroleum byproducts.