On April 20, 2010, news broke of an explosion on a deepwater BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, about 52 miles off the Louisiana coast. Eleven workers tragically died. Now we all are left with a giant gash in the ocean floor that is spewing hundreds of thousands of oil a day. It could be one of the biggest environmental disasters of our lifetime
One reason the BP oil disaster makes us sick is the flood of heartbreaking images of dead or dying wildlife and despoiled wetlands coupled with an infuriating sense of helplessness. BP’s “handling” the crisis, so there’s nothing we can do — right?
Oil has infiltrated our daily lives to an astonishing degree, but that doesn’t mean we can’t significantly reduce our use of it. Americans burn nearly 20 million barrels of oil every single day, most of it for personal transportation.
Even for the most committed environmentalist, to go completely oil-free overnight would be next to impossible. But taking the first step toward an oil-free future — by simply reducing our current daily consumption — is actually incredibly easy. It’s also one of the most significant things you can do to wrest control of our energy future back from the Big Oil companies, which have enjoyed cozy political relationships and big government subsidies for far too long.
Each day this week, we’ll highlight a different strategy for getting oil out our lives.
1. We Are What We Eat
If the oil disaster makes you angry and you eat a lot of meat, one powerful solution is sitting right on your plate. The U.S. meat industry is a major consumer of petroleum. In fact, raising one cow in a factory farm requires takes about 35 gallons of oil — just under a barrel (according to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, p. 84). Processed foods and corn syrup also heavily depend on petroleum.
* When you do buy meat, consider the source. Grass-fed, sustainably raised livestock are a breath of fresh air compared to the filthy, industrialized feedlots that have taken over the U.S. Click here for a directory of responsibly raised meat.
* Location matters. The label “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “oil free.” Organic apples from Chile, for instance, use as much oil as non organic domestic apples because of the required transportation. Look for produce that’s grown as close to home as possible first, then consider whether it’s organic or not.
* Farmers rule! The easiest way to get healthy and low-oil-use foods is to take you reusable bags to a local farmers’ market. Most of the market vendors are local, seasonal, and sustainable.