Sunday, May 2, 2010

Big Problems, Little Steps

In the face of the massive oil leak caused by the sinking of British Petroleum's leased oil drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, it's tough to feel like you're doing enough to protect the environment.

The fact is, I could jump into the political protest realm with both feet. I could have majored in environmental policy instead of environmental science; I could have used my communication skills to fight the battle with pen and microphone and oil-soaked-mud slinging slingshot.

I could have, but I didn't. Those of you that know me know I'm just not a fighter. I want to hear the science, not the rhetoric. I want to focus on the positive, while encouraging others to eliminate the negative from the consumer side of the equation.

I've never been a great fan of the oil companies, but of all of them, British Petroleum has the most green reputation and the best green record.

It's sad that this tragedy and environmental catastrophe had to happen to the greenest petroleum company, but maybe it's also what was needed. It would be too easy to write off the whole incident as a case of negligence if it were the fault of one of the companies with an uglier track record (you all know who I'm talking about - that "tiger" hasn't been in my tank since I had a car of my own).

If an environmental disaster of this magnitude could result from the work of a careful, pro-green oil company - imagine what might befall us at the hands of the less careful oil companies - and there are many of them.

So, do I want greater regulations on the production and transport of crude oil? Yes, of course I do.

Do I want a moratorium on expanded offshore drilling? Yes, of course I do.

Do I want to eliminate all oil drilling off our shores? Eventually, maybe. Certainly not with the flick of a switch now - the resulting shortage of oil would be a kick in the gut to our faltering economy and would make us more reliant on foreign oil.

What I really want is to see our consumers vote with their actions and their dollars - and cast that vote in favor of energy conservation and energy diversification.

There are more than 300 million people in America. We are arguably the most powerful group of consumers in the world. Let's act like it.

Here are a few little steps I take every day to reduce my use of crude, and how they connect to the need for less drilling:

1. I drive a hybrid car, a Toyota Prius. Correction: I don't just drive they hybrid Prius, I LOVE driving my Prius. I average over 40mpg on every tank, and it fits my family of five (two adults, one kiddo, and two large dogs) and all of our stuff happily!
We bought the 2004 model Prius used in 2006. It currently has 130,000+ miles on it and runs like a champ.

2. I use cloth grocery bags. Plastic comes from oil, folks. Use fewer plastic grocery bags, and we need less oil. (Besides, if I see one more plastic grocery bag blowing in the wind or stuck in a tree or filling the stomach of a sea turtle who thought it was a jellyfish, I'm going to lose it.)

3. I don't buy water in plastic bottles. We have about a dozen BPA-free reusable water bottles in the house and we use them constantly. The second benefit of this is that we don't have plastic bottles clogging up the trash. (There's still no recycling in Slidell. That's a whole other blog entry, though.)

4. I buy local produce. Whether from the farm stand, from the local produce market, or from the grocery store, I choose the most local fruit and veggies I can find.
I miss certain fruits when they're out of season, but the local stuff tastes so much better, and I'm not encouraging people to fly/ship/drive my produce all the way from Timbuktu. I figure I'm helping to save a few of the millions of gallons of fuel we use to get our pineapples here from Hawaii or our grapes here from Chile.

5. I buy organic products whenever possible. Most of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the U.S. are made from yes, you guessed it, oil. So, when we choose organic, not only are we choosing a healthier ecosystem and a healthier product, we're choosing something that wasn't doused with oil-derived chemicals.

Okay, I'll now step down off of my plastic (but re-usable and likely post-consumer recycled) crate.

Because I live in south eastern Louisiana, I've volunteered to help with oil spill clean up operations. I will have a chance to do something with my own two hands to undo this environmental disaster. That makes me one very lucky "tree-hugging, bunny-loving, dirt worshipper".

But those of you farther away can make the choice to prevent disasters like this one every day - in what you choose to buy, in when you choose to drive less, in how you make the effort to wash and re-use rather than drink and dispose.

Environmentally speaking, it's not just the big choices, but the little, every day ones, that will keep us out of the deep water. Let's make them before we're in over our heads.


  1. Two things:

    1. What are your plans for spill clean-up volunteering?
    2. Let's talk about plastic sometime.

  2. I can't believe I didn't catch this comment earlier! Argh - sorry! I did end up volunteering for the Audubon Society's oiled bird rescue efforts. I spent five days down in Hopedale, LA helping get the oiled birds onto the transport trucks - it was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.

    What shall we discuss regarding plastic?