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December 06, 2010

Quit Oil

While scrolling through our 2010 archives for the heck of it, I was amazed that it's already been more than six months since those heartbreaking images of the BP oil disaster emerged. Remember that feeling of helplessness? Remember those empty reassurances BP kept giving that they were handling the situation. We all sat idle and watched as gallons upon gallons of oil filled the Gulf. There was, and still is, nothing we could've done -- right? Right???

Even Willy Wonka knows that despite the disaster, oil continues to infiltrate our daily routines. Americans burn nearly 20 million barrels of oil every single day, most of it for personal transportation.

What to do? Well, 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, I'll highlight a different strategy for getting oil out our lives. If you're in search of a resolution for 2011, they pay attention to the Compass blog this week. Here's the first of five things you can do to free yourself from oil's grip:

Livestock and pollution

1. We Are What We Eat

If the oil disaster made 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 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.

* Cutting meat out of your diet for just one day each week is equivalent to driving 1,000 miles less per year.

* 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. The easiest way to get healthy and low-oil-use foods is to take your reusable bags to a local farmers' market. Most of the market vendors are local, seasonal, and sustainable.

-- Brian Foley

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