|What war are you fighting?|
Part III: Wringing Oil from Your Beverages, Food, Stuff, and Heat
Part IV: Helping Others Eschew Oil
The American way of life is saturated with oil. Part I of this series had a nifty calculator to sum up your yearly oil use. If you haven’t done it yet, give it a try. In Part II, we looked at how to reduce oil in our travel. Now we’ll examine how to lower the oil that directly and indirectly permeates the other parts of our lives. For some, day-to-day mobility may account for the lion’s share of their oil use; for others, food, beverages, and stuff may be the biggest culprits. For those of you who heat with fuel oil or propane, that’s probably the biggest oil slurper in your life. In this part we’ll often talk in terms of weight. Roughly 6000 pounds of beverages, food, and stuff pass through our lives each year, most of it requiring oil for transport, and some of it requiring oil in its manufacture. Those 6000 pounds represent a remarkable number of choices that can render our individual oil consumption high or low.
As we noted in Part I, if you don’t mind supporting ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia, and if you’re perfectly OK with wreaking havoc on the planet via pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, there’s no sense reading on. If, however, you don’t like aiding and abetting fracking, tar sands, beheadings, stonings, terrorism and environmental devastation, what follows are myriad ways to put your money where your mouth is. As I mentioned in Part II, I receive no monetary or other rewards from any products or websites that I point out. I just share what I like and have found useful.
Be warned: oil diets have side effects, including, but not limited to, better health, a more resilient local food supply and economy, and, ultimately, more money in your pocket. However, some of the changes may take effort and attention on your part, at least at first, and some may require a small monetary investment that you will recoup. I suggest you take on your oil cleanse as a hobby, one that you spend four or five hours a month over the next year. With a little concerted effort you can likely cut both your direct and indirect oil use in half.
Oil in Your Beverages
|Do you drink oil? Maybe|
The Institute of Medicine recommends women drink 0.6 gallons of liquid a day, and men drink 0.8 gallons per day. That comes to 219 gallons/year for women and 292 gallons/year for men. Liquid is heavy! Each gallon weighs roughly 8.4 lbs. That comes to 1840 lbs of liquid for women and 2453 lbs for men. If you remember from the on-line calculator in Part I, the average American eats 2000 pounds of food a year and consumes another 2000 lbs of non-food stuff. I didn’t include beverages in the calculator beyond ones that come in plastic bottles, but I should have! Because any beverage besides tap water (or beverage made from tap water) is oily, oily, oily, unless you’re drinking milk from a cow grazing in your backyard. Remember, the more something weighs, the more energy it takes to move it. If your beverages are shipped by truck, they are dripping with oil.
Here’s a breakdown of what Americans drank in 2013, gallons per capita. (Beer, wine, and distilled spirits data from 2010. Bottled water data from 2014)
Carbonated soft drinks—42
Tap water—39 (includes beverages made from home tap water)
This only comes out to 195 gallons/year, so either Americans are chronically dehydrated, or there’s some consumption missing. In any event, how can we reduce beverage oiliness?
1.) Drink mostly tap water or beverages made from tap water. It takes energy to pump tap water to you, but not all that much per gallon, and this energy is almost never supplied by oil. Bottled water takes 1000 to 2000 times more energy to get to you than water out of the tap, and much of that energy comes from oil. Forty percent of bottled water is just tap water anyway, often at 2000 times the cost. Especially stop drinking water that has been shipped to you over an ocean. There’s no good reason on god’s green earth to do this. If your tap water doesn’t taste good, get a filter. We have a Berkey filter we like a lot. It takes out the chemicals, impurities, viruses, bacteria and parasites but keeps in useful minerals. Don’t get bottled water from delivery companies. Filtering your water on site is far cheaper and less oily.
2.) Jettison as many plastic bottles from your life as you can. The vast majority of plastic is made from oil, and some plastic bottles leach chemicals that are bad for your health. Stop buying plastic bottles filled with water, soda, sweetened tea, Gatorade, vitamin water, whatever. In fact, cut out soda and sweet tea altogether. Both high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetners are lousy for your body, and you don’t need the empty calories. Most Americans eat ridiculous amounts of sugar, literally double what they should. If you can cut the soda and sweet tea from your life, after a month or so, your taste buds will readjust and you’ll find that the natural sugars in all sorts of things, from carrots to milk to herbals teas, will taste quite sweet to you.
3.) Cut out beverages in cans and glass bottles as well. Liquid in cans and bottles is heavy and takes oil to ship. Yes, you can recycle plastic, glass, and aluminum, and it’s certainly better than throwing any of it into landfill, but even the recycled waste stream takes oil to move around and energy to process. Better to avoid creating waste in the first place. (We’ll discuss milk under the food category.)
4.) In restaurants, drink tap water, beverages made with tap water, or beverages on tap. Iced tea, lemonade, tea, coffee, local beer on tap, local kombucha on tap.
|Favorite mug and bottles|
5.) Get a stainless steel water bottle for you and every member of your household. Get in the habit of bringing it with you. A double-walled, vacuum insulated, stainless steel water bottle will keep drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. It will pay for itself in just four to ten uses. Bring a water bottle with you wherever you would’ve previously bought a beverage—concerts, work, sporting events. Travel tip: bring a stainless steel water bottle on trains and planes. In airports, make sure your bottle is empty before security, then fill it up after security and carry it on the plane with you. You’ll save yourself $3-$4 by not buying water (airport water bottle prices are crazy!) and you’ll be plenty hydrated even if your plane sits on the tarmac for an hour.
6.) Make your own beverages. Brew your own beer and loose tea; make your own kombucha, sports drinks, and energy drinks. Rather than sending juice boxes or juice pouches in school lunches, make your own fruit-infused water and put it in kid-sized reusable water bottles. Make your own high quality coffee and tea and bring it with you to work in an insulated travel mug that will keep it hot all day.
|Oil to the rescue|
7.) Drink local beer on tap and bring it home in growlers. Find out the nearest microbrewery to you. What it has on tap is usually much better than anything in a bottle or can, plus bringing home a growler of it involves far less oil for its packaging and shipment.
8.) Drink regional wine. Drink wine from within 200 miles if possible. Second best is wine transported mostly by ship.
9.) Drink regional spirits. Yes, I know this is hard if you have certain favorites, but there are local craft distillers springing up.
Besides indirectly reducing your oil consumption, changing your beverage habits can save you enormous amounts of money. The average coffee drinker spends $1100 a year on coffee. The average beer drinker spends $1270 per year on beer. High quality homemade drip coffee is 1/4th the cost of Starbucks drip coffee. A cup of excellent homemade tea can be brewed for 8 to 12 cents. Homemade sports drinks can cost as little as 60 cents/gallon compared to $9-15/gallon for store bought, and healthy fruit-infused water can be made for $1 gallon compared to $3.50 a gallon for bottled, chemically-laden, “value-added” water that isn’t great for you anyway. And brew your own and invite friends over. Homebrewed beer can run $3/gallon, less than a tenth of what equivalent beer would cost in a bar. Take out beer in growlers is usually half of what drinking it in the bar would cost. Last but not least, tap water runs about ½ cents per gallon. If you drank only tap water and nothing else, your yearly beverage total would hardly break $1.00.
If you can’t go cold turkey with your soda or Starbucks habit, try cutting down to just five a week, then three a week, then one a week. If you have trouble remembering to bring along your reusable water bottle when you go out, I find that if every time I buy a beverage in a bottle or can I tell myself I am supporting ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia, the next time I’m more likely to remember to bring my bottle with me.
Oil in Your Food
Large quantities of fossil fuels are embedded in our current agricultural system, but much of it is in the form of natural gas used to make fertilizer and natural gas to dry corn and other crops. Though it varies by crop, farmers actually don’t use all that much diesel per pound of food they grow. However, our food is commonly transported great distances, so that’s how our food becomes oily. When a processed food has a dozen ingredients, all with their own complex supply chains, it only makes it worse. The answer? Here are some ideas.
1.) Reduce FMT—food miles traveled–by localizing your food. As we covered in Part I, the average person in the US eats one ton of food in a year, and that food travels on average 1500 miles before you eat it. Get that FMT down! Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) for both meat and vegetables, shop at farmers’ markets, select items at the grocery store that originate within 100 miles of you. Best of all, grow your own! (Hint: greens are easy!) By buying local, you’ll encourage local agriculture, making your community more resilient. By buying directly from farmers rather than from large corporations you’ll keep more money in your community and increase local prosperity. Patronize local farm-to-table restaurants.
|Convenient and oily|
And stop (or significantly reduce) eating fast food unless it’s produced by a local business with food from your local foodshed. If you eat meat, try to consume from animals that are local and pasture-raised. Remember, when thinking about oil, it’s not just the miles the meat travels to you, it’s also the miles that the food those animals ate traveled to them. Yes, grass-fed or pasture-raised is more expensive. The answer is to eat less but better meat. (Americans eat double the meat they should anyway.) Besides, by not buying soda, bottled water, nutrition-free snacks, or other processed crapola, you’ll have more money to spend on healthy, great-tasting food that actually nourishes you and won’t give you cancer and other nasty diseases a few years down the road. Try to buy as much heavy stuff and stuff you buy in volume as possible from local sources. Light stuff—spices, tea, salt, and coffee–has been traded globally for centuries and can come from further away. None of your food should travel by air, so resist those Chilean blueberries and eat frozen US berries or wait till local berries are in season.
2.) Give your milk supply attention. If you’re of a certain age, you’ve likely been programmed that milk is essential to human health. It’s not. You can get the calcium and vitamin D other ways. However, I admit I like a little milk on cereal or in my tea. As noted above, Americans drink 18 gallons of milk a year. A dairy cow eats roughly a hundred pounds of feed a day in order to produce 7 gallons of milk a day. If that feed travels hundreds of miles before it reaches the cow, you can see how the milk gets oily.
|Happy cows make happy milk|
Try to buy milk from pasture-raised (or predominantly pasture-raised) cows. Even in California the cows can’t be in the field all winter so their diet will have to include dried forages such as silage and alfalfa hay. Some organic dairies will also feed them a certain amount of rye, triticale, flax meal and wheat. (Not corn!) But cows that graze on pastures should be able to get over 50% of their diet from the ground at their feet, reducing their feed oiliness considerably. In terms of oiliness, local dairies are better than distant dairies; reusable glass bottles, as long as they’re not being shipped too far, are less oily than plastic jugs or cardboard coated in plastic. (Some dairies use cardboard coated with soy wax, which is better.) As with meat, drink less milk, drink better milk. Your body will thank you for it.
|Words cannot express the wrongness|
3.) Eat for nutrition. More than half of the calories in the average American diet come from highly processed foods, much of it laden with sugar, unhealthy additives, and empty calories. The more processed your food item, the more ingredients it likely has, each one representing a supply chain dripping with oil. Shop around the edges of your grocery store; the interior is where most of the processed stuff lurks. Squeezing oil out of your food may necessitate relearning how to cook, but with fresh ingredients it’s not hard to make tasty meals. Remember, any prepared meal that you just pop in the microwave likely has a heck of a lot of oil behind it supply chain-wise. Eat in season. If you currently eat like an average American, you should likely double the amount of vegetables and plant-based fats you consume while overall eating less.
4.) Eat consciously, even for just the next two months. I know all this food stuff can seem like a lot, but just becoming conscious of what we eat is half the battle. For the next two days, write down everything you eat and where it came from. When you don’t know where it came from, put down a question mark. You will see a lot of question marks. Take it as a challenge to see how many of those question marks you can turn into local food. Then, for the next two months, just pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth and make a mental map of where each of the components of your meal comes from. Sure, you’ll have days when this is nearly impossible. The point is not to be perfect but to go from entirely unconscious to a heck of a lot more aware.
5.) Sate your appetite with good fats. It’s hard to feel full by just eating vegetables. That’s where fats come in. But it’s important to make them good fats. Stay away from artificial trans fats of all kinds. Stay away from fried foods (hello, this includes donuts and French fries!) and highly processed foods. Foods with good fats: avocados, butter and ghee, coconut oil, good quality olive oil, and foods with omega-3s, such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, grass-fed beef, walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and dairy products from grass-fed cows. If you can feel sated while eating less, then you will consume less food and less food-related oil.
|Remember: Hara Hachi Bu|
6.) Don’t overeat. It’s not only bad for you, it also means you’re making poor use of food likely trucked to you with the assistance of oil. Eat until you’re 80% full. This requires listening to your body, regardless of what is on your plate. (If there’s food leftover, put it into a storage container and eat it for lunch the next day.) Okinawans call this 80% rule, “Hara Hachi Bu,” and it has been shown to keep them healthy and long-lived. Americans consume far more calories per day than they need to, often because they eat processed, nutrition-less so called “food” that is purposely engineered to be as addictive as possible. Cut out sugar and artificial sweeteners, cut out the additives and the junk calories, check in with your body as you eat, and you’ll not only be healthier, you’ll spend less money on food, and you’ll be responsible for less food-related oil use.
7.) Compost food waste. First of all, plan decently so you don’t create a lot of food waste. But you’re inevitably going to have some, so compost easy-to-breakdown organic items–like greens, coffee grounds and tea leaves–in your yard. You can do a formal compost pile, or just chop the greens up a bit and then put the food scraps near a plant under some mulch. I put crunched up eggshells out in my yard as well, but I don’t put out fruit because then raccoons will rifle through it. The food scraps disappear pretty fast that way, they help replenish the soil, and no oil is to used haul this particular form of waste anywhere. (I actually do this with a large portion of my yard trimmings, too. Chop and drop.) If your town or city has a compost program, use it for the harder to break down food items like soiled paper, bones or fats. (And fruits.) I find even used tea bags will break down directly in my garden under mulch as long as I remember to tear out any little metal staples. If you live where the ground freezes in winter, you can probably only do this spring through fall, but that’s still two-thirds of the year.
8.) Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. You will impulse buy all sorts of oily badness.
9.) Buy in bulk to reduce oily packaging and the weight of packaging.
10.) Avoid petrochemical pesticides by buying organic. The active ingredient in most pesticides is a petrochemical derivative of some kind.
Oil in Your Stuff
As we covered in Part I, Americans consume on average 2000 lbs of non-food stuff each year. It not only takes oil to transport that stuff to you, it takes prodigious amounts of oil to move, mine, extract, shovel, burn, waste, pump and dispose of one million pounds of material in order to come up with 2000 lbs of finished product for you. It’s estimated all those activities require ½ gallon of oil per ton of raw material, which comes out to 250 gallons of oil embedded in the manufacture of the stuff you buy in a year. It also turns out that much of your stuff is made with oil as a component or ingredient, and that ingesting petrochemicals, breathing them, or absorbing them through your skin is pretty much terrible for you. How can we reduce the direct and indirect oiliness of our stuff? Let’s start with an easy one.
|Favorite shopping bags|
1.) Squeeze the oil out of your plastic bags and plastic wrap. Most plastic is basically oil in solid form. Replace single-use plastic bags with reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and wraps. Shopping bags can be made out of recycled plastic, but my favorites are made out of cotton twill, repurposed sails, and felted wool. I like mesh produce bags for shopping, muslin bags for vegetable storage in the refrigerator, and food wraps to replace plastic wrap and baggies. Though your disposable bag habit might not amount to all that much oil, there are plenty of other reasons to cut out plastic bags, and since it’s so easy, why not?
|Not a blithe spirit|
2.) Sate the hungry ghost through tidying. Okay, I realize that sentence might not make any sense to you. Let me explain. The Chinese have a concept of hungry ghosts, spirits of people who had an evil life or a violent death. These ghosts are inflicted with desire, hunger or thirst that can never be satiated. Let’s jump to American culture where the average person, above all else, is a consumer, plowing through 2000 lbs of new goods a year. Our drawers are stuffed, our closets jammed, our garages so full our cars won’t fit in. Our houses are larger than ever, but even so we can’t fit all our stuff in them and have to rent 3.5 billion square feet of self-storage units to accommodate our burgeoning mess. Do we need all this stuff? Do we even know all the stuff that we have? I suggest the answer to both is no. Let’s be clear: for the most part, not knowing we have something is pretty much the same as not having it. Because if you don’t remember you have it and it’s hidden behind volumes of junk, what’s the likelihood of stumbling across it when you need it? So now comes the tidying part. Specifically, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is a hilarious book on many levels, but what Marie Kondo proves time and again is that she is the world’s maestro of tidying. Through her method, (which, for the price of her short book, she will bully and club you into doing with pitbull determination) you will get rid of all the stuff that you will never wear, never read, never use, and have never liked in the first place. You will ditch the torn, stained, out-of-date clothing that’s getting in the way of the shirt you do like in the back of your closet that you completely forgot you had. The essential part of her technique is taking all of one category of item and dumping it on your bed or on the floor. Once it’s out, it’s more difficult to put away than get rid of, and so the dross will more easily flow to recycling, Goodwill, eBay, Craigslist, or the garbage. When what’s left is what you like and need, you will see, wow, I have twelve pairs of excellent shoes, four of which I haven’t seen in two years, because eight pairs of broken/worn out/hated shoes were hiding them. The reduced number of shoes will fill your closet in a calm, orderly way, all visible to you anytime you open your closet door, and you will see you have enough shoes.You will be sated.
|Totally forgotten at the back of my closet|
Or, if you need a new pair of shoes, you will know exactly what you need because you’ll have a clear inventory of what you have. You won’t be buying out of vague, anxious shoe-neediness. (I myself confess to sock anxiety and have been known to impulse buy them by the half-dozen.) This is the great paradox: by getting rid of stuff, you need less stuff because you actually know and can access what you have. You’ll no longer have to rent a storage locker; your car will once again fit in your garage. You will feel lighter, calmer, and more in control of your life. You may think I’m joking, but when it comes to stuff, less is truly more. Get this book or check it out from your library. I bet you already have enough stuff that, after tidying, you’ll be able to cut your new acquisitions by at least a third for the next five years. That’s 83 gallons of oil a year out of your life and major bucks you don’t have to spend. Plus, all your excess stuff that wasn’t doing you any good can find a new home with someone who might have a real use for it.
3.) Sate the hungry ghost by avoiding advertising. What is advertising but a means to arouse the hungry ghost in you? It’s designed to make you feel inadequate, needy, insecure, unattractive, sick, fearful, and sometimes literally hungry. It makes you want. And want. Things you don’t need. It messes with your mind. It takes up your time. It creates mental clutter. Clear it out! The most important step is to separate your entertainment from advertising. Record your TV shows and then diligently fast forward through commercials when you watch them. Even pay money for your entertainment if you have to. What! Entertainment should be free, you say!
No, it’s not free. You pay for it, believe me, when your aroused hungry ghost provokes you to buy toys or cars or even pharmaceuticals you’d really be better off without. (Need I even point out just how bad manipulative advertising is to your children’s psyches?) Rather than spend 20 minutes out of every hour wasting your time with TV ads, pay $2-$3 to see the show ad-free. The 20 minutes you save is not only worth $3, your peace of mind gets thrown in as a bargain. Paying for your shows may mean you watch less TV, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Watch just the good stuff, the stuff that’s worth paying for. Besides, do you really need to watch more than two hours of TV in an evening when you could be tidying your sock drawer? I think not. If there are some types of programs (like certain sports) for which there are no ad-free options, then at least mute the ads. That helps reduce the brainwashing power significantly. Another useful strategy is to talk back to the ads and ridicule their manipulations. Next, I’ll note that newspapers are putting in articles that look like news but are actually promotions/ads for real estate/ cars/other products. Identify and scorn such practices. Lastly, be aware that Facebook is inserting a lot more advertising in your newsfeed. They know your web history, and they target precisely, rendering their hungry ghost stimulation quite powerful. Beware and keep a skeptical eye on on digital media. Protect your mind, protect your wallet. Keep that hungry ghost at bay.
4.) Buy higher quality stuff that lasts longer.
5.) Buy used. You will still accrue the oil embedded in the product (divided by product life) but the first owner gets all the oil it took to deliver the product, not you.
6.) Take care of your stuff so it lasts longer. The good news? When you have fewer clothes (all ones that fit and you actually like,) it’s much easier to launder and store them properly. (Hint: clothes dried on the line last longer.) When you have fewer tools, kitchenware, and appliances (all of them used by and actually valuable to you,) it’s easier to take care of them properly.
7.) Reduce the endless stream of plastic and petrochemicals flowing through your life. If you really want to get serious about plastic, I recommend browsing My Plastic Free Life because that woman is the most committed plastic eschewer you’ll ever likely run across. I’ll just mention some of the ways to get oil out of many products in your life. Use natural materials, natural fibers, mostly stay away from acrylic, nylon, polyester. Many cosmetics are made from petroleum. Use natural cosmetics, lotions and other skin care products. Avoid “fragrance,” which is usually made from petrochemicals, and look for essential oils to make things smell good instead. Avoid room fresheners unless breathing petrochemicals appeals to you. Avoid phthalates and parabens. Buy bread that comes in paper bags or no bags. These days there are lots of wool and ecologically-responsible leathershoes you can choose from instead of synthetic/plastic leather. Drycleaningsubmerges your clothes in petrochemicals and leaves a residue for your skin to absorb. Use CO2 dry cleaners or wet cleaners instead. Vinyl is a petrochemical product. Tires are made from rubber and petrochemicals. (Another good reason to drive less.) Buy carpeting made from bio-fiber or natural materials instead of nylon. (There’s one gallon of oil per 3 square yards of traditional carpet.) Many laundry detergents are made from petrochemicals and also leave residue absorbed by skin. Use plant-based laundry products instead. Buy wax paper coated with soybean wax, not paraffin. Paper cups, milk cartons, and ice cream containers are usually coated with polyethylene but some organic companies are using soybean wax alternatives. Use paper cups coated with corn-based rather than oil-based plastic, or better yet use reusable cups. Watch out for paraffin wax on vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplants and bell peppers. Cheap chocolate that doesn’t melt on a hot day usually has a good dose of paraffin wax in it, something you really don’t want to eat. You also don’t want to ingest mineral oil, which is often used as a preservative in packaged baked goods. As for Olestra—don’t even get me started on how evil it is. Avoid, avoid. (It sometimes goes by the name Olean.) It can be found in fat-free potato chips, french fries, and corn chips, but you’re not eating that stuff anymore anyway, right? Artificial colorings, usually made from petrochemicals, are wicked bad for you. A heck of a lot of household cleaners contain petrochemicals—methylene chloride (stain removers), monoethanolamine (oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, laundry pre-soaks, floor strippers, carpet cleaners) naphthalene (mothballs, deodorizers), parabens (widely used in cleaning products). Canned goods and canned sodas usually have a plastic lining inside the cans. Stay away from styrofoam anything. (Styrofoam packing peanuts should be banished from the earth.) For sunscreens, avoid oxybenzone. Use zinc or titanium as an active ingredient instead. Better yet, wear a hat. Vaseline is a petrochemical product, as are asphalt roof shingles. Don’t use paraffin wax candles; they produce soot and fumes you shouldn’t breathe. Use soy wax or beeswax candles instead. Crayons are made from paraffin and most chewing gum has some kind of petroleum derivative in it. There are beeswax crayons and natural chewing gums out there. Seek them out. If you live within a dozen miles of an ocean like I do, eschewing plastic is especially important since the plastic we use has a nasty habit of making its way to the water and devastating marine life.
|Simple but awesome|
8.) Ditch the fabric softener and dryer sheets. Both are full of petrochemicals that stay on your clothes and get absorbed by your skin. I’m giving this its own number because the solution is wool dryer balls that are just so great everyone should get half a dozen now, this instant. They soften your laundry, deal with static electricity, and will last a thousand loads. They also decrease drying time by a third, so they’ll pay for themselves within a few months. (After your refrigerator, your dryer is the second biggest energy hog appliance in your house.) I dry my clothes on a line and just do the last five or ten minutes in the dryer, but when I have a rainy week, wool dryer balls are a godsend. If you must have fragrance in your laundry, add a few drops of essential oils to the balls and you’ll be far better off than breathing the faux fragrance of petrochemicals.
9.) Less oily package delivery. This was covered a bit in Part I. The United States Postal Service is your best bet because they’re coming to your house anyway. Because they service so many homes on relatively compact routes, USPS is actually pretty fuel efficient on a per delivery basis. Of course, if you have electric bike UPS delivery where you live, snap it up.
10.) Anytime you buy anything, ask yourself, “Am I buying this, or is it my hungry ghost?”
Oil in Your Heat
Replace heating oil and propane with a heat pump. If your household is one of the small percent of US households that use heating oil or propane for heat, this is easy, just a straightforward technology switch. First seal and insulate your home (never any sense in heating the outdoors.) Then put in a heat pump. In frigid climates, put in a cold-climate heat pump. Heat pumps are so efficient that the cost of your winter heating will drop by half and the heat pump will pay for itself in three to six years. Many states and utilities have tax credits/incentives/rebates that will make the payback even faster. If you live in ultra frigid territory you may need some kind of electric resistance heat back up for your coldest days. If you have the money, put in an ultra-efficient ground-source heat pump system. It’s substantially more expensive but also substantially more efficient and you’ll have no worries about ultra low temperatures. Once you’ve made the switch, that’s nine hundred or so gallons of oil a year out of your life. You’ll be doing it sooner or later, so why not sooner?
Seems Like Oil, Oil Everywhere
|I now know I have enough socks|
So you’ve just read through a heck of a to-do list. Do I do all this stuff perfectly? Not even close. I don’t even do it as well some people I know. Whereas I consciously chose to become an urban bike rider to reduce my oil consumption, many of the actions listed above I decided to do for health reasons, to save money, or out of a general concern for the environment. Reducing my household’s indirect oil consumption was just a side benefit. Don’t try to make all these changes in a week or even a month! You’ll exhaust yourself and give up. Making your life less oily is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep plugging away, item by item, perhaps ticking off the big ones or the easy ones first. By the end of 2017 I guarantee you will be healthier, and probably happier and wealthier too. Give it a whirl.
Want some more good news? You can substantially reduce your oil use (and your de facto support of ExxonMobil, Saudi Arabia, beheadings, stonings, fracking, and the Dakota Access Pipeline) regardless of how dysfunctional Congress is and regardless of who is President. March, protest, resist. But squeeze the oil out of your life, too.
Stay tuned for Part IV: Helping Others Eschew Oil