Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's the one year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill: How can I help?

image from

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the BP Gulf oil spill, an environmental disaster that is still being felt by the people who live and work along the Gulf coast. To say it was a catastrophe is an understatement.

When the spill happened, I was horrified by the deaths, the incompetence, and the pictures showing the destruction from the oil that continued to pump into the Gulf for months. I felt that I had to do something, but what? I couldn't go to Louisiana to help clean up, and I couldn't stop driving my car or heating my home. Our nation relies on oil; it's in everything, including some of the food we eat (I know. Gross). The Gulf spill seemed like a wake up call, though, something we all needed to listen to and act upon.

But how?

I decided to start with my shampoo. Looking at the things I buy, I realized that I could reduce my reliance on petroleum products, and thus the need for increased drilling, by eliminating the things I buy that use petroleum for no good reason. Why should oil be in shampoo? Or face cream, lotion, make up and sunscreen? What purpose does it serve, other than as a "cheap" filler. Is it really that cheap when oil drilling is so expensive? When our sons and daughters are sent over seas to die for oil companies, just so we can all buy "cheap" shampoo?

We all need to drive our cars, so getting rid of the car isn't realistic. We all use plastic containers, elastic in our clothing, computers, take medications and watch movies on DVD's, all of which use a lot of oil. Petroleum should be saved for those things that need it, like medicine and airplanes.  There is absolutely no logical reason to put oil into beauty products.

For the last year, I've stopped buying beauty products that use petroleum in their ingredients. Yes, I pay a little more money than I used to, but remember, that cost is a tiny percentage of the real cost of oil.  Finding a new shampoo was easy (I now use Giovanni Root 66. Smells great and makes thin hair full and bouncy). There are lots of great shampoos out there that are surprisingly inexpensive. But when I had to switch my face cream, that's when I ran into trouble.

I've used Oil of Olay since I was in high school, some twenty-mumble-mumble years. I love it because it has sunscreen and it doesn't make my skin break out. To say I have extremely sensitive skin is an understatement. Just looking at a rose makes me itchy. And here was the ironic part: I'm not allergic to chemicals. Pour on the petroleum distillates and solvents and my skin stays calm. Add some aloe or primrose oil and I'm itching like a 6 year old with chicken-pocks. Even so called skin soothers like chamomile make me break out. The last thing I wanted to do was put something on my face that would turn it red and flakey.

But I was determined to give up petroleum in my face cream, so I turned to a girl's best friend: her esthetician. I'm lucky because I have a friend who is a fabulous skin care specialist who happens to specialize in sensitive skin (I've been her guinea pig for years. If she can find something that doesn't make me break out, then she's pretty certain it won't irritate other sensitive types). She gave me some suggestions, but a lot of natural skin care products use Vitamin C as a preservative, which makes my skin peel off like a bad sunburn. Eventually, she turned me on to Grateful Body, a skin care line that makes a moisturizer my skin could tolerate, and one that feels great. Occasionally it isn't quite enough moisture for my aging skin, so about three times a week I rub a small amount of Avocado oil on my face at night (food grade, pure Avocado oil. cheap). Works great. I spend more for my face cream now, but I use less at a time, so I think it's actually working out about the same cost per month.

Unfortunately, Grateful Body doesn't put sunscreen in their face cream, so I had to find some type of sun protection. Enter Bare Minerals, a mineral powder makeup that provides spf 15, plus it makes your skin look fabulous. I'm still playing with this makeup, but so far, I really like it. For extra sunscreen I use Mexitan's Tropical Sands SPF 30, which I also lavish on Queen Teen. I first tried this product last year when she and I went to Disneyland and neither of us burned while we were under that extra-hot Southern California sun. And it doesn't make us break out.

By cutting oil from my beauty products, I've also inadvertently cut chemicals, some of which can make us sick (why is it in our children's bubble bath, then?). I know it's not a lot... I mean, how can switching shampoo to a petroleum free one reduce our dependence on oil? It's such a tiny drop in the oil bucket. But it's a start. Imagine if every family in America did that! That would be a lot of drops, adding up to gallons of oil saved every year.

Plus, by making some sacrifices of my own, even in small ways, I am taking responsibility for my part in the Gulf spill disaster. My demand for oil has contributed to the disaster along the Gulf coast and the fisherman who are now out of work. In a small way, this is how I can help. 

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