Better Than Boycotting BP: Getting Out of the Car

4633101640_38a593030a.jpgA sensible response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (Photo: brand0con via Flickr)

Yesterday, we asked if you thought the BP oil spill was changing anyone’s driving habits. The consensus — sadly — was a resounding no. While there’s plenty of anger at BP CEO Tony Hayward, few people seem willing to examine the role consumer demand plays in risky deep-water drilling. And even if they are willing to consider it, many people have no alternative to driving.

Still, there’s no question that a lot of people could reduce the amount of driving they do, and the amount of gas they burn, if they really wanted to. Today on the Streetsblog Network, member blog RIDE Solutions of Roanoke, Virginia, puts forth the case for cutting time behind the wheel as a response to the catastrophe in the Gulf:

Moving your money from one oil company to another doesn’t really do much to affect the voracious appetite we have for oil that drives companies like BP to make risky and reckless decisions about where to drill.  Blame BP all you want — and you should — for lax safety systems, but they wouldn’t be there in the first place if it weren’t for our demand for gas, and our demand that it stay cheap.

So, if you want to act in a way that really has an impact, there are two main things I would recommend:

Drive less:  This is the obvious one, the harder one, and the one that has the most impact.  The more you can stay off the road, or replace oil-powered trips with human-powered ones, the more real impact you have on reducing our dependence on oil.  Not only that, but driving less has additional positive benefits that a boycott, even a successful one, wouldn’t; you’re polluting less, helping keep the air in the Roanoke and the New River Valleys clean. You’re contributing to the conservation of our amazing green space — less driving means fewer roads, less sprawl, fewer parking lots, and more parks, trees, greenways and other greenspace.  You’re reducing your carbon footprint, and you’re probably going to get physically healthier at the same time .…

Go Local: Perhaps not so obvious as driving less, but still important. The energy required to get goods from one side of the country to another is incredible and a significant component of
the country’s transportation fuel consumption. Shopping locally is not only good for fresher food and more local employment opportunities, it means that the stuff you’re buying didn’t travel nearly as far to get here. Bicycling to the local farmer’s market and filling your basket with fruits and veggies is a double-punch to BP’s gut; neither you nor the food you’re buying took much oil to get to the market.

Even if you don’t drive yourself, you have friends and family who do. Take this opportunity to talk to them about driving less. These conversations can be uncomfortable — I know, because I’ve had them. But they’re important.

More from around the network: Gary Rides Bikes doesn’t want to put up with impatient drivers any longer. EcoVelo has some helpful hints on how to trigger traffic lights with your bike. And Utility Cycling is looking for your stories of getting around on two wheels.