Oil Spill Clean Up: 10 Things You Can Do to Help Clean Up

Looking for someone to blame about the devastating oil spill in the Gulf? Sure you can blame BP (it is the company's fault after all) and you can blame President Obama too (even Jon Stewart has been doing more than his fair share of that). But while you're at it, you should take a good, long look in your rear-view mirror.

The United States is the largest consumer of oil on the planet. Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Our collective oil addiction makes us as much to blame for this mess as anyone. (And even if you disagree with that, you surely agree that something needs to be done -- and soon.)

So instead of pointing fingers, take some responsibility and put your energy (pun intended) into something else.

Here, some ideas.

1. Admit you have a problem.
That's the first step in any addict's recovery. Repeat after me: My name is ____ (fill in the blank), and I am an oil addict. Then get on the road to recovery (preferably in a hybrid).
  • Stop driving. Carpool, ride a bike, use public transportation, and walk when you can. No excuses. Just do it.
  • Use alternate sources of energy. Think wind and solar power, and try alternate home-heating solutions (a wood-burning furnace can save you oil -- and money). Or talk to your local utility company. Many power providers offer green energy sources as an option on your bill. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Locator to see what options are available to you.
  • Lighten your carbon footprint. Use the EPA's Household Emissions Calculator to estimate your family's greenhouse gas emissions and find out how to cut back.
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2. Hold someone's hand at the beach. Hands Across the Sand is holding a national day of action on Saturday, June 26, to clean up America's energy and call on President Obama to get the U.S. off oil in 20 years. People in more than 500 communities across the globe will join hands at 11 a.m. to create a line in the sand against offshore drilling. To find or organize an event in your community, visit Hands Across the Sand.

3. Tune in to Larry King. Tonight (June 21), CNN will be airing a two-hour telethon: "Disaster in the Gulf: How You Can Help." The telethon will feature celebrities like Chelsea Handler, Tim McGraw, Lenny Kravitz, Pete Wentz, Jenny McCarthy, and many more. You can choose between three charities that you'd like to help -- the money raised will go to aid in rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

4. Report oiled wildlife and oil damage. If you live (or you're vacationing or volunteering) along the Gulf Coast and you see wildlife in need of rescue or you notice oil damage to the environment, report it. You can do so online at Deepwater Horizon Response or by phone 866-557-1401 (for oiled wildlife), 800-440-0858 (for oil damage), or 866-448-5816 (for affected shorelines).

5. Don't boycott BP gas stations -- on second thought ... No one is happy with BP (Tony Hayward is probably wishing he never accepted a job there -- though that didn't stop him from attending a yacht race this weekend), but refusing to buy gas at its service stations might actually be putting more money into the company's pockets.

  • According to The Consumerist, your corner BP station is but a licensed franchise owned by a local businessman, and the fuel that comes out of the pumps may be from a totally different company, so you might only be hurting the independent dealer.
  • If you opt for a supermarket gas station (such as Castrol, Arco, Aral, am/pm, Amoco, Wild Bean Cafe, and Safeway), it could be a wholly owned BP subsidiary in which case BP gets all the cash. (You can join the Facebook group Boycott BP for more info.)
  • If you do decide to boycott BP, some say it will simply be a political statement (and there's nothing wrong with that), but others, like Ryan Chittum at The Audit, believe that boycotting BP will make a dent on its returns.

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6. Don't cut your hair (or your pet's).
While everyone who's been snipping their hair and grooming their pets for the cause has their heart in the right place, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard say they're not using hair to contain the oil spill -- and they don't plan to (they're using sorbent boom, which they have aplenty). Organizations who have been collecting hair, such as
, have been asked to stop doing so.
7. Plant a flag.
Go to
to plant a virtual flag and on
July 4
. The organization will plant real flags in front of Washington Monument that spell out
"Freedom From Oil"
so that Congress and the White House are sure to see what the American people want.
8. Volunteer.
Many organizations in the Gulf of Mexico are looking for helping hands. Here are but a few.
  • The Audubon Society has launched the National Oil Spill Volunteer Response Center, which has lots of information on ways to get involved.
  • eBird, an online birding resource that tracks the health of bird populations, needs volunteers to help survey Gulf Coast bird populations.
  • In Louisiana, LA Gulf Response is coordinating volunteers to assist in local, state, and federal recovery efforts.
  • In Alabama, the Alabama Coastal Foundation wants volunteers for cleanup efforts along the Alabama coast if the oil spill reaches that state's shores.
  • In Florida, Save Our Seabirds is a bird rescue group looking for support to help oiled wildlife.
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9. Adopt a bird. At the International Bird Rescue Research Center, you can "adopt" a duck for $25 or an egret for $50; the birds will be cleaned and rehabilitated.

10. Text don't talk.
Put your money where your mouth is. Every time you play the blame game and say (or write in a comment somewhere -- wink, wink) "BP" or "Obama" or "Tony Hayward," put a dollar in a jar. (Or set aside all that money you've been saving on gas because you've been walking, carpooling, or using public transportation.) At the end of the month give it to some people who are actually making things happen:
  • Text the word "NWF" to 20222 to donate10 to the National Wildlife Federation through your phone bill.
  • Donate to the United Way's Gulf Recovery Fund by going to its website or text the word "United" to 50555 to donate10 from your mobile phone.
  • The Nature Conservancy Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration wants to re-establish critical habitats (marshes, seagrass beds, oyster reefs, and coastal wetlands). Text the word "coast" to 50555 to donate10 through your mobile phone.

What have you done to help with the Gulf oil spill disaster? What will you do?

Written by Suzanne Murray for The Stir.