How Much Petroleum Do You Use in a Day?
You might be Surprised!
You might be surprised to find out where oil and petroleum are used in our everyday lives. Of course there are the obvious places – fuel for cars, the asphalt / bitumen / tar / blacktop on our roads and roofs. But perhaps some other places where oil is an ingredient are not quite so obvious……
The gum base in chewing gum is made from petroleum-based polymers. That’s how gum behaves the way it does. Goodyear (yes, the rubber and tyre company) supply most of the gum base to Wrigley’s. Nearly all gum is made this way. Alternatives? Chicza gum is made from latex harvested from FSC-Certified forests in Mexico, with agave syrup added for flavour.
Candles and Crayons
These are made from paraffin wax (a petroleum product). I love candles, but they can be contributors to indoor pollution, and some studies even say they produce carcinogens. Lighting candles occasionally is fine, though. It’s when you use them every day, or regularly in an unventilated room (e.g. around the tub or bath) that problems may arise. And if you suffer from allergies, candles may be contributing. Also, be aware that scented candles normally contain artificial fragrance – delightful-smelling candles may contain acetone, benzaldehyde, ethanol and methylene chloride.
Alternatives? Make sure the room where you use the candles is well ventilated. Beeswax or soy-based candles and crayons are generally regarded as being safer, and many use natural essential oils for fragrance. Unfortunately they may also be more expensive. So from a health perspective, keep the room well-ventilated and/or opt for more natural ingredients.
We print out vast quantities in offices and even at home sometimes. Our ink comes contained in plastic, and ink is made from petroleum. Laser printers and photocopies use toner which – yes, you’ve guessed it – is also made from petroleum.
Alternatives? You can buy toner made from soybeans, which is theoretically more eco-friendly. I’m slightly hesitant about this, because while I know that extracting oil and gas from the earth is particularly un-friendly, having large areas of land devoted to monoculture non-food crops is not exactly perfect either – the lesser of two evils I suppose. Personally, I like to simply evaluate each time before I print – is it truly necessary. Thanks to e-mail and scanners, this is easier now than when we used faxes and snail mail, for example.
Plastic, as we know, is everywhere. No surprise about it being made from petroleum. It offers huge convenience economically. But we’re only now beginning to find out the health problems associated with it, not to mention its environmental impact. There’s no way we can eliminate plastic from our lives – but by simply being aware, we can make alternative choices.
Other products containing oil which might surprise you
Pantyhose – all nylon products are petroleum-based. Pillows. Aspirin. Anti-histamine. Vitamin capsules. Toothpaste and toothbrushes. Guitar strings. Shoe polish. Tape. Deodorant. Glue. Insecticides. The waxy layer on the packaging of frozen food – and the fertilisers often used to grow that food. Contact lenses and heart valves. Packaging for many items in our supermarkets. Insect repellents. Shampoo, shaving cream, detergents. Diapers or nappies. PVC pipes, flooring, shower curtains…..
Am I saying stop using these products?
I’m simply suggesting that knowing where petroleum is used in your daily life, can help you to make informed choices. “Knowledge is power” as the saying goes.
I use contact lenses for example. I’m not going to give them up and go back to heavy glasses (I’m extremely short-sighted so my glasses used to weigh a ton), but I use the re-usable ones, not the daily disposables. But for some people, the daily disposables are the only way they can wear contacts. You are unlikely to tell your doctor you don’t want a heart valve to save your life because it is made from petroleum.
I am saying, be aware, and where possible, make more eco-friendly choices. One of the purposes of this EcoExpert blog is to highlight alternatives in many areas. (For example, I have covered eco-friendly mosquito repellents, eco-friendly laundry options, ways to avoid plastic, alternatives to consider for allergies, energy-efficient appliances, and many more)
Reducing your consumption of these petroleum-based products will help your health as well as the environment.
Photo Credits: Chewing Gum: Microsoft / Corbis. Candles and lenses: microsoft.com