SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Do your part to lower demand for oil
By Joy Barry


July 09, 2008

About two months ago I was feeling pretty dismal about the rising cost of oil. I lamented to my husband that soon he wouldn't be able to go to work anymore because he wouldn't have the gas money to get there! We would love to buy an all-electric car (a perfect option for Ketchikan where we can't drive very far anyway), but that is way out of our budget at the moment. We currently don't even have the funds to get a more fuel-efficient gasoline car. I was about to descend into despair when suddenly a bright light bulb appeared over my head. I recalled the energy crisis in the seventies when my dad traded in his motorcycle for a bicycle and began pedaling to work. He continued to use his bicycle as his main transportation for his entire career. I realized that there are other ways of getting around besides driving! After all, automobiles are a fairly recent invention when you consider the entire history of the world.

So I decided to quit driving. Why should I cut back on essentials like food and clothing so I can buy some non-essential oil? And I'm not doing it just for our family's budget, I am doing it for the greater good of the community. The cost of oil will never go down if the demand stays high. To lower the cost, we must lower the demand. I am doing my part to lower the demand.

I don't just stay in the house now, I still get around. Like many people in our community, I live in town and within walking distance of grocery shopping. When I go shopping, I put my baby in her carrier, the toddler in the stroller, and grab some of my canvas shopping bags as I head down to Safeway. I've started walking to church on Sundays (nine blocks away and uphill, but wow I am getting in shape). I also have a bike and a bike trailer that can hold both my children, so I pulled those out of the basement and started using them. I have also discovered the bus system here and I am impressed. You can get anywhere between Fawn Mountain Elementary (south of Rotary Beach) and Totem Bight out north. And a monthly bus pass is only $25 (the same cost as buying six gallons of gas). The new buses have wide aisles and low entries that can easily accomomdate a wheelchair, stroller, or the folding wheeled shopping basket I bought at Tongass (a great help for bringing home more groceries). The bus is also what we use for a daytime excursion to the beach.

Walking, biking, and busing take a little more time and planning to get where you need to go when you need to go there. Our society is accustomed to waiting until the last possible minute and zipping around wherever we need to go. We could all benefit from slowing down and taking a nice walk when we need to go somewhere, taking time to pick a daisy and taste some salmonberries along the way. So when you're out driving and you see me walking around hauling two children & some groceries, don't stop and offer me a ride (unless I am crying, maybe I'll need the help that day). I do have a car, but I am not using it because I am trying to change the world!

I know what you're thinking now, what about the rainy days? Well, we have this new invention called "rain gear" and we use it. You can get some really nice rain gear for the cost of filling up your gas tank a couple times.

Another thing that uses oil are the many oil furnaces in town. Our house has an old dinosaur of an oil furnace, but we have already installed a wood stove and are collecting enough wood to keep us warm this winter. Fuel for the wood stove grows everywhere on this island, we can even get it for free!

And finally, I am not forgetting that every time I buy something at the store, I am also paying for the oil used to ship it here. To avoid too many new purchases, we try to live a simple, renewable life and take advantage of the bounty of nature. We eat fish and game from the waters & forests here. We gather berries and fiddlehead ferns to eat when they are in season. I am growing tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and herbs in planters on my front porch (every little bit helps!). I also visit the Plaza on Market Saturdays (first Saturday of the month) to buy locally-made crafts (like soap & wine vinegar). I also love shopping at thrift stores and garage sales (to buy stuff that is already on the island anyway). And I avoid almost all single-use throw-away disposable products like disposable diapers, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, paper plates, etc. We have reusable alternatives that can be washed (water for cleaning is abundant here!).

So what are YOU doing? I encourage you to take some action and do what you can to reduce your demand for oil. Don't sit back and wait for our nation's leaders to find a solution to the crisis. Make a change for yourself and do it today!

Joy Barry
Ketchikan, AK

About: "A Stay-at-home-mom trying to live the simple life."


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska