Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, the third largest in United States history, when a blow-out on an offshore oil platform fouled the coast from Ventura to Goleta, killing thousands of sea birds, dolphins, seals and other marine life. Those who responded to memories of this environmental tragedy by advocating for less future drilling along our coasts may also be interested in ways we can reduce our consumption of petroleum, the driving force behind efforts to drill for more.

Drive less: The Ventura County Transportation Commission website,, has trip planners you can use to plan car-free journeys, along with information about local travel by bus, train and bicycle.

Drive smarter: Stay aerodynamic — removing a roof-top cargo box can save as much as 20 percent on fuel, according to the website of nonprofit Money Advice Service. Drive slower — although top gears are more efficient than low gears, once you get to top gear, adding speed greatly reduces efficiency. Driving 60 mph instead of 70 mph on a 20-mile highway commute saves “about 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week,” according to the AAA website. Other driving advice includes regular maintenance, keeping tires properly inflated, using “eco” mode, and reducing braking and acceleration by leaving sufficient space between yourself and the car ahead.

Change oil as needed: Google “3,000 mile myth” and read some of the over 2 million responses, most disputing the common misconception regarding the need to change every car’s oil at least every 3,000 miles. Ted Harvey, Service Manager of Meineke Car Care in Oxnard, urges consumers to follow the schedule in a car’s owner’s manual instead.

Use a real mechanic: For oil changes, go to a service station that recycles used oil, not to someone who offers to change your oil for you but might dump it. According a 2000 report by San Francisco State University (available on the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery website), over 50 percent of illegally disposed oil is dumped by people who do not have an official oil changing business, but change oil for others outside their own household.

Alternatives to crude oil: 42 gallons of crude oil make only half a gallon of auto lubricant oil, but 42 gallons of recycled oil make 34 gallons of lubricant, according to the website of Nexlube, a re-refinery. In Ventura County, SC Fuels distributes the Castrol Eco brand, and Silvas Petroleum distributes Roundtrip, made in Los Angeles by Lubricating Specialties Corporation. Oil does not wear out; it just gets dirty. Re-refining recycled oil and replenishing additives makes it as good as oil made from crude. Although 18 service stations in Ventura County offered re-refined oil 15 years ago, none do today. When the price of crude oil rises, you may be able to ask again for re-refined.

Synthetic oil is another option. Although requiring petroleum for production, synthetic oil can make an engine operate more efficiently and lasts about three times longer than conventional oil, according to the website of Advance Auto Parts.

Recycle right: Recycling saves resources, conserving fossil fuels both through material recovery and through reducing energy consumption in manufacturing processes. Full instructions would require a separate article, but here are a few tips you may have overlooked. Keep the lid on when recycling plastic bottles; bottles and lids go through grinders at recycling factories, and a sink/float tank separates the two types of plastic. Scraping or rinsing is not necessary for most containers but is helpful for removal of contents like peanut butter and mayonnaise. There is a difference of opinion regarding bottles that contained motor oil or antifreeze, but since draining every drop is so hard, it’s better to leave them out of recycling. Removing a bottle’s label can also be helpful but is not required.

The big picture of conservation is made from the many details of individual actions.

Used oil collection centers:

Oil change interval database: