Conscious consumerism — petroleum

Santhosh Sundar
4 min readJan 9, 2022

Using electric vehicles could cut our carbon footprint in mobility. If you intend to use an EV to reduce carbon emissions from oil, you don’t have to wait until you own one. If you already own one, you can further reduce your footprint. Let’s find out.

Transport, by far, is one of the largest sectors contributing to CO2 emissions. The time it takes for the oil to burn and pollute is short in this sector. And we burn it in our towns and cities where we live. This is easy to see and experience. Hence the immediate concern.

But what we don’t see is how we unconsciously consume everyday products made out of materials derived from petroleum. While they may not immediately release emissions as vehicles do, they still contribute to our carbon footprint every single day.

The rising adoption of EVs has led large oil companies to turn towards plastic.

Perhaps oil is one of the most efficiently refined resources. With the current demand, a barrel of oil produces more than just fuel. Mass adoption of EVs could change that. But how about the products made from petroleum?

Image courtesy: Visual Capitalist

There are over 6,000 products made from petroleum. The tires, bodywork, and the dashboard of an electric vehicle use materials made from petroleum products. Some of the sophisticated healthcare equipment use materials made from petroleum. Our modern lives depend on them.

Chances are you are currently wearing clothes that are made from petroleum products. Just take a look around and you will see they are everywhere. It is virtually impossible to avoid using them all.

So what is the problem with using these products?

Trash, a lot of trash! Once these products reach the end of their lifetime (often barely used), they end up in landfills and in places where they shouldn’t — rivers, ocean, soil.

Single-use plastic is the major contributor. The rising adoption of EVs has led large oil companies to turn towards plastic.

Plastic is notoriously difficult to recycle. Of all the plastic ever produced, only 9% is recycled. The majority of the plastic waste is sent to landfills and the ocean and thus killing sea life. Say no to single-use plastic.

Synthetic clothes made from polyester, polyacryl, etc., shed microfibre particles on each wash. These particles reach the waterbody and enter our food chain through crop absorption and seafood. And let’s not forget, they do kill marine life.

Teabags can release microplastic particles in your cup of tea, as many as 11.6 billion of them, and you know where they go! Instead, loose tea leaf and metallic infusers could be your best bet. Bonus — you also reduce the trash created by teabags.

Personal care products such as face wash, toothpaste, etc., containing solid plastic microbead particles enter the waterbody and end up on your plate. Several countries have banned the use of microbeads for good!

And the list goes on! Often the petroleum products having shorter shelf life are a matter of concern. That said, we cannot deny the positive uses of some of the products based on petroleum. A few have saved lives! It is about finding the right balance.

By now, you must have also thought about public transport and ridesharing to reduce the carbon footprint. How is this related to EVs? I wanted to use EV as a segue to bring this topic since it is closer to our efforts to reduce the use of oil, directly and indirectly.

We need to make conscious decisions before the next purchase. Or better ask ourselves, do we really need them? Can we reuse, repair or upcycle? The media and society around us hide the truth and force us to make bad choices. Being a conscious consumer is not easy, but we can try.

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Santhosh Sundar

Experience Engineering at Publicis Sapient. Building experiences, improving productivity, sharing ideas and implementing solutions.