FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds With Christy Buckley

Activist and national contest
winner Christy Buckley

Most people prefer chocolate syrup in their milk, but Christy Buckley found a new use for it: proving Dawn dishwashing detergent’s merits as an environmental savior. As her entry into Proctor & Gamble’s Dawn Differences Diary contest, the Willistown Township native smothered her long blonde mane in Hershey’s syrup in front of a video camera, then washed it with Dawn. In minutes, her locks were restored to their natural luster. The video beat out thousands of other entries, affording Buckley the chance to assist regional and national organizations with their efforts to clean up and heal oil-soaked birds and injured marine mammals.

MLT: How did you hear about the contest?

CB: I’m relocating to Delaware, and I wanted to find a place to volunteer. When I was on the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research site, I saw the link to the contest. It was a Friday, and the deadline was the following Tuesday at midnight. By the next Friday, I’d found out I won.

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MLT: Was the Hershey’s syrup your idea?

CB: I wanted to demonstrate what happens to aquatic animals when they come into contact with oil, and chocolate syrup is the closest I could get to real oil. It was pretty gross and sticky. I was able to wash it out right away, but most of the birds that come into the rescue centers have been covered for a while. As traumatizing as it was for me, it’s life-threatening to them. Birds and otters count on their feathers and fur for survival.

MLT: Can you describe the damage?

CB: For birds, their feathers act as insulation and waterproofing. They interlock, which keeps water out. But when they get coated in oil, the feathers form clumps—even just a small patch—allowing water to penetrate, which decreases their body temperature. Oil is heavy; they can’t fly to feed or escape predators, so they get weak. And when they try to preen, they ingest the oil and the toxicity makes them sick.

MLT: We only hear about the big oil spills, but what are some of the other ways aquatic animals can become contaminated?

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CB: Incidental oiling is just as dangerous—the natural seeping that comes through routine human activities. But there are other sources. In Northern California, for instance, there are several sunken ships off the coast that are seeping oil into the water. Even topping off your car at the gas station and having it spill on the ground can lead to water contamination.

MLT: Are there preventive measures we can take at home?

CB: Probably the No. 1 thing is not pouring oil down the drain. You should dispose of it in a sealed container instead. Everything counts though: Recycling, using reusable bags for groceries (birds eating plastic is another problem), using non-toxic chemicals to clean your home.

MLT: Have you gotten any job offers since word got out about the contest and the blog?

CB: Not yet, but I hope to.

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MLT: Has Dawn become your secret beauty weapon?

CB: It worked well getting the chocolate out, but I haven’t used it since.

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!