How You Can Help Clean Up the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster

It's not a "spill." It's a disaster, and it needs to be treated as such. Here's what you can do to help, courtesy of U.S. News & World Report:

1) Volunteer. Folks in the affected areas need help washing wildlife, answering phones, and doing everything in between. Register online if you live in Louisiana or Florida. Oil Spill Volunteers will also help match you to a group that needs your services. You can also call toll-free 1-866-448-5816.

2) Pick up beach trash. Garbage harbors oil and can be dangerous for wildlife. Work with local beach crews to get debris off shores.

Oiled birdOiled bird 3) Get help for injured wildlife. That doesn't mean you should try to pick up birds or animals covered with oil. Distressed animals bite. Plus, crude oil can hurt your skin. A hotline has been established for injured and dead animal sightings. Call 1-866-557-1401 to leave a message with the animal's precise location. iPhone users in the Gulf can download the Noah project's app to document distressed animals and the spill's impact on wildlife.

4) Use your boat. If you're a fisherman in the Gulf Coast, BP, the company responsible for the disaster, will pay you to help with the clean up. For more information, call 281-366-5511.

5) Make a donation. If you can't be there in person, support those who can. The National Wildlife Federation , Alabama Coastal Foundation , and Save our Seabirds are among the many organizations accepting donations for coastal relief.

6) Cut your hair, shave your pet. The nonprofit organization Matter of Trust is collecting human hair and pet fur, which can be used very effectively in floating makeshift booms to absorb oil.

7) Stop oil drilling now. To send a message about the need to restore the Gulf Coast, send President Obama this form letter , created by the National Wildlife Federation. If you favor halting all ocean drilling, use this form letter from the Sierra Club.

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