On Responsibility

Written by Jeannette Moon

Let’s talk about responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves, to each other, to Gaia, to NoImpact.wordpress.com. Sure, maybe I shirked my responsibility to this blog post until some much warranted badgering from my sun and my stars, Jamie. But have I shirked my responsibility to our Mother Earth? I don’t know, it’s debatable.

There was that time I sampled ice cream from a tiny baby cup and then didn’t even buy the flavor I sampled even though the ice cream lady recommended it but bought an entirely different one in a big old cup with my spnife nowhere to be seen. Three points. There was that other time that I didn’t learn from my mistakes and went to go get ice cream but couldn’t be bothered to bike to my apartment where my spnife was and just thought ice cream in yet another big old cup was worth it. Two points.

I could have done better but I didn’t and maybe it’ll cost me this competition. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it because when we’re responsible to ourselves we let ourselves make mistakes and have a little bit of ice cream. But who’s comforting those two spoons, cups, and tiny baby cup?

Kitchen Conspiracy!

Written by Amanda Myers

At first thought, the No Impact Challenge didn’t really seem so daunting to me…I learned from some unnecessary accumulated points last year. I quickly picked up on the tricks of the cloth napkin, always handy metal utensils, water bottle, and coffee mug.

What became difficult this year was not learning how to reduce my impact from a starter’s point of view, rather, how to escape points due to my unfortunate timing.

The unfortunate timing is due to the fact that I started the No Impact Challenge with a refrigerator and pantry full of almost empty food containers. One spoonful left in the peanut butter jar, one spoonful left in the jam jar, one last serving of lentils in my large-sized bag, etc…Really?!?! How did I not realize this predicament before I started the No Impact Challenge??

Clearly, as my title suggests, it’s a conspiracy! But, more importantly, its an indication that this two-week long challenge is meaningful in bringing heightened awareness of one’s impact or footprint, which should not just be proper timing during two weeks of the calendar, rather, the entire year, when maybe you have a full jar of peanut butter but could reduce impact in some other way….

Just some food for thought…

No Impact Birthday

Over the weekend, I turned 22! It was very exciting. But how does one host a gathering without accruing any points?

Actually, it was not so hard. Everyone used glasses or reusable cups (no apartment can ever have too many!), and if you buy, uh, beverages, in large quantities containers then it really lowers your impact on the earth! My birthday party even featured no-impact jello. Instead of putting the jello in little dixie cups, I just made a big tray and everyone had a spoon. In retrospect, this only worked because we all like each other/nobody had mono but it was still no impact and fun. Picture below.

jello

But then another issue happened on my birthday. Somebody stole my phone from me, so that sucked. But that’s not the point. The point is, I had to get a new phone, and along with it, a new case. So I turned to Amazon. Well, as we learned before, online shopping leads to a packaging nightmare! But what I discovered is that Amazon has Frustration-Free Packaging, which is recyclable, and also there is less material used, i.e. fewer points! That was a nice discovery. Maybe the thief who stole my phone will use little packaging when he sells it on eBay. Probably not though, because he doesn’t care about anybody so he probably doesn’t care about the earth either.

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 8.08.33 PM

Points Inquiry

Jeannette asks,

If someone has leftovers and I finish the leftovers for them is that a point?
If I ask for no spoon but they give me a spoon anyway is that a point?
If I don’t have a job by the time I graduate will I spontaneously combust?
How do you feel about eels as the next big white fish replacement?

I think we only need to address the first two questions, but a discussion resulted in the following:
1. Not a point (but this was a contentious argument!)
2. Not a point
3. No
4. Eel is pretty delicious

Do you agree? Disagree? Please post comments.

It’s a Learning Curve

Written by Maia Nowack

The biggest realization I’ve had while doing the No Impact Challenge is how many things I don’t need and can absolutely live without. Convenience is a big draw, as is the appeal of eating food that is better than that in a dining hall. However, my life really hasn’t gotten any worse since trying my hardest to avoid disposable items. Every time I don’t use something that would get me a point, the satisfaction of doing so is much greater than whatever benefits I would get from consuming it. The hardest moments have been when I felt like I had no other option and hadn’t planned ahead. For example, the day when I had absolutely no breaks between classes and meetings, and since I don’t have a way to cook my own food and bring it, I ended up with sushi in a container from Norris.

The challenge has also been a learning curve: there were moments at the beginning when I ended up with points because I just hadn’t thought about what I was doing. There was that one night when I just wanted tea, and had already opened up a tea bag before I even realized what I was doing. The awareness I’ve gained is something that I’m definitely going to try to maintain. I’ve considered continuing to keep track of my “points” just for myself after the challenge ends because I’m worried that without the competitive edge I’ll give in to the temptation of convenience. Even though I’ve always considered myself conscious, doing this challenge has made me even more aware and I’m going to do whatever I can to hold on to the attitude of minimizing my impact even after the challenge ends.

Impact Beyond the Points

By Zach Glasser

When we set out to create the rules and structures to report our daily impact for this year’s No Impact Challenge, we sought to create a system that captures all of the points at which we directly contribute to the waste stream. To that end, I think we’ve been effective. I can sit down at the end of each day and count up (hopefully on one hand) the times I’ve used a disposable item and tossed it out.

But what about the times when we contribute indirectly to the waste stream? Those times when we leave our computer plugged in too long or run the dishwasher when it’s not quite full. Or maybe the times when we let somebody else incur a point for which we’ve been an accomplice (ummm HELLO, flip-cup, anybody?!). The list can certainly go on and on. The reliance on disposable or easily-exhausted items in our lifestyles has probably become readily apparent to you by now. But as Chase points out in a post below, the things we think of as the biggest culprits aren’t necessarily the traps that earn us the most points. There are the dreaded other sources that contribute to our totals and stack up in our landfills. And they might not even have a box to check on the Challenge.

The point is (pun intended) that we shouldn’t walk away from the Challenge thinking only in the rigid formulas of dodging points and specific disposable items. We should take away from this a lasting ethos of sustainability–one that encourages us to consistently innovate ways to reduce our impact and that of those around us. So next time you play flip cup, offer to help clean up and save those red cups for another party. Wash a dish by hand instead of abusing your dishwasher. We’ve all encountered different challenges, but we shouldn’t think that just because we don’t have to report them at the end of the day doesn’t mean we haven’t had an impact. With a little creativity and a lot of collaboration, I’m confident we can reduce our collective impact even further.

“Crappy” Thoughts

Written by Jamie Yarmoff

As we have reached the halfway point of the No Impact Challenge, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how my day-to-day waste affects the environment. But there’s another kind of waste that this experiment excludes—toilet paper.

Yeah, I get it, it’s not everyone’s favorite topic. In our society, it’s a necessity, and it’s not the first thing to pop into people’s minds when they think of conservation. Actually, according to EcoGeek, more than 98% of toilet paper comes from virgin wood. As one would suspect, this isn’t then recycled in conventional recycling bins…

The New York Times reveals that Americans use, on average, 23.6 rolls of toilet paper per year! Wow! For a society that has integrated paper conservation practices so readily into mainstream society, perhaps there’s more work to be done. We step inside the stall and seem to forget the environmental implications of whatever happens there.

So many other countries are way ahead of us. Almost everywhere outside of the United States, Australia, and Canada, bidets are far more common than toilet paper. Of course, using water instead of paper is a point of debate since, as the stickers in the dorm showers always remind me, potable water (also used for toilets and the like) is so scarce. However, bidets actually conserve water when compared to toilet paper. Since the creation of toilet paper is such a water-intensive process, the life cycle analyses (thank you ISEN 210) of both products show that bidets use less water overall than toilet paper.

Another alternative? Recycled toilet paper! Though perhaps this isn’t as environmental as using a bidet, it would be an easier transition for most Americans. This too has its issues, but overall, it’s a worthwhile investment.

So the next time nature calls, think about the paper you’re using. The less, the better!