Colin (noimpactman.com) posted about Footprint Forward Week at NYU on his blog today, and he has gotten some fascinating responses, the majority of which are positive. Most of the comments have been about how great it is that people are willing to take the ‘baby-steps’ necessary to make an impact.
This has got me thinking. I have been working on planning this week for a while, and now that the week is upon us, I have been struggling with measuring success. Since I have never done a program like this, and to my knowledge programs that challenge and inspire students to go no-impact are not particularly popular college events at other places, it has been hard for me to step back and see how well the week is going.
So I have thought about this for a few days now. I have mulled it over while sipping from my travel mug or my re-used glass water bottle. I have considered it while at lectures and workshops, while dumpster diving and while climbing the steps to my ninth floor classroom. And, I think success is measured by how much I have thought about it.
I consider Footprint Forward a success because I have been carefully considering each one my actions in a new way. It is a success because a new community of students all considering their actions has been formed. It is a success because people are talking about it, discussing it, debating it, worrying about it, excited about it.
My conclusion (though the week is not over) is that this is NOT a week of no impact. This, I think, may be what it feels like to have a personal impact.
Impactfully and intentionally yours,
Alex Steffen from Worldchanging wrote yesterday about an interesting site from Patagonia called “The Footprint Chronicles” that traces back the manufacturing process and environmental impact of five of their products.
It’s an encouraging example of corporate transparency (Patagonia has long been at the forefront of sustainable business), and an instructive look at just how many different communities are affected by a single piece of apparel destined for the overdeveloped world. I encourage you to check it out.
The zero-impact party tonight was great (electrifying? stimulating? what other ridiculous puns can we come up with?)–what an inspiration to actually talk to people face-to-face and hear about everyone’s experiences!
Can’t wait ’til next time,
Check out this post, if you haven’t already–it counteracts a lot of the negativity I just spent so many words describing. Way to go No Impact Man!
We haven’t been introduced. I’m Olga. I signed up to be no-impact this week. And I’m failing miserably.
Let me back up a little bit. The beginning of the week, for me, was Colin Beavan’s talk last Sunday afternoon. I don’t really know what I was expecting, and I don’t really know what I was thinking signing up for such a commitment and then thinking it would just happen all on its own.
The disappointing–kind of shocking–part was that it didn’t. Hasn’t. Colin’s talk, which I guess I just expected to be inspiring and empowering by default, wasn’t, to me. We covered so many issues–the soon-to-be-depleted oceans, the landfills that don’t allow biodegradable waste to biodegrade, the deplorable statistics of food waste, the disastrous effects of methane, the unavoidable damage to the environment even when purchasing wind power…you can see it was a little overwhelming. When faced with such a barrage of crises, all happening simultaneously, globally, and apparently inevitably, what can one person’s actions possibly do?
Of course, this is a topic that Colin addressed as well: changing individual habits was one of the three steps that he talked about, along with changing political and economic actions (right? I might be mixing stuff up here). Nonetheless, I left the meeting depressed, stressed out, and feeling completely helpless in the face of the world’s impending ecological breakdown.
Before I move on to greener pastures (yes, pun intended, and I’m sorry), there’s another thing I want to mention, and it’s maybe a catalyst, maybe a hindrance to “going green”: guilt. As Colin mentioned, it is an indication that we already know we’re doing something we shouldn’t be when we feel guilty about the disposable coffee cups, the unrecycled soda bottle, the television and computer and air conditioner all on at once. Over the past few days, this guilt has made it difficult for me to focus on what’s important–lowering my impact–by barging in on every thought even remotely related to the environment and my part in it. Instead of addressing the issue straight-on, it’s easier to shove it to the edge of my conscience until I’m better equipped to deal with it.
But–and here’s the immediate, important, difficult issue–when will that be? Will I (we) ever be fully ready to take responsibility for our environmental impact? And not just mental responsibility–acknowledging the extent of the problem–but actual, active responsibility? I don’t think that can happen through thinking. The bottom line (and this is for my own benefit as much as anyone’s) is that action is necessary. Talking about it is the icing.
So this week so far, for me, has been baby steps (like, infant). I brought my own coffee cup with me this morning. I took the stairs. I turned off our air conditioner (in winter, I know–because the building keeps the temperature so high that it’s stifling in our room) and opened a window. It’s nothing monumental (see: Adam’s trash logging, for example). I still feel guilty. I’m still making an impact. I don’t even really know how hard I’m trying–whether my guilt-induced impact reduction has been intentional or simply incidental. But I can tell you now that I want to be better at this, and it’s obviously not happening on its own.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll be back–you guys are inspiring.
Olga (firstname.lastname@example.org or olgakny.blogspot.com)
I’ve been doing a LOT of exploring in the city, and I thought I would share that many health food, organic, and Amish stores in all the boroughs sell locally grown produce and meats (meats have been tough for me because it’s kind of tough to find truly “local” organic meats, but I’ve had a lot of luck finding NY state organic meats). So far the best neighborhood for local foods has been TriBeCa, where I got Jersey corn for very cheap, a heck of a lot of apples from local farms, and organic chicken from NY at the Amish Market and other organic stores (my total? $3.89 – it’s true!).
The heat has been off for two weeks now, so it’s blanket heaven in my room, and awfully cozy.
I do have a question for anyone out there who may be better schooled in CFLs than I am – I was using CFLs in my room (fairly high quality ones), but the light is so blue and dim compared to a halogen I normally use that it was making me feel depressed. Anyone else having this problem? Is there a solution?
One more little problem I’ve noticed regarding personal mugs: At Starbucks, if you give them your mug with the lid, they put the lid in an unused cup so it doesn’t sit on the counter, and then they just chuck the cup! So make sure you hand them the mug without the lid on or else specify NOT to do that.
Here are the contents of my portable trashbag so far:
- plastic wrapper for organic Udon noodles
- Cardboard coffee sleeve (the woman at Think Coffee put it on my glass bottle before I had the chance to turn it down)
- Plastic egg carton
- Plastic wrapper for Trader Joe’s organic pepper jack cheese
- Tom’s of Maine toothpaste tube (does anybody know if you can recycle these?)
- Band-aid wrapper
- Four tea bag wrappers (from the batch of Kombucha I brewed Monday)
- ATM receipt dated 12/16/06 (??)
- Plastic yogurt container
- Muffin wrapper (these last two are from things I got at last night’s trash tour. I’m not sure if I need to be carrying them around since, technically, I rescued the items they packaged from the trash. But I am anyways.)
- Scrap from the top of a mailing envelope (now that I think of it, this could go in the recycling)
- Ziploc bag with 2 apple cores, clementine peel, and a pear core (for the worms)
That’s it so far. As you can tell, it’s mostly plastic packaging and therefore pretty light.