How No Impact Week turned into Impact Week by Gia Machlin, October 23 2009, 1 Comment

If you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I'm all about helping people become aware of the impact they are making on the environment and helping them to reduce that impact. So I try to live the whole "No Impact Project" lifestyle every day. OK, who am I kidding? Let's call it the "reduced impact" lifestyle - that's more like it. But, just for the goof, I joined the Huffington Post's No Impact Week Experiment. This Experiment is based on the movie/book/blog by Colin Beavan that chronicles his family’s year-long experiment. They lived a ZERO-WASTE lifestyle in which they:

1) Produced no trash
2) Unplugged from the electrical grid
3) Traveled exclusively by foot or bike
4) Bought nothing (except for food)
5) Only bought food that was locally grown (within 250 miles)

Apparently they came out of this much "healthier, happier and richer in ways they never expected."

Alrighty! I haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, so it would not be fair for me to comment on the Beavan family year-long experiment. But since I participated in the one week experiment, I'm totally qualified to talk about that.

So first I filled out a pre no-impact survey - it asked me questions about my happiness levels and my consumption habits. Being the neurotic self-deprecating depressed Woody Allen type that I am, I rated my happiness level as lower than it probably is. Then I tooted my incredible reduction in consumption and waste production.

Sunday was Consumption Day in which participants were asked to refrain from shopping for material goods. Unfortunately I signed up for the experiment Sunday afternoon, and I had already spent the morning doing something I had not done in a very long time - I had gone on a small shopping spree on Broadway and bought a brand new pair of sweat pants and some undergarments from Victoria's Secret. I justified it by telling myself that I really needed the stuff and that I hadn't bought myself anything in a long time and I deserved it - yada yada. So when I filled out that evening's survey, I lied and said that I had not bought anything that day - since it really was technically BEFORE I signed up for the experiment.

OK - so Monday was Trash Day - no problem - reducing trash is probably the area in which I have made the most progress and come closest to having "no impact" as possible (although I shamefully admit I'm still not composting - but plan to VERY soon). But of course THIS Monday, as I ordered my Decaf Grande Americano in a Personal Cup at Starbucks, the barrista pulled one of those let's make it in a paper cup and pour it into your personal cup and throw away the paper cup stunts. Don't get me started. So my impact went up on Monday too.

Tuesday was Transportation Day. I live in New York City and use public transportation ALL THE TIME. Should be easy. Of course I forgot about the field trip to a farm in Queens with my daughter's first grade class on a diesel spewing school bus in the morning, meetings back in the Manhattan all afternoon, and an event at the city's first LEED Platinum certified building - the Queens Botanical Garden - in the evening. By the time 8:30 rolled around and I had to leave the event to get home to my kids who never go to bed cooperatively with a babysitter, let alone a new babysitter - a one hour subway ride to Grand Central, the shuttle to Times Square, and the #1 uptown just didn't seem too appealing. So I took a cab home. At this point I decided to give up the whole no impact experiment. My survey results would either be untruthful or unrepresentative of my "reduced impact" life.

The next No Impact Week Experiment is November 15th. This time I will try to plan a little better. I invite you all to join me and share your experiences. Hopefully my impact will go DOWN this time. Ah, the challenges, I tell you!