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Jump In Together: An Invitation to No Impact Week

Sometimes the hardest part of changing our lives and world is believing that it’s possible. Colin Beavan on finding a place to start.

Colin Beavan sitting on dumpster

There was a period, right around the time we discovered that American soldiers had been torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib, when I felt paralyzed with fear and anger.

If you're concerned about the world, there's nothing worse than that feeling of powerlessness: the idea that we are all victims of outside circumstances; that catastrophe might occur at any moment; that the world is capricious. I don’t want to live in that world.

I want to live in world that I can do something about. And here’s what I think: If I believe I can help, then I can. If I believe that I can’t help, then I can’t. Because if I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change things, I won’t even try. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But I choose to believe that I—and you—can and do make a difference, then we will.

Daughter running photo by Kathy Kottaras
Kathy Blogs on No Impact Week
See what it taught her about treasuring the planet
her daughter will inherit.

The hard thing is, some of us don’t know where to start. That’s where No Impact Week—a one-week carbon cleanse to help you unplug, reconnect, and do your part to save the planet—comes in. By participating, you will join together with thousands of others who are looking for ways to clean up the earth, and make it a happier, healthier, and more nourishing place to be.

Each day, you will be challenged with lowering your environmental impact in new ways, like finding creative means of getting around, trying new, local foods, and questioning frivolous consumption. At the end, you'll be asked to volunteer for a day, working to improve the environment and your community.

Some will ask, how does my participating in something so individual really make a difference? Can individuals acting in this way really cause change?

I think so. Because all societal change is just the aggregate of lots of individual changes. And if you manage to draft a few friends to do No Impact Week with you, you expand your sphere of influence.

The Tom Sawyer Effect
We all like to be part of things. Remember how Tom Sawyer got his friends to take over painting Aunt Polly’s fence, just by making it look fascinating?

Laura, a friend who is an activist in the anti-fracking movement told me, “I got involved just because I liked the people I met.”

Others might join you in your activist endeavors—including No Impact Week—whether they care about the issues you care about or not. It’s you who makes it enticing, interesting, and fun, through your enthusiasm, determination, and simple willingness to try something new. Your adventuresome spirit becomes infectious—and once they join in, they’ll start to care.

All of a sudden, your small part involves a whole group of people. If you can get your group to do its small part, then other small groups will join in. Magic.

Offering People a Way to Help
It’s a fact of human psychology that we deny or at least don’t think about problems we believe we can’t do anything about. Think old age, death, and climate change.

But once you show people they can make a difference, they'll look at the problem in whole different way.

“I was so tired of seeing nothing get done at the regulatory level, that seeing some friends composting for the first time just gave me hope,” said one past No Impact Week participant.

Change Radiates Out From You
When you really take responsibility for the things within your sphere of influence, it starts to grow. Look at the stories we’ve just discussed: In each one, we see that when someone does their own small part, people notice and join in.

Then, all of a sudden, your small part involves a whole group of people. If you can get your group to do its small part, then other small groups will join in. Magic.

What Do you Want? No Impact Week
Register today—on your own or
as a team
—to participate in No Impact Week, September 18-25.

The world needs us to be self-reliant so we can heal it, to look inward and find our own wisdom—not to walk in lock-step with all the stories about what we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to act. The future is calling upon us to see problems in front of us, and decide for ourselves to fix them.

But there’s more to it.

It’s not enough to think that we use less electricity, that we don’t drive too much, and so we’ve done enough. We must come together in community, doing together what none of us can accomplish alone.

So get your friends, your kids, your church, your neighbors, your coworkers, your yoga class, your fantasy baseball league, your book club—and join us for No Impact Week. In just eight days, we’ll all learn something new about how we relate to our families or tread on the earth or spend money we don’t need to—and we’ll do it together.


Colin BeavanColin Beavan wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Colin is founder of the No Impact Project, inspired by his successful film and book, No Impact Man.

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