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A New Year's Resolution for the Whole Planet

More than two thousand of you have already signed up for No Impact Week, Colin Beavan's national one-week carbon cleanse with YES! Here's what to expect during the next 8 days.
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Child in Field photo by Boydy Junior

Photo by Boydy Junior

Hundreds of YES! readers all around the country are getting ready to kick off their New Year's resolutions tomorrow with the much-anticipated launch of No Impact Week. It's not too late to register for this one-week carbon cleanse that has already helped more than 15,000 people, over one and a half years, to lead happier, healthier, and more responsible lives. 

You can take on the project any time throughout the year, but participating this week will connect you with hundreds of others sharing tips, reflections, surprises, and frustrations in our Facebook and Twitter communities. Some reader experiences will be published on our website—click here for resources, stories, and information on how to submit your own blog posts, videos, and photographs with a chance to be published and win a free subscription to YES! Magazine.

Here's what to expect from the week:

Sunday Consumption

1.  This first challenge is about doing more with less. People around the world are discovering that they'd rather spend time making social connections than buying new stuff. To learn why this is such an important part of living a lower impact life, watch one of our favorite videos, The Story of Stuff. The No Impact Experiment is a truncated version of Colin Beavan’s experience trying to live in New York City with no environmental impact. Three months into Colin’s year-long experiment, he stopped consuming new goods (except food). As his wife Michelle discovered, when you kick your shopping habit, you’ll save money, have more time to spend with your family and friends, discover more space in your house, and maybe — just maybe — you’ll discover that less really IS more.

Monday Trash

2. When Colin began his experiment he stockpiled his family’s trash for a week to figure out what disposable items they could stop consuming and throwing away without sacrificing their happiness or comfort. After giving up all disposable products, their level of happiness and satisfaction actually
increased. Intrigued?

Tuesday Transportation

3. Think fewer emissions and more fun, free time, and money. Let’s hop to it and start brainstorming how you can change your mode of transportation to have the least impact possible. And remember — you're still attempting to buy nothing new and make no trash.

Two months into his No Impact year, Colin and his family began phasing out all forms of mechanized travel — no planes, subways, taxis, cars, not even elevators. They biked, walked, and scooted, and not only did better by the Earth, but discovered that “active transportation” is less stressful (no traffic jams!), cheaper, burns tons of calories, and is plain old FUN. Using active transportation lowers your stress — plus, you get to spend more time with your family. Now, who wants to honk at that?

Wednesday Food

4. You probably will be if you haven’t planned for this day in advance. We won’t kid you, today is a toughie. You’ve tackled trash and transportation, no small feats. Now it’s time to focus your efforts on food.

The good news is that eaters the world over are reinventing themselves as locavores, vegetarians, organic foodies and gardeners — and feeling better for it. During their No Impact Year, the Beavan family examined and altered what they ate and found new, carbon-friendly ways to nourish themselves. They ate locally and seasonally. Packaged and processed food disappeared from their grocery list. The Beavans soon discovered that these changes not only lessened their environmental impact, but also enabled them to lose weight and improve their health. Best of all, they got to spend more time with friends and family at vibrant farmers’ markets and while making and sharing meals. What will you discover?

Thursday Energy

5. You've reached the fifth day of your No Impact Experiment, and you have made incredible changes: you are making less trash, getting around on your own steam, eating better, and cutting back on your consumption. If life without electricity sounds daunting, well, it can be. The laundry machine was one of the things Colin and Michelle missed the most during their No Impact year. But they also found their apartment was cluttered with electricity-sucking devices they didn't miss at all. Without TV, they had to rely on each other for entertainment.

The family forged deeper relationships and had more meaningful conversations. They slept better following the natural rise and fall of the sun, and without refrigeration, they perfected a healthful culinary technique of preserving vegetables. Over the next four days, how far can you go to reduce your energy consumption?

Friday Water

6. Having looked at your trash, transportation, food, consumption, and energy habits, there’s one major daily lifestyle change left to tackle — water. A whopping 71% of Americans are trying to reduce their footprint. Of those 71%, 60% are reducing their water consumption, and saving a lot of money on their water and electric bill. In this economy, every flush counts! Turn off the tap. Believe us, you'll feel better about yourself.

Saturday Giving Back

7. By now, you’ve probably slaughtered some of your carbon footprint — trading in some gas guzzling for sweat equity, phasing out prepackaged processed food for delicious local dishes, shopping less and saving more, turning down the lights, and quenching your thirst with tap water while lightening your planetary load. Pat yourself on the back for coming this far and do a little dance: it’s time to share some of your exuberance with others!

By giving back, you slow down and appreciate what you have. The conversation and community that you will experience will give you that all-important, essential nutrient: happiness. Challenge yourself today to be charitable, to act in good faith, to become one with others. Ultimately, you will not only be giving back — you’ll be getting back.

Sunday eco sabbath

8. You’ve behaved more eco-consciously about your energy usage, water usage, and food habits.
You have contributed your time to a good cause. You have truly embarked on a special journey!

Today, Sunday, is about awareness and taking some time back for yourself. This is a chance to lay off the lights, televisions, computers, appliances, cell phones, flashing gadgets, and other stuff that seems to make the world go round. It’s a special time to hang out (or in) by yourself or with friends and family.

It is a time to reflect on the well-being of yourself and the planet. This first Eco-Sabbath you may wish to reflect on your No Impact week. Consider what worked well for you, what was particularly difficult, and what you’d like to permanently adopt. Consider how you can go even further. Think about how your week affected others in your life and what adjustments, if any, are in order. This is a time to discover and appreciate the bare necessities.

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