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Bruce Blogs on No Impact Week

Bruce is a Chinese student navigating life in the West, seeing what he can learn about lower impact living from two very different cultures.
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So far this week:

Bruce DingBruce Ding

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

I am a student at University of Edinburgh, originally from China. During the week, I'm hoping to try a new way of exploring this historical and beautiful city of Edinburgh. Follow me to see how my second No Impact Week goes in a different culture—Scotland.  

But before I start, you might be wondering the reason I joined the community. Well, this is actually one of the top three questions I got from my friends when I told them about my then upcoming experiment (right behind "What is it?" and "Really?") To be totally honest, I still don’t know what a proper answer would be. But I think this could be a good place to start my week—by asking myself why I should do it. 

I should do it because if I don’t, then nobody will. No Impact Week is a collection of individual actions, which means that everybody counts. I, as many others who volunteer in this project, am indispensable for making a better planet. Therefore I should take the responsibility.

I should also do it because if I don’t, I might never get a second chance. We are facing more environmental challenges than ever before, and the problems are not getting better if we don’t take actions right now. No Impact Week is offering a chance for me and everyone to have a totally pain-free experience, and it feels so great to have a community that I can grow with to discover a healthier lifestyle.

Sunday Consumption

 

Live a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff.

I think, for most people (myself included), over-consumption is a simple consequence of absent-mindedness rather than a staple product of unfulfilled need.

Last week was my first week in Edinburgh, so the expectation was that I had nothing in hand so I need to buy everything. 

I did need some necessities to settle in the city. However when I looked at my receipts, I found that most of the things I bought were either food or water. 

It's ironic since I am living in a self-catered flat, yet I only cooked once since I moved in. I was just buying too much food without noticing it. 

Waste photo by Bruce Ding

What could be the possible explanation of my behavior, I asked myself. I think, most of the time and for most people (myself included), over-consumption is a simple consequence of absent-mindedness rather than a staple product of unfulfilled need. We are enjoying the biggest material comforts ever, but we are, in one way or another, abusing our convenience. 

As a consumer, the default state of my mind is to buy pre-cooked food when I was hungry, and that’s probably why I ended up eating not-so-fancy food and spending quite a lot money. I couldn't even recall what I ate. 

In order to cut down my unnecessary food consumption, I decided to cook more by myself this week and try not to eat at restaurants. I will do my best not to waste any food while cooking and share my food with my friends. 

At the end of the day today, I decided to treat myself to a nice salad made of my leftovers, including two mooncakes I brought from China and some vegetables I left yesterday. It’s a very simple salad. And you know what? It did taste great. All you need to do is to chop the mooncakes, carrots, pickles, and vegetables into small pieces, and season them with vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, and a little basil leaves. Bon appétit, enjoy the day!

  More stories from No Impact Sunday: Consumption

 

Tuesday Transportation

Burn calories, not fossil fuels.

Edinburgh photo by Bruce Ding

It’s time to decide how I am going to commute in Edinburgh. Since I don’t have a car and I am not planning to have one, my options have been narrowed down to three: bus, bike, or walk, which, according to No Impact standard, are all quite sustainable.

My experiment started on the bus. I tried to take a bus to my flat today, but somehow it managed to baffle me. First, since there isn’t any detailed route plan at the stops, I wasn’t able to find the bus I needed to take. Second, even when I finally got on the bus, I couldn’t really tell where I should get off as the calling speakers on the buses are just too light.

It’s like the only way I can get to where I am going is to know the place in advance. Besides, the ticket is in fact not cheap at all—it costs me 1.30 pounds for a one-way ticket and 3.20 for a day pass. I think if I am going to take the bus, I will always need to buy the day pass since I will definitely need more than one transfer to find my way around.

It made me start to miss my adventurous bus journeys in Beijing, where each bus has a stop-by-stop map and a clear and loud radio. As a public service, the bus is much more accessible in Beijing, and it's normally very cheap if you get the bus card. I used to explore the city by bus all the time as it can take me to every single corner of the city and there is no need to carry change at all.

However, everything has two sides. The bus systems in Beijing are so crowded that you cannot even breathe properly during rush hour, while here in Edinburgh you can easily find a seat anytime. Not to mention the fact that I haven’t seen one single traffic jam since I moved here, which is impossible in Beijing.

Then how about the bike? I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people who ride in Edinburgh either for commuting or fun. But to me, it seems a little geographically undesirable since it’s very hilly here. But speaking of bikes, what I really admire is the custom Scotland developed that people will donate their used bikes to charity shops when they don’t need them anymore, and these shops will refurnish and resell them at a relatively lower price. In this manner, they made bikes more affordable and fewer bikes will be wasted.

Edinburgh bus photo by Bruce Ding

But more often than not, people walk. It’s like the most popular way of getting somewhere in Edinburgh. From Princes Street to King’s Building, there are people walking every day. And since the city is not actually big and it is indeed beautiful, walking can really be an enjoyable experience.

Personally, it will take me 15-20 minutes to walk from my flat to George Square, the main teaching area. And I reckon that it will just grant me the perfect time to clear my mind for the coming day.

And when I walk with my friends, it could be even better—we will become the modern Peripatetics in Edinburgh!

So how do you say? Fancy a walk?

More stories from No Impact Tuesday: Transportation

 

Thursday Energy

 

 


Replace kilowatts with ingenuity.

A day without energy is a scary idea in every single aspect. After all, how could we even do that in a society which is basically based on energy? We need gas to cook, we need electricity to illuminate, and we need fuel to heat, etc. I would contend that a zero-energy society is impossible; but a low-energy society should be applauded.

And that’s exactly what I was going to do today. During the day, I would try my best to use less energy and find out the alternatives.

I made a list of things I would do:

1. Go to library and read a book.
As a student, reading is part of my life, but gradually it became something without any surprise—I just follow the reading list. Even though in many cases I still enjoy what I read, I do miss the serendipity I used to experience when I roamed around the library. So today I gave myself a little treat in library to enjoy the unexpected happiness that ran into me. 

2. Have a DMC
How long has it been since your last DMC: deep and meaningful chat? Long enough to forget? Well, try to bring them back. It’s not that we have to be serious or anything. Personally I take DMC as a way to exchange new ideas and get support from my friends both intellectually and emotionally. Besides it’s also a good chance to defeat fast-food culture, which encourages me to slow down and, to paraphrase Socrates, have an “examined” life.

3. Shower in Darkness.
I think one of the “byproducts” of No Impact Week is that we are becoming more aware. No Impact Week is about not only cutting our carbon emission but also reconsidering the way we feel, think, and live. Normally we are visual animals, which means that we sense the world by seeing. In the dark shower, everything became harder—I could’t even find my shampoo. But it’s a good start to feel instead of just seeing.

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