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Why Sign Up for No Impact Week?

A veteran reflects on how the one-week carbon cleanse taught him to be happier—and how it could teach you, too.
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People in field photo by Dave King

Photo by Dave King

I first heard about the No Impact Experiment a year ago: a one-week carbon cleanse that challenges participants to examine and reduce their impact on the planet. It was initiated by Colin Beavan, who created No Impact Man, a film documenting his family’s attempt at going zero-waste and carbon neutral over the course of a year in New York City.  Inspired by Colin’s courage, and curious about what I would discover for my own life if I did the same for a week, I joined hundreds of other people around the world and signed up.

I considered myself to be fairly informed and environmentally friendly, so I thought this one-week carbon cleanse would be somewhat unsurprising. After all, I already recycled, composted, and purchased local organic food whenever I could. 

Colin Beavan family photoNo Impact Week:
You can register for the next No Impact Experiment, kicking off January 2nd with YES!
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I began the week by examining my personal consumption, and as the days progressed I moved on to my generation of waste, use of water and energy, and more. I met the daily challenges as best I could, and found that it was quite easy to make small adjustments in my routine that resulted in a big decrease in my carbon footprint. Encouraged to take alternative transportation by the experiment, I discovered that biking and busing around the city were not as difficult as I had assumed. I actually ended up finding a route to my gym by bike that was faster than driving!

I considered the week a success in terms of reducing my carbon footprint, but the most profound and powerful change came from the community contribution focus on Saturday, and the “eco-sabbath” on Sunday.

Saturday was about giving back and volunteering in the community. Reflecting on this day, I realized how distant and separated from my community I had become-—a realization that made me take steps to connect with my neighbors and find time to volunteer at local rallies and events.

Sunday’s eco-sabbath was all about switching off—getting away from e-mail and phones, and outside into nature. It gave me a much-needed break from the stress and distraction of the city and my computer. I was able to recharge and reflect on what was actually important in my life. Contemplating—and being in—nature, even for a day, helped me meditate on my life and recapture a sense of perspective that I had somehow lost in the noise of everyday life.

Colin Beavan, photo by Paul Dunn
Christmas Without Presents?

"No Impact Man" Colin Beavan suspected the holidays would be just as merry without all the stuff.

Now, a year later, I can see how the No Impact Experiment changed my life. Low-impact Transportation Tuesday inspired me to sell my car and take up public transit and biking. Not buying anything but food for a week made me realize how much money I could save by refraining from the superficial week-to-week purchases we often indulge in to make ourselves feel better. It freed me to focus on real things that actually do make me feel better. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it.

Reflecting on the past year and the improvements that this experiment has brought to my life, I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.  

 


Aran Seaman mugAran Seaman wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.  Aran is a partner at eartheasy.com, a family business providing guides, articles and products for sustainable living. When he is not helping people find ways to lower their environmental impact, he can be found seeking adventure on the water and in the mountains of British Columbia.

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