In November of 2006, self described “guilty liberal,” Colin Beavan, snapped and decided to swear off plastic, go organic, become a bicycle nut, compost, turn off his power and “generally become a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride.”
Attempting to live with as little environmental impact as possible in the middle of New York City, his year-long journey earned him the name “No Impact Man,” and spawned a blog, book, film and, most recently, the founding of the No Impact Project, an international environmental nonprofit.
The No Impact Project has led to an experiment calling for interested individuals to partake in a mini version of Beavan’s journey: a week long carbon cleanse. Hosted by the Sierra Club August 29 through September 4, The No Impact Experiment challenges individuals to partake in daily activities that contribute to a low impact lifestyle.
From a trash audit to a “foodprint” calculation, the daily challenges help catalog the impact of simple activities like washing dishes and shopping for food. It provides a solution to cutting those impacts dramatically.
“Environmentally-conscious packaging? Think ice cream cone,” writes Beavan in the March 12, 2009 issue of his blog. “It contains the ice cream. It biodegrades. It provides calories. In other words, it has value all by itself. It is not wasted resources. If we must have packaging, why can’t all of it be designed in such a way? In other words, let’s make sure the resources we use deliver value instead of just being something we throw away.”
If Beavan and his described “caffeine loving retail-obsessed television-addicted” wife, along with their baby daughter and four-year-old dog, can make the lifestyle change for one year, the project hopes one week is an achievable goal for participants, especially with an experiment guide to walk you through it step-by-step, easing some of the initial shock.
The final day of the No Impact Experiment is Eco-Sabbath Day. “For one day or afternoon or even one hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone, and, in general, don’t use any resources,” writes Beaven. “In other words, for this regular period, give yourself and the planet a break. Keep your regular Eco-Sabbath for a month. You’ll find that the enforced downtime represents an improvement to your life.”