Before we go on, I have to be honest with you: I'm breaking the rules. No Impact Week started yesterday, but I didn't step outside for so much as a brisk walk around the block. Then today I dropped off some books at the library and came right back home afterwards (round trip on foot: ten minutes). As for the forecast for the remaining five days of the experiment? It's not looking so good. You see, I'm worried that I don't fit the target audience, since I'm not commuting to work everyday and therefore automatically avoiding things like shopping, cafeteria food, paper coffee cups, overheated office buildings, and public toilets that use 13 litres per flush. Not to brag, but I live a pretty eco-friendly life already, and many of the tips in the official No Impact Week How-To Guide were checked off my to-do list years ago.
So here's what I propose: I'll challenge myself twice! Once, this week, more in spirit than in practice. I'll highlight some of the ways I am already reducing my footprint and discover new strategies for waste reduction, pollution prevention, and water and energy conservation. Then, later this year a second time, I'll try the project again at a time when I feel it will really hit home. Perhaps I'll choose a week when I am commuting to work every day, engaged in social activities on multiple evenings, and out running errands and hosting dinner parties on the weekend. Then I can really put my new footprint-reducing strategies to the test!
Day 1: Consumption
How can we do more with less? Do we really need all this stuff? What happens to the connections we have with each other when we spend so much time shopping?
The main step outlined by the How-To Guide involves choosing not to buy anything you can live without for the week and finding alternatives for all the other stuff. This is particularly relevant around the holidays! This year I received some great gifts that fit this category well, including second-hand books and home-baked cookies. I, too, was able to avoid the mall and hand-make some gifts instead of buying them. For some of my friends, the gift exchange was replaced by a celebratory dinner - a much more memorable experience than unwrapping a present. In favour of reusable gift bags I save up, no single-use wrapping paper was bought, and I was happy to ignore all of the ads promoting whichever colours were "in" for decorating new year's celebrations. I even squeezed in a trip downtown to drop off a stack of used paper so that a non-profit organization I support could avoid buying new printer paper!
What did I do with the time and money I saved by avoiding unnecessary purchases? Besides savouring many cups of tea while reading books, I spent a lot of time with loved ones! Not having to make long trips to the mall freed up my schedule to an incredible degree. My online calendar shows four relaxing tea dates with friends, an interview for a great volunteer position with YUF CSA (which I got), one housewarming party, and five meals (one breakfast, one lunch, and three dinners) in addition to the ones with family... all within a span of two weeks! Incredible!
Before this post gets too long, I'd like to come up with a few strategies to keep this un-consumptive lifestyle going in the new year:
- clothing - I can really get by with less if I pay more attention to what I buy, and it can all be second-hand if I look hard enough! Maybe I'll try organizing a clothing swap with my friends.
- household items - I have no difficulty buying used furniture but need to put more effort into sourcing smaller goods from better places, like the dust pan and bread basket I've been wanting for months!
- personal care products - I've made some headway in terms of avoiding nasty chemicals in my soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and moisturizer, but haven't found a way around buying new containers over and over; will this be the year I start making my own products?
Photo credits: store lineup and book with tea.