So starts the No Carbon Week guide – our guideline to navigate through a week of becoming more aware and living this awareness together with people from across the planet.
The Green Times office is joining this united world-wide experimental effort, which starts this Sunday, 18 April. 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. This experience was turned into a film called No Impact Man. The focus of this program is ‘to help you live a happier life that will result in a happier earth.’
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 their favorite videos, The Story of Stuff. I enjoyed their direct, yet witty style and illustrations.
We have long talked about the dysfunctional linear economy destroying our planet: Stuff (read precious resources) is extracted, then transported to production, then transported for distribution, a couple of times, often, then for consumption, a once-off utilization, and then transported one more time to disposal. An effective carbon dioxide machine that runs 24-7, effectively thickening the blanket which keeps the heat trapped and climates going out of whack.
‘If you think you know, you’re in trouble,’ someone said. There’s always more to learn to truly understand and accept that our material economy is a system in crisis. You might think you’re pretty awake, but we can always wake up more. Leaving behind the cushy space of our semi-somnumbulist auto-pilot existence is an ongoing process and I regard this coming week as another initiation into living in a more wakeful state.
There are facts that can really provide the dash of cold water we still need, like:
- ‘In the past 3 decades alone, one third of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed – gone
- ‘75% of the global fisheries are now fished at or beyond capacity’
- ‘In the Amazon we’re losing 2000 trees a minute – that’s 7 football fields a minute.’
Daily personal trainer
One is not left to figure this out yourself – help is at hand every day. You have your own personal trainer for a week:
‘You will stop consuming new goods on a Sunday, then on Monday you will stop making trash, and on Tuesday you will switch to non-carbon producing transport, etc. Each day builds on the day before, so by Friday you are not shopping for new goods, not making trash, only traveling by sustainable transportation, eating locally, using less energy, and wasting less water.’
The Experiment is about impacting yourself, your community, and your country. In addition to changing your habits this week, you are asked to volunteer at least once for a local environmental organization and get involved in at least one national advocacy campaign. As you progress from day to day, you find tools to connect you with other participants and help you stay motivated.
‘Ninety-nine percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process and transport is trashed within six months,’ says author Annie Leonard. In her new book The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing The Planet, Our Communities, And Our Health, she connects the stuff you consume with everything and everyone that made it and will be stuck with it when you’re done.
She writes that the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but are consuming 30% of the world’s resources and creating 30% of the world’s waste.
‘If everybody consumed at U.S. rates, we would need 3 to 5 planets. But we only have one. So, my country’s response to this limitation is simply to go take someone else’s! This is the Third World, which – some would say – is another word for our stuff that somehow got on someone else’s land.’
This hits home! We don’t have to wonder what that does to the Third World – we live close by and we’ve read about the suffering in Africa.
There will be screenings of No Impact Man in over 150 towns across the U.S this week. Conin Beavan (aka No Impact Man), director of the No Impact Project, will be hosting an in-person No Impact Week in NYC, which includes daily workshops throughout the week and a special potluck with Julia Butterfly Hill on April 25th. Why don’t you join us and share your learnings with us? Go here to register and write to us about your experience.