The impact of "No Impact Week"

What if you had to walk up 24 flights of stairs to avoid consuming electricity in an elevator? What if for one whole year you had no soda cans, no water in plastic bottles, no new products, no airplanes, no subways, no cars and no television? Well, you would definitely have a smaller carbon footprint and less of a harmful effect on the environment.

But not all of us can live like Colin Beavan.

In November 2006, Beavan launched a year-long project in which he, his wife, his two-year-old daughter and his four-year-old dog went “off the grid” and tried to live in New York City with as little environmental impact as possible.

In September 2009, the movie “No Impact Man” based off this project was released. On Wednesday, April 21, 2010 this movie was screened at Chapman University as a part of our own “No Impact Week.”

“We didn’t do it consciously, but if there was one main message of the week it was just centered around no impact,” said Justin Koppelman, program coordinator for the department of student and campus life. “We looked at what our impact on the environment could be, compared to what it is now.”

If you were anywhere around campus from Monday, April 19 to Friday, April 23 it was impossible to miss the trappings of an environmentally conscious effort known as “No Impact Week.” The festivities were put on by the Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI), a program coordinated through the department of student and campus life. The project was meant to encourage students to commit to a “one-week carbon cleansing experiment” led by the “No Impact Project” of Beavan and others.

The SSI flyer boasted that “this is a chance to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life.” That was if Chapman students wanted to log on to noimpactproject.org and commit to a week-long effort of living sustainably. If students did not participate in this aspect of the week however, there were many more activities to still feel involved with.

Every day of the week had a mini workshop in either the Attallah Piazza or Argyros Forum Walkway put on by SSI leaders. Aside from that, every day had a theme and activity to go with it. On Monday, there was a recycling runway show to highlight that “just like fashion, recycling is cool,” according to the SSI flyer. On Tuesday, there was a farmers market and a sustainable meal. On Wednesday, there was a screening of “Chill Out”, an Associated Students Town Hall meeting and a screening of “No Impact Man.” For Thursday, there was a bike ride to the Orange Famers Market. And finally, the week concluded with an SSI pool party on Friday.

“I think the week was successful,” said Koppelman. “Some mini workshops had a lot of attendance. It was a great opportunity to educate some people on organic food. We got positive feedback, and most people said it was better than good.”

One student at the mini-workshop commented on Koppelman’s ideas.

“No Impact Week is a good idea, but impractical in our society today,” said sophomore participant Ben Levitt. “The idea is very good and if people make less of an impact because of No Impact Week, then the week was a success. People should try and limit their waste to help save our planet.”

These same ideals were used to form the basis of the SSI group in the summer of 2009. However, the group finally became active with recruitment training last fall. Koppelman explained that there had been a few environmental student organizations that had come and gone over the years but there wasn’t a consistent place for students to engage in an environmental group. After graduating from Chapman in 2004, Koppelman returned to work full-time in December of 2005 in the department of student and campus life.

“I saw an interest for a peer-educated environmental group that could involve multiple students and could work on an institutional level,” Koppelman expressed.

It is no mystery that the current environmental state is only growing worse at alarming rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population reached over six billion by 2000, and will exceed nine billion by 2050. This means that if the world’s natural resources were distributed evenly, people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had (according to the “Go Green Initiative”). The world has a fixed number of natural resources and they are depleting faster than they are becoming available. Some of the biggest threats we have to these natural resources come from the things people throw away. The average American creates 1600 pounds of trash per year, according to Beavan.

Household batteries and electronics may contain dangerous chemicals that, if thrown away and sent to a landfill, could leak through the bottom barrier and contaminate groundwater. Also, throwing away items that could be recycled diminishes energy, water and natural resources that could be saved.

“I know that every person has a huge impact on earth, but not everyone takes charge or makes a change,” said sophomore SSI leader Brittany Allen. “I hope my actions are influencing others around me to make changes in their daily routines because not one single person can make a big enough change.”

Beavan has a mission that he hopes to pass on to others in order to actually make a change for the world. He wants to decrease the things he does to hurt the earth, such as making trash and causing carbon emissions, and increase the things he does to help the earth, like cleaning up the banks of the Hudson River, giving money to charities and helping rescue sea birds. With these goals, he discovered that he could accomplish more than simply decreasing his environmental impact. Beavan discovered that when people change their lives, they can change the world.

What if you could lose 20 pounds without going to the gym once? What if you could become a better person by not consuming your life with television? What if you could only eat locally and seasonally and live an all-around healthier life? What if we could end our environmental crisis, make a better place to live for ourselves and everyone else, and also come up with a happier way of life along the way?



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