By contributor Chantelle Spicer.
The lifestyle decisions we make impact the environment, whether we think about them or not. The manufacture, use, and disposability of everyday products, along with the production and transportation of food, all have consequences on the natural world that many of us never ponder.
Counter-culture movements like the “back-to-the-land” ethic, influenced by the peak oil crisis and books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, raised these concerns on a large scale in the 1960s. The first Earth Day brought these issues, and solutions such as recycling and organic farming practices, to broader society’s attention in the 1970s.
As times have changed, the movement itself has evolved, but has always maintained the key principles of respecting the earth we all come from—share and reduce the use of natural resources—all while reducing our general impact on the environment.
Today, these ideals are backed by science, such as biology and ecology, observing changing patterns and trends within the natural world. There is no doubt the conditions we are experiencing, from wild weather patterns to ocean acidification, are influenced by human practices. The typical passenger vehicle emits 4.7 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, and the number of paper cups used in coffee shops are equivalent to throwing away 20 million trees per year. There are a lot of bleak statistics that seem overwhelming to combat on a global scale. How can we change the lifestyle choices of the planet?
Quite simply, we can’t. However, we have the power to change our own habits and influence the people around us through our personal actions.
VIU’s club, Solutions: A Sustainability Network, along with other interested students, is undertaking the No Impact Challenge to bring awareness to many issues through education and group action, and engaging the student population by finding new ways of living that connect our habits to a more sustainable community. This campaign, running between February 15 and 22, is part of a global campaign to support people in making choices that will reduce the impacts we have on the natural world. The focus is on simple actions, like shopping locally; reducing water and electricity use; taking public transit or biking rather than driving; engaging in community-enhancing activities; and eating organic and/or local, sustainable food.
The No Impact Challenge is open not only to students, but professors and staff as well as members of the general public who are interested in reducing their global impact. Rather than being a strict, follow-the-rules type of event, No Impact Week is an opportunity to think about how small changes can collectively lead to a positive impact on your own life as well as the environment.
The week kicks off on February 15 with a viewing of No Impact Man, a documentary created by challenge founder Colin Beavan, chronicling his family’s experiences living a no impact lifestyle in Manhattan over the course of a year. After the film, Solutions will be hosting a forum to discuss how these issues affect us as a student population and how they can be changed in positive ways that do not sacrifice our comforts.
The week begins with “Don’t Buy Anything New” day (except for food), followed by “Reduce Trash” day. New challenges will be added daily, while still upholding the challenge from the previous days. Even if the challenge cannot be fully completed over the week, you, as a participant, will see where the issue of impact and sustainability becomes complicated in our society.
The week ends with “Giving Back” day, which asks you to engage in a volunteer or community-building exercise. Solutions will be hosting a beach clean-up and bonfire, open to anyone who wishes to join in celebrating the company of like-minded individuals and a better environment. At the heart of this movement is a belief that with a reduced impact on natural resources comes an increased quality of life. This happens through community projects, like the beach clean-up event, as well as better health through walking and cycling, enjoying the company of friends rather than television, and saving money for things that really matter.
It’s not about giving up the things that improve our lives—we all love a hot shower—but offering a way for you to test where these comforts are actually making you happier, or if they’re hindering you from living a fuller life.