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no impact experiment – day 1: consumption

Ross riding the Riverwalk, Chattanooga

Ross riding the Riverwalk, Chattanooga

A while back, I read about Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project – and the truncated version of his experiment, designed for the masses, called the No Impact Experiment.  I decided to sign up and try it for a week.   Yesterday was Day 1.

The idea behind the Experiment is to examine and evaluate different aspects of our daily habits, and find ways to change our behavior and habits to make less impact on the environment and live a “fuller and happier” life in the process.  Sounded very interesting and worth trying, so I read the official “participation guide” and signed up.  Biggest obstacle – at least from my perspective – is the fact that Kids are in the middle of Fall Break, Mason and Ross home for a few days from college, and the gamut of other things we had scheduled to do during these few days, and the Experiment was not on others’ lists.  Ah well, I am trying to make the best of what I can do, as well as I can.

Day 1 (Sunday) was an examination of consumption and our personal shopping/consumption habits.  Step one, make a list of all the stuff I “need” to buy this week, and delete the items I can live without for the week.  For the rest of the items, figure out a way to possibly borrow, make or purchase them second-hand.  We were also instructed to use a re-usable bag to collect all of the trash, recyclables, and food waste we generated.  I kind of failed with that last part…

Here is the list of things I would be contemplating buying this week:

  • Watercolor block – decided I can do without for now.
  • Boots – decided I can definitely do without; simply a desire, not a “need”.
  • Electric bicycle conversion kit – long story behind this, but contemplating a retrofit of my mtn. bike for occasional use (when I am totally wimped, tired, and just don’t have it in me to pedal over the big hill)- considering possibility sending car off with one of the college Kids.  Not going to make the purchase, for now.
  • Food – the one thing I can’t take off the list.

How did it make me feel not to purchase anything?  Well, I’m not a big shopper to begin with, so it doesn’t really bother me – at least for the short-term.  I find that I tend to get something in my mind that I want to purchase – the camera, a book, some yarn, some bike accessory – and don’t typically “impulse” buy these kind of things.  The boots (although officially one of SimpleShoes’s “green” styles) were an impulse consideration, and it was not a problem to nix the idea.

Did I really do a good job following the experiment to the letter yesterday?  No.  I didn’t collect my trash.  We also took a ride into Chattanooga and spent part of the afternoon cycling on the Riverwalk and in the city.  I got some coffee in a disposable cup.  We all went out for dinner – by car.  Could I have been more conscientious?  Yes, definitely … but just trying to balance the wishes of the family with my own state of experimentation.

Did evaluating my consumption have an impact?  Yes, I think so.  Had I not decided to participate in the Experiment, I probably would have bought the watercolor block, and possibly the boots, without much thought.  I do think it’s important to evaluate our purchases – do I really “need” this? I like the idea of making a list of proposed items I intend to purchase – that constraint alone could be very effective, and an excellent evaluation tool. I also think I need to re-evaluate my aversion to shopping at resale shops, thrift stores, etc.  It’s one of those personal things I’ve just never been crazy about, but I know it could be worthwhile to try.

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