Archive for April, 2011

Can YOU take on the Challenge?

bags.
coffee cups.
water bottles.
how long can you live without?

Do you think you can do better than we did? We’re looking for new players for the May No Impact Challenge.

As you may know from reading the blog, the purpose of the No Impact Challenge to reduce the use of single-use disposable items. For each single-use item taken, the player receives 1 point. The goal is to get the lowest score by the end of the game. We shared our experiences. Now you can share yours.

Interested in playing? Sign up here or attend the
INFO SESSION and MAY KICK-OFF!
Kresge 2430 at 8 pm
Tuesday, May 3

We look forward to seeing some new faces!

April 30, 2011 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

Royal Wedding, Royal Mess?

by Alix Hallen

This will be a short blog post, but I just wanted to share my experience hosting a small royal wedding watch party. Although it might have been easier and what I would have done before the no impact challenge, I chose to use all reusable items. Hosting people, whether its two or twenty is often a hassle and it is easier to just throw everything out at the end of the party (especially when it is at 3 in the morning).

But I resisted the urge and used all of my reusable dishes and cups and utensils. So my challenge to you is; when hosting a party think twice about what you serve your guests on. Although it may be more clean up for you, it is better in the long run to host a sustainable party!

April 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Moving Beyond the Plastic Paradigm

Plaza cafe...so artsy.

by Chase Eck

My friend Stephen and I were in the library a couple nights ago. He was learning everything there is to know about the Holocaust, and I was writing a paper analyzing different historical perspectives on the Israeli war of Independence in 1948. Clearly we needed a break. We moseyed on down to Plaza café and swapped light conversation about looming demographic problems in China and electoral models across democracies over steaming cups of Seattle’s Best. Sometime during the conversation I realized just how many points I had accrued during my study break and vented my dismay to Stephen with some well-chosen words.  Stephen’s response was: “Well you just have to count the plastic right?”

Of course as anyone who is familiar with the No Impact challenge knows I couldn’t just count the plastic.  I had to count the cardboard coffee cup as well. That’s the point, it’s easy to fixate on one easily identifiable culprit such as plastic or oil but the truth is the issue is so much broader.  We need to move beyond the latest villain of the day and seek to identify why wasteful behavior is so bad and work to better our habits with regards to that issue as well as others.  Plastic bags aren’t inherently bad, it’s just that the number we consume is so wasteful. This concern applies to all single use items, not just those made of plastic.

April 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

“To Go” is a No Go

by Meghan Cavanaugh

This morning, like usual, I went to Norbucks to get my daily caffeine fix.  As I stood patiently waiting in line (reuseable mug in hand) I eyed the pastries behind the glass container.  By their looks alone I am generally consumed with tasty thoughts of the glistening chocolate on the cookies or the perfectly coated frosting on the lemon pound cake.  It is the eternal question for me before the barista asks my drink order:  To purchase a pastry or not to purchase a pastry…?  However, to my surprise I found the delectable treats not so perfectly incased behind the glass.  Instead, I found them wrapped in that pesky material: plastic wrap.  My heart dropped.  My first thoughts were that some sort of new school mandatory was now forcing the goods to be wrapped in the plastic for sanitary reasons.  Do we honestly need our food so incased when we will most likely be consuming that blueberry muffin within 10 to 15 minutes of purchasing it?

At this point my curiosity had peaked and I asked the woman at the counter why all the pastries were covered in saran wrap.  She responded that the usual Starbucks bags had not arrived, but they should be here soon.  Somewhat relieved that Northwestern had not placed some new health standard on food service, I also wondered why we need the bag at all or furthermore the plastic.  I suppose the bag is convenient for the on the go, but Norbucks also does not serve anything “for here.”  If they did I believe that pastry bag and coffee cup “to go” consumption would likely drop substantially.  Most students buy their pastry and coffee and sit around on the Norbucks couches and tables chatting and doing work anyway.  Why can’t they drink their coffee in a mug or eat their pastry on a plate?  This is just one more way that we could cut down on the single-use-item consumption that dominates our daily lives.

April 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm 1 comment

Spring is in the air…and plastic bags, too

by Zach Glasser

Today it finally feels like spring in Evanston. After a week of bitter cold rain, it was nice to step out into the sunshine today on my way to the cafe. I may have spent my day indoors writing a paper, but at least I snagged a window seat.

As I looked longingly out onto the street (my staring became more and more frequent the longer I sat here), I noticed that, despite the warm weather today, there were no leaves on the trees. Now, I’m of the mindset that Evanston has the longest winters around, so that probably shouldn’t surprise me. What did surprise me, though was that instead of leaves in the trees, there were PLASTIC BAGS.

This is not a leaf. It is a bag.

Imagine my dismay to find this bag in the tree instead of leaves. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not what spring is all about. The epidemic of plastic bags in our cities couldn’t be more apparent when we start seeing things like this.

As I kept looking out the window, I saw more and more bags tangled in trees! I knew this was a phenomenon in some places, but I had just never noticed it here before. I was able to count no fewer than seven bags in four separate trees, just on this block alone.

You just can’t look at these pictures and tell me that this is okay. The plastic bags that are so ubiquitous in any shopping center are now, if today’s experience is to be believed, just as ubiquitous as leaf-replacement therapy for balding trees.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the No Impact Challenge, it’s how easy it is to go entirely bagless. My lifestyle doesn’t require plastic bags–I can bring my own reusable bag wherever I go. The convenience of using a plastic bag is so sorely outweighed by the negative impact they have–if they’re not filling up landfills or the ocean, they’re filling up trees–that there really are no more excuses.

Look! More bags!

Whether you read this blog for inspiration or because you simply enjoy our challenge, I encourage you to be observant next time you walk down the street. How many plastic bags are floating around up there? Do your part and bring your own bag when you go shopping and maybe our trees will grow some leaves this spring instead of plastic bags.

April 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Being Sustainable with a Runny Nose

by Alicia White

What do pizza and having a runny nose have in common? Find out in my video post:

April 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Gradually Becoming Habitual

by Isaac Alpert

Well into the second week of the No Impact Challenge, I have finally started to notice some tangible changes in my daily routines. Green actions that started out as nuisances have gradually become habits for me; from bringing my Tupperware to every restaurant I frequent, to making a point of having at least one reusable bag on me at all times – and usually two in case a close friend errs on their plastic consumption – I am overjoyed with the progress that I have made. However, no one is perfect, and I have certainly been culpable of eating at establishments that only serve on disposable plates or buying a chocolate bar in a moment of stressed-out weakness. But in the long run, NIC is actually transforming from “No Impact” to an actual “Impact” on my life, and I feel as though this revolution is most evident in my termination of paper napkins/towels from my schedule.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Initially feeling apprehensive (and, quite frankly insanitary) about rubbing my hands on my pants to remove ketchup from the tips of my fingers or some excess water after washing my hands, I now have no qualms about giving my thighs a quick pat instead of wasting another napkin in the dining hall. In fact, I revel in the stains that I have developed on my jeans. They are like my personal badges of honor, signifying one less paper towel that ultimately accumulates in a landfill or one less napkin that comprises the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I have also attempted to organize my schedule so that I only use bathrooms with air dryers or wash towels, because sometimes my jeans may actually be a bit too unsanitary to replace a seemingly trusty paper towel. Regardless of my method of avoiding single-use paper products, I have also realized that, once assimilated into my habits, it is a no-brainer to avoid napkins. Nuisances are now delights, and my community is greener.

No longer part of my routine!

So despite some setbacks here and there, the No Impact Challenge is truly running a life-changing course. And even though a single napkin may seem like an insignificant toll on the amount of pollution in the world, if I vow to never use another paper napkin for the rest of my college career, I will prevent nearly 2,500 napkins from making their way to a landfill (number based on eating three meals per day for nine months of the next three years). That equates to around $100 in savings for me, and a hefty load off of Mother Nature.

April 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

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