A Matter of Choice

April 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

By Paul Bourdillon

I started this challenge with hope. I had the desire to not only win, but also prove its possible to live without unnecessary disposables without being crazy and living in the middle of nowhere off the grid. The first week disproved my first point, it certainly was not easy or convenient to avoid throwing away single use packaging. This weekend forever squashed my dreams of a big round 0 on the ‘waste’ scorebored at the end of the month. Both disastrous times when the scoreboard clocked one against the environment, I was shocked I had been lulled into such a false sense of security and disposed of precious resources without reason. First, I used toilet paper to deal with my shaving injuries and next I oh-so innocently chowed down on free wrapped candy. In both cases I found myself wondering what the impact was of my thoughtless choice, and where the line is between choosing to be unsustainable and merely acting as an innocent bystander.

Irresistible Treat?


I shave, occasionally at least. I even try to do so with as little waste as possible. I switched to a safety razor in hopes that its blades would be less wasteful (and much, much less costly). I am also eeking out the last of my canned shaving cream (throwing it away would be worse than using every last drop) and moving on to shaving soap as soon as I am done. Nonetheless, I never thought that the toilet paper I use to dry the nicks and cuts that I inevitably inflict upon myself. I don’t NEED to use it, I could merely let the cuts heal on their own. However, its not normally socially acceptable to have blood dripping down my neck from unbandaged cuts- something I generally consider a boon of civilization. It draws me to question when is the waste I produce no longer my choice but merely a decision made by society as a whole? Should I only shave at night so as to use no paper and not offend anyone, or would not shaving before work in the morning be frowned upon by my boss? Am I guilty if I see the little piece of foil in which my food is presented to me, or am I a repeat offender for failing to question the sources and packaging used behind the scenes?

No-Shave Sustainability?

Food brings me to my newest dilemma in choice – candy. I love candy. When I was a kid, I bought 20lbs of candy (I probably only weighed 80lbs myself) back from England to satisfy my cravings. Yet all candy seems to come in extensive wrapping, including the free candy I picked up at the Globemed Summit this weekend. It was set out in bowls in the hotel, individually wrapped – sanitary, one might breath as a sigh of relief. It was only when I looked down at the pile of wrappers that I recognized my sin, and I immediately tried to justify it and absolve myself of guilt. I didn’t purchase the candy, and it was bound to be eaten anyway. Besides, theres no way to eat candy without a wrapper so that doesn’t count. I guess I could save all the wrappers and upcycle a purse like that shown below, but I generally limit my purses to 0 and don’t need a new on for every 10 candy bars I eat. But it does count, both for fate of the environment and this challenge. Am I guilty of waste for eating the food that society provides for me, or can I only be free of environmental-sin by eating raw food at home that I purchased in a reusable bag at the bulk food section?

My New Accessory?


When it comes down to it, if I choose to live a ‘normal’ life in American society then I have already given up the option to live a waste-free life – I am not moving to a raw-foods diet to save cooking gas anytime soon. I make the sustainable choices I can to reduce my environmental impact, but eating vegetarian or even scoring no points in a never-ending ‘no impact challenge’ will still leave me the the cloud of carbon used to power the computer I used to write this post. I view our goal in this challenge as getting us all to choose the most sustainable ways of living in our society while simultaneously forcing us to realize all the waste that is fundamental to our way of life. Recognizing that waste does not make a badge of shame; realizing the unconscious unsustainability of our society is a call to forge a better future. The ways we save during this challenge is a first step, and policies like Bagless NU are the next step to leaving the world as great for the next generation as it was given to us.

Entry filed under: No Impact Challenge. Tags: , , , , , , .

Packaging and more packaging… Confessions: Gum is my vice.

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Tracking the Challenge

April 2011

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