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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

Revolutionizing My Daily Routine

A Constant Reminder

by Isaac Alpert

I let out an aggravated, four-letter expletive immediately after spilling milk all over the front of my jacket during breakfast on Saturday. However, my hyperbolic cursing wasn’t due to the dairy wetness, but rather my acknowledgement that I couldn’t use the dining hall paper napkins to dry my fleece without sacrificing the addition of a few points to my score as part of the “No Impact Challenge.” But this game is not about convenience or forfeiting points sparingly; it is about reformatting daily routines to decrease my own carbon footprint on the Northwestern campus. This thought occurred to me as I gently dabbed my fleece with a friend’s used napkin that he was on the verge of discarding. The obvious lack of cleanliness concerning my wardrobe aside, this game has slowly been affecting my thoughts on all of my supposedly habitual wasteful actions.

Having been bitten by the green-bug, I am now saving all rubber bands that go around my mail, carrying Tupperware with me wherever I go, and utilizing receipts as bookmarks and ersatz Post-it notes. I have also been avoiding litter-prone items, such as groceries with superfluous amounts of packaging (i.e. Oreos) and the tantalizing peppermints in every dining hall. And along with my own seemingly bizarre – but simultaneously environmentally conscious – new tendencies, I am attempting to ensure that those around me are cognizant of their disposable goods, too. From plastic spoons to paper towels, I have realized that nearly all one-use goods can be replaced by long-term items that won’t end up in a trashcan, a fact that I am sure to relay to all of my friends. Unfortunately, carrying around your own silverware and dishtowel has not become a ubiquitous convention among Americans.

The Way of the Future

However, even I – and more specifically my tummy – cannot withstand all things that come packaged in paper and plastic. So around 2:30 am in the morning, I found myself crouched over a chicken sandwich at Burger King. But I believe that my gluttonous BK run perfectly illustrates the point of the “No Impact Challenge”: I am not trying to avoid all establishments that don’t serve their customers with solely reusable items. Rather, I am trying to transform as many different aspects as possible of my own routine without sacrificing the ability to flawlessly function in a consumerist society. And so far, it hasn’t been too difficult; my trashcan is still empty after this weekend and there are no signs of milk on my fleece.

April 4, 2011 at 1:31 am Leave a comment


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