Posts tagged ‘challenge’

Lessons from a Prospie

by Chase Eck

It was Sunday.  I had just picked up a prospie (prospective student for those not in the know) and we were headed out to lunch.  I suggested a couple places downtown and she picked Five Guys. My mouth watering in anticipation of the juicy goodness that is a Five Guys burger, I walked eagerly there.  I went up to the counter and ordered a cheeseburger and a water…and then it hit me: that burger would be wrapped in foil and then put into a paper bag and my water? It came in a plastic cup. Three wasted single-use items, three points.  I sat down glum at the sudden increase in my point total for the day. As lunch went on I ended up talking to the prospie about student groups and BaglessNU. I told her about the game and she seemed pretty interested.  Discussion about the game and my recent strategic misstep led to a broader conversation about sustainability and why exactly I was doing this.  In fact, I had just the type of conversation that we hoped to spark when the idea of the game was introduced. 

As I look back on Sunday I think about it as a successful day.  Sure, I got three points and, more importantly, used up three single-use items, but I got the chance to talk to someone and share with them the real issue.  While playing and designing this game I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of victory or the details of the rules and lose sight of why we’re actually doing this. The real purpose of this game is not to win but to raise awareness of the unnecessary waste that we produce through single use items and hopefully encourage more people to stop using single-use items. Even though I have failed to completely avoid single use items I can console myself with the hope that just by participating I am helping to bring about a broader awareness of the need to be sustainable because no matter how few points I get I can’t do it alone.

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April 19, 2011 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

It’s not easy being (sort of) green.

By Lisa Velkoff

I’ve always thought of myself as one of those people who was good to the environment. My family has always recycled, everything that we could: tin cans, plastic bottles and two-gallon milk containers, newspaper and cardboard, even paper bags and Ziplock baggies (I was that weird kid in elementary school who took home a brown lunch bag with empty baggies at the end of the day – my dad insisted on washing and re-using them until they got holes). For the four drivers in my family, we have three hybrid cars, and we had them before the Prius craze set in.

In high school, I decided to start being one of those healthy people who drinks water all the time. I’ll admit that at the beginning, I drank bottled water. I hadn’t yet bought a reusable water bottle! But even then, I’d take one bottle, fill it up at the water fountain multiple times during the day, possibly even keeping one bottle for multiple days. Empties would collect in my locker, waiting for me to remember to take them home to recycle (my high school didn’t have plastic recycling until my sophomore or junior year). Over spring break a few weeks ago, when my mom and I ran errands together and I consistently refused plastic bags, insisting on carrying an armful of toiletries or groceries through the Target parking lot, my mother called me the “plastic bag vigilante.” The point is, I always thought of myself as eco-friendly. I loved the planet and the planet loved me!

I see your trickery, Poland Spring. I'm no longer buying it that plastic is good!

Oh, how wrong I was. Even with all the sustainable things that I do already (I’m very attached to my bpa-free water bottle and ceramic travel mug, and I’ll still carry around plastic bottles until I find a recycling bin) the No Impact Challenge has made me think of all the waste I create on any day.

Each evening, I cringe as I record my points. Did I really take those two napkins today? How could I possibly dare to buy a Naked smoothie?! Even when I’m proud of myself for deciding against a cup of coffee because I don’t have my mug with me (good for my health and the environment!) or for remembering my reusable shopping bag, I wince every time I throw anything away.

At the beginning of the challenge, it seemed like the list of prohibited items was pretty exhaustive. The imposition on take-out containers and plastic utensils turned a movie night in the dorm with Joy Yee’s into a serious moral and ethical crisis for me. Since then, it’s been easier to avoid those things. “Oh, no thanks, I don’t need a bag.” Simple.

But what about everything else? Today, I spent two minutes before my psych class staring at my chapstick, wondering about the plastic tube. What about that? What about the reams of paper that are handed out in classes every day on this campus? What about that girl on my hall who seems to take hour-long showers every day? What about my insistence on using both a ceiling light and a floor lamp? What about the campus shuttles running so late into the night, often with only one passenger riding for just two stops?

To be totally impact-free would take a huge commitment, one that I’m honestly not ready to make. But at least I’m aware now of how not-green I am. Behavior change comes slowly – after these first 12 days of the challenge, I’ve finally stopped automatically grabbing those napkins. I’ve become an even more naggy plastic (and paper) bag vigilante – “You shouldn’t have taken that bag! You don’t need it! You’re going to re-use it, right? Right?!” So maybe once I’ve cut out the waste items covered by the challenge, I’ll be able to tackle other unsustainable habits, one by one.

My tip of the day? Watch people around you. Pay attention to how much waste they create. Go ahead, sit in Psych 110 and judge each and every person sitting there with a bottle of Coke. Give your best stinkface to all the CVS customers who walk out with their purchases in five bags, gallon of milk double-bagged. Then, think about the eye of the waste gods (or the plastic bag vigilante!) watching your every move. You’ll change your mind about how much you need that afternoon Mountain Dew.

April 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

Confessions: Gum is my vice.

My name is Zach and these are the confessions of a consumer.

When the No Impact Challenge began, I was fine with sparing a point here or there without much thought. But, by the end of the day, I usually had a lot of points. It was always a surprise to me when I ended the day with 4 or 5. I don’t know why, but I thought I had been doing a good job. I was wrong.

For the past two days, I’ve come close to sealing the deal for my first NO IMPACT day. Both days I have failed.

I can smell victory in the air today, though. At lunch, I almost took a napkin but recoiled my hand with a triumphant smile at the last moment, remembering my goal to have no impact.

I may or may not have eaten my French fries with a fork to avoid needing a napkin for my greasy fingers. People may or may not have judged me. But I feel like I’m on top of the world.

Not really. But it’s nice to know that I’m making progress.

I’ve finally learned the tricks of the trade. And maybe, when somebody else sees me putting my Starbucks coffee in my own mug and asking the barista to put my scone in a Tupperware, they’ll catch on. Or at least care enough to ask what I’m doing. That’s what I hope for. I’m learning to live more sustainably and I think my competitors in the challenge and I can lead by example.

It’s quite possible to significantly cut down my impact. But I still struggle. A lot. I like chewing gum. What can I say? I won’t apologize. But I will be shamed.

Can I have no impact? Maybe on some days. I’ll get back to you. Perhaps I should try making my own gum. Let me know if you have a recipe.

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm 1 comment

Packaging and more packaging…

By:  Meghan Cavanaugh

Like most Sunday afternoons, today I went to the grocery store in order to purchase the items I will need for meals the following week.  This has been my first grocery outing since the beginning of the NoImpact Challenge.

Before leaving, I gathered my reusable bags and made note to not purchase any items sold individually in order to avoid gaining any points.  I began my shopping in the fresh produce section.  Instead of using the plastic bags, I placed all my fruits and vegetables in the cart naked.  I began walking the aisles.  Immediately I was much more aware of the immense amounts of packaging.  Cardboard wrapped in plastic, plastic wrapped in plastic, cardboard wrapped in plastic covered in cardboard; the insane amounts of packaging continued and continued as I walked through the store.  The walls of food packaging started caving in towards me with the overwhelming thoughts of all the single use casings.  I began to wonder, who really needs all of this packaging?  Are we really so paranoid as a population to contract some sort of bacteria or disease that we need to encase our food products like mummies?

As I approached the checkout line, not only did the ridiculous wrappings continue, I also realized how challenging a complete zero impact lifestyle would be.  In fact, I would argue that it is impossible.  As consumers we have only one solution, try our hardest to purchase items with as little packaging as possible and always be mindful of our overall waste impact.  This challenge has made me acutely aware of my impact and ways that I can reduce it.

April 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

Trying to enjoy life to the fullest without creating waste; I argue that its impossible

by Andy Hobaugh

We are approaching the end of the second week of Northwestern’s spring quarter. Still, I am getting over what might have been the most relaxing and exciting spring break ever. After returning from Miami, Florida two weeks ago I have found it extremely difficult to readjust to the unpleasant Chicago weather and motivate myself to go to class. I just want to go back to the wonderful eighty-five degree weather on the beaches of South Beach or the golf courses of Boca. Alas, I can not do that. I must, instead, be responsible. Have I been? Absolutely not. What does this mean with regards to the No Impact Challenge? It means that I am losing big time…I think.

On the first day of the No Impact Challenge–Friday April 1–I was invited to go see the Cubs play on opening day at Wrigley Field. Despite the rain and sub-forty degree temperatures, I was pumped! Visions of hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks, and of course baseball danced in my head. The one thing that hadn’t crossed my mind was the waste sporting events must generate. I didn’t hold back, though. I bought two plastic bags containing peanuts. I had two hot dogs. These come covered in a foil-paper wrapper and are placed in a cardboard box for one’s carrying convenience. Of course to wash all of this down I had an ice cold Pepsi, which came served in a plastic cup. The waste just piled up.  There is no recycling; its all just picked up and thrown away. Somewhere in the world I can envision a landfill full of Cubs’ souvenir cups.

Imagine all of the people who go to sporting events buy hot dogs, nachos, beer, peanuts, and pop corn. The trash must just pile up. When I was in Miami I attended a Heat game at the American Airlines Arena. The stadium is LEED certified, there are plenty of recycling bins, but most of the items purchased by fans are not recyclable. Even if items are recycled–i.e. plastic cups–they are most likely one use items that could have been avoided in an ideal world. People could have just brought their own drink to the game, right? Wrong. Even though it is becoming more normal to carry around a reusable water bottle or mug these items are not allowed into the friendly confines of Wrigley Field or the “sustainable” confines of the American Airlines Arena. During the Heat game, there was an announcement about recycling. This is a good educational tool, but it does nothing when people have to take a new cup every time they purchase a drink.

In the immediate future, I do not see a solution to this problem. Professional entertainment, be it sporting events or movies, continues to be a wasteful  past time. Sport teams do not want fans bringing their own reusable water bottles to the games because there is no way of telling whats inside. Most movie theaters are like that too. However, it is much easier to get into a theater with a water bottle because there is no pesky security; good luck getting into a Heat game with one. If people want to avoid being wasteful at a sporting event or at a movie theater, then the best solution is to not buy anything. In my opinion thats impossible. When I go to a movie I am probably going to get popcorn and/or Raisenettes. When I go to a ball game I can’t help but buy peanuts and hot dogs. What everyone can do, however, is consciously cut down their waste at either of these types of events. You can stop taking napkins. In the bathrooms you can pass on the paper towels; instead, use a hand dryer or even your pants. Don’t take a cardboard box to carry food items. Everyone has two hands and multiple pockets. Use them. Just don’t stuff your pockets with ketchup and mustard packets; use the communal dispensers!

I am not going to eliminate all of my waste during this challenge. I know that there are things I will not be able to forgo; but I have become more aware of what I am contributing to the waste cycle. The problem is, when I get a chance to take a day off and go to a Cubs game, I usually do. I skipped class on Tuesday to attend my second Cubs game of the season. This time I only had one hotdog with no packets of mustard, rather I went to the communal mustard dispenser. I did accumulate plenty of points when it was all said and done. Fortunately, I am aware of what waste I did cause…and I am not proud of it

April 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

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

Ice Cream and Pedicures: Indulgence can be wasteful

by Naomi Harris

While it has only been two days, I’ve accumulated more points than I thought I would this early in the game. It will take a little time to get used to it and  to remember to always have the No Impact Challenge in mind. The first day I accumulated zero points…until my friends decided they wanted Andy’s frozen custard after dinner. Allured by my favorite combination of chocolate frozen custard whipped with reeses and topped with hot fudge, I didn’t hesitate to agree. Then, walking into the shop, it hit me: I had to think beyond eating the ice cream and consider the points I would get from the disposable container. Already in the shop, my sweet tooth and love of ice cream took over. I decided I would get a point so I could have my custard. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, should  I eat the custard with twinges of guilt for the waste I was generating, or limit myself from indulging while all my friends did? Unfortunately, dessert won over my self control.

My second challenge came when I decided to get a pedicure. A somewhat indulgent activity that I don’t do all that often, after a week of my feet in the sand over spring break I decided it was about time. I enjoyed the foot bath and foot massage, but then came the downside: plastic wrap. This may seem slightly (or very) strange to some boys out there, but part of the pedicure process is applying parafin wax and then wrapping the foot with saran wrap. Yeah, I’m starting to realize the weirdness of it right about now as well. The No Impact Challenge is sure to bring about all kinds of realizations. Anyway, as my feet were being wrapped in plastic, I had to ask the question, does using disposable food wrapping count when its used, of all places, on my feet? Sadly, of course the answer is yes. Who would think a little foot pampering would lead me to getting points? Now I know to think twice before getting any beauty treatments, and, if I go back anytime soon, to make a special request for the nail salon to skip the plastic wrap. If anything good comes of it (besides soft skin), maybe the mental image of plastic wrapped feet will make everyone think twice before they use it at all. (I spared you a real picture.)

On the brighter side of things, while running errands with a friend I stopped her from taking 4 shopping bags. Even though I have accumulated a few points myself, being conscious of my own actions has definitely had a positive affect on those around me. Some of my friends might call me a crazy hippie at first, but explaining the game only spreads awareness and gives me even more  justification for calling my friends out on their wasteful habits.

So far it’s been fairly easy to meet the challenge when at home, but  disposable containers creep up in all sorts of situations when I’m out and about. The key will be thinking out every situation before I participate, and equipping myself with the essential reusable utensils and containers whenever I leave the house. Unfortunately, having a tupperware on me wouldn’t have solved my pedicure debacle.

April 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

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