Posts tagged ‘plastic’

Culprit: Energy Bars

By Amanda Myers

I started out the No Impact Challenge without anxiety about accumulating too many points. Why worry when I was mindful of wasteful habits and made careful decisions in sustainable practices? What I’ve learned about myself with this challenge is that while I support green efforts in various forms and I am aware of my footprint, I still, at times, choose convenience over other “greener” choices. One example that seems to impact my points the most is single-serving foods that come in individual wrappers. In particular, protein/energy bars. I live a pretty active lifestyle and have a class schedule that doesn’t always afford me a leisurely meal. Because of this, I grab a protein or energy bar and throw in my bag on the way out the door. This is one lifestyle choice that may not be the most environmentally-friendly but it allows me to get through a hectic class and workout schedule providing the sustenance I need. I believe in the ability to improve continually, especially with green habits, but this may stay on my list of not-so-green practices. While the wrappers are a waste, it is minimal and hopefully I can do other things to offset them.

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May 12, 2011 at 10:58 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

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.

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

Saying No to Norris

by Liz Derby

If there’s one thing Northwestern students love to do its complain …ahem…

Norris Center, the thing students complain about more than not getting into Harvard

use constructive criticism. Some students groan about the Chicago winters, while others whine about their hectic schedules, but at some point or another every NU student has taken aim at one place in particular on campus: Norris University Center.

Some harp on the student center’s less than ideal location while others comment on the cold slab-style architecture.  Even with improvements to the lower cafeteria level of Norris since I’ve been at Northwestern, the basement’s

Sbarro, one of the many places in Norris that serves food on disposable plates

cave-like qualities still leave something to be desired. But the most frustrating thing about Norris that I’ve noticed since the challenge began is that there is not one place that will serve you food on a reusable plate.

Being the overly involved Northwestern student that I am, Norris is like a second home. Lately, however, I have had to bid this second home adieu and walk back and forth from my apartment more times than I would like. Why? Because the points I would gain from grabbing a slice of Sbarro or a veggie burger to go aren’t worth it.  And, lets be frank, I have to eat at some point.

Its not only Norris, actually, but all campus venues, apart from the dining halls, that only serve food items in disposable containers or wrapping. If you live off-campus, as most juniors and seniors do, you most likely aren’t on a meal plan, thus have less access to dining halls. Of course any student could pay some outrageous amount to eat dinner at 1835 Hinman (a dining hall), but most resort to places like Norris instead out of convenience and price.

Part of the problem with changing the system is that Northwestern contracts out its food service to the notoriously hard to work with Sodexo. Students at NU have already butted heads with the company over paying campus workers higher wages and presumably, getting the company to change its practices on disposable food packaging would not be an easy battle. However, I think its something worth fighting for.

When I think of the waste I have avoided by eating at home rather than school, it makes me think about how much waste we would avoid as a university if everyone took on this challenge.  In a normal week I might have eaten lunch on campus 2-3 times, gotten coffee in a disposable cup 4-5 times, and bought dinner another 2-3 times. If you multiply that times 8,000 … its a pretty big number. I’m not saying that everyone is as much of a Norris

This is my plate, knife, and coffee mug I kept with me all weekend at the Roosevelt Equal Justice Conference

connoisseur as I am, but a lot of students are, not necessarily because they want to be wasteful, but because there aren’t a lot of other options.

This challenge has made me much more conscious of the impact of my actions. At first I had to make an effort to adjust my routine, but now many of these things have become habit. Like Zach, I’m always carrying around my coffee mug, a reusable bag, and some silverware. It was strange at first, but now making sure I’m prepared with tupperware is just as second nature as making sure I have my keys and wallet.

Just a note to anyone that does want to take on this challenge, we are currently accepting applicants for a May round of the No Impact Challenge. Email your name, a photo, and short 2-3 sentence bio to baglessNU@gmail.com if you want to play.

April 13, 2011 at 3:24 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

One Cup, One Northwestern

by Chase Eck

It was ten in the morning on Friday and my game theory discussion just got out 30 minutes early, and what I wanted at that moment, more than anything else, was a steaming cup of highly caffeinated coffee.  You see, I hadn’t slept last night thanks to the wonderful EA 2 design project and based on my success staying awake in game theory it was going to be a long day if I didn’t get some caffeine. So I decided to go to the Einstein Bros. in Pancoe. I go up to the cashier, pay for my coffee, sit down, and feel an immediate pang of regret.  The coffee cup was “single-use.” I had just started practicing living without using disposables and now I had one sitting in my

It all started with one cup... Image From: http://www.energyfriend.com

hand full of coffee practically begging to be thrown away after I was done. As I sat there, gazing at Lake Michigan and Northwestern’s campus, I hit upon an idea: it’s only single-use if you only use it once.  While the cup was meant to be thrown away after I drank all of the coffee I didn’t have to throw it away. There was no one forcing me to only use it once.  So I decided to see just how many time I could use this “single-use” cup.

First, I finished my coffee during my next class, it was EA 2, and then I got a little thirsty. Before math I decided to go fill up my cup at the water fountain. I got through math and went to Plex for lunch. It was stir fry day or as my friends and I like to call it: stir-Friday. I used the reusable cups in the dining hall for my meal but I really wanted to take some PowerAde for the road.  Usually I use the disposable Styrofoam cups provided but today I reused my Einstein’s cup for the third time. I went to class and then filled up my cup once again at the water fountain in my dorm and went out for the night leaving my cup behind in my room since I wouldn’t need it.

The next day I woke up very parched and immediately walked to the water fountain to put a good amount of water in my cup. I trotted over to Plex to have brunch and once again used my Einstein’s cup to take a beverage to go.  This time it was orange juice, which I sipped on my way to the library.  At the library I filled my cup up with water and I didn’t use it for the rest of the day. Finally, on Sunday I forgot to get some much needed coffee in the dining hall at dinner and to prevent myself from dozing off in the library that night I went down to Plaza Café to grab some of

Recycling: It's awesome. Image From: http://www.sunnyvale.ca.gov

Seattle’s Best coffee.  I brought along my Einstein cup and not only could I use it for coffee I even received a 10 cent discount! After I was done drinking my coffee, the cup looked a little worn and structurally unsound.  The cup was weakening because some of the liquid had been absorbed by the cardboard.  The cup’s eventual demise wasn’t surprising, after all, the cup had been designed to be used only once, not eight times and so, with a sigh of regret, I threw away my trustworthy cup.

In today’s culture of convenience and consumerism we are flooded with opportunities to be wasteful and encouraged to use items just once because it is the easy thing to do. What I ask of you is to rethink what the value of these disposable items is and whether “single-use” items are really single-use. I think you’d be surprised just how many times you can use them.

April 6, 2011 at 5:53 am 2 comments

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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