Posts tagged ‘sustainability’

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.

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

Hotel Breakfast Gone Bad

by Liz Miller

I knew that weekend was going to be my first major challenge.  I didn’t know if I would be able to resist the artificially-flavored gas station temptations that awaited me on my late night Greyhound journey to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Why was I going to the UP, you might ask?  For an interview.  Yes, an interview.  I had applied for a particularly lucrative scholarship in my small Wisconsin hometown and, having been the only one there to apply, was automatically granted an interview at the organization’s district office in the UP.  My northbound trek began with the Amtrak to Milwaukee followed by a four-hour Greyhound ride, bringing me to my destination at approximately 1:45 AM.  Amidst the frantic errands of my day of departure, I didn’t have time to pack more than a few pieces of fruit stolen from the dining hall and a half-empty bag of cereal.  It would take all the willpower I could muster to keep from giving in to a travel-weary need for corn syrup and sodium, and I wasn’t sure I was up to the test.

But somehow I completed the journey without earning a single point.  In my post-Greyhound disheveled delirium I was quite proud of myself, though that pride would prove to be short-lived.  The next morning at breakfast, I was faced with my biggest No Impact dilemma since deciding whether to eat before dance practice when my only option was the plastic-heavy Norris food court (I ultimately decided to take the point and avoid inevitable collapse).  The interviews were being held in the AmericInn hotel, probably because there was no better venue in the tiny town.  I had stayed there the night before and could not wait to wake up to a nice cozy continental breakfast.  But when I finally rolled out of bed and went downstairs, I was met with the most unwelcome of surprises: Styrofoam plates.  No Impact Challenge aside, there are very few things I hate more than Styrofoam.  I normally go out of my way to avoid it, but here it was staring me in the face with no other option in sight.  I was ready to go barbaric and forego dishware altogether until I made the mistake of looking across the room.  There sat a professionally-clad group of aptly-aged people who were undoubtedly my interviewers.

As much as it killed me, I knew balancing breakfast on my hands would not make the best of impressions.  I swallowed my pride and succumbed to the vile Styrofoam before me.  I made sure to take only a plate and none of the plastic silverware, cutting down both my point total and the sustenance available to me.  Personal aversion to Styrofoam aside, it was only one point earned.  Not the end of the world.  But right before my interview I stopped by the bathroom, and as I washed my hands I realized I was faced with another dilemma.  I’ve gotten into the habit of substituting my pants for paper towels when no better alternative is available, and at that moment there was no better alternative available.  But could I risk tainting the good impression I had sacrificed a point to achieve by showing up with marginally damp hands?  Those are always the worst kind to shake.  I decided to keep my first point of the day from being taken in vain and sacrificed another to the pliable brown paper I had become so accustomed to avoiding.  Sadly, luck abandoned me and the scholarship landed in another’s hands, so both points still proved wasted in the end.

April 18, 2011 at 1:12 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

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

Wet Hands, Wine Tasting, and Unsustainable Sustainability

by Liz Miller

Before the challenge began, I thought it would be easy to go the entire month without earning a single point.  Irrational?  Perhaps.  Impossible?  I didn’t think so.  But then came the wine tasting.* It was only day one of the challenge, and I was already faced with my first potential dilemma.  I figured the wine shop would be classy enough to give us real glasses, but I wasn’t sure.  What if they served us in little plastic cups?  I would have to choose between my love of wine and my dreams of a point-free April.  Wanting to avoid the decision altogether, I texted a friend who had been there before to find out if my worries were warranted.  Minutes passed, but no answer arrived.  As I was about to leave with nothing but a bleak faith in the classiness of Wine Styles, I suddenly knew what to do.  I would just bring my own glass.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that sooner, seeing as I was no stranger to bringing my own reusables.  I dug out the smallest cup in my eclectic collection of glassware and slipped it into my purse with a wave of relief.  Crisis averted.

My newest night out necessity

Of course, they did serve us in real wine glasses so it was never really even a crisis in the first place.  To top it off, they even bagged my friends’ bottles of wine in a fancy reusable without them even asking for it.  Even though my overthinking ended up being all for naught in this particular instance, this challenge has raised my awareness of the disposable products I had never really realized were such a part of my life.  I’ve found myself needing to take unsustainable measures to be fully sustainable, sometimes forgoing meals when my only available options are the plastic-wrapped sandwiches for sale in our student center’s food court.  I’ve been sparing myself points, but I’m also probably on a fast track to a mild case of malnutrition.

Despite my determination, my dreams of ending with zero points have already been shattered.  Sadly, it wasn’t a desire to gluttonize freely or spend Friday nights without my own glasses that did me in.  No, it was something far more mundane.  I had been zoning out at the sink, when I looked at my hands and there it was.  Never before had a damp paper towel seemed so sinister.  I stared at it in awe, as if it were a gun I’d mistakenly thought was unloaded before playing with the trigger.  It hadn’t even been three full days, and I had already earned the dreaded first point that I hoped would never come.  To top it all off, my accidental paper towel brought me to the uncomfortable realization that disposable items were more subconsciously ingrained in my life than I had thought.  Of course, all hope is not lost.  Sure, it’s too late for zero.  But I’ve still got a shot at one.

*Don’t worry, I’m 21.

April 5, 2011 at 6:54 am 1 comment


No Impact Challenge for May 2012!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7 other followers

tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Tracking the Challenge

June 2017
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930