Photo: CJ Sorg

Matador U student and contributor Abbie Mood takes the No Impact Week Challenge.

In November of 2006, New York City resident Colin Beavan, along with his wife and daughter, set out to live with no net environmental impact.

Fast forward three years later, add the Huffington Post, and you have No Impact Week. According to the website, the goal is to “demonstrate ways in which small actions in our daily lives can have a profound impact on our world.” Together, they’ve provided a daily guide with steps you can take to lessen your impact over the course of a week. Each day has a different theme.

I’m joining over 4,000 people to take on this challenge to identify what impact my actions (or lack of action) are having, and to find out what areas of my lifestyle I can change to balance out my carbon footprint a bit more.

Day 2: Monday: Trash

The mailman is trying to sabotage my carbon cleanse. I come home from work to find my mailbox stuffed with junk mail AND a plastic bag hanging from my door, with samples of paper products from a local grocery store chain.

Are you kidding me?

I immediately go to Do Not Mail and add my name and address to the registry. The website says I should see a reduction in my junk mail within 6-8 weeks.

The first step for today’s challenge is to go through the trash bag from yesterday and separate the items into two piles – stuff used for less than 10 minutes and stuff used for more than 10 minutes. Considering most of my trash was food product packaging or paper products, I decide to really look at the packaging my food comes in. The least environmentally friendly package was organic pears in a plastic container. Is that really necessary? Probably not.

I also decide that if I’m going to take my own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, I might as well take smaller reusable bags for my fruits and vegetables so I don’t have to use those plastic bags, either.

The next step is to put together a “no-trash travel kit” with a reusable cup/mug, utensils, and containers. I bring my lunch to work everyday, and already use a Sigg water bottle, but I’ve really been going through plastic bags for my sandwich and snacks. Instead of throwing away the plastic snack bag from Friday, I save it and reuse it. I find a container hidden in my cupboards that I can use for my sandwich, and voila! My no-trash travel kit is complete!

The third step is the hardest – stop making trash. I make a very conscious effort to either not make trash or reduce the amount of trash I created. I use a white board instead of Post-it notes. I use an old towel at work to clean up messes instead of using a paper towel. I actually don’t get Starbucks today because I forgot my reusable cup. It turns out reducing my trash is saving me money, too!

The No Impact Guide has some very useful suggestions about ways to avoid making trash: use bulk bins at grocery stores instead of individually packaged items, use receipts for scrap paper, use natural cleaning alternatives, download GreenPrint on your computer to save ink and paper, and re-gift or pass on items to be reused instead of trashing them.

Tomorrow’s challenge? Transportation.

Community Connection:

Ever wondered where your trash ends up? Carlo Alcos takes a look at the world’s most offensive landfills in this article from our archives.