Photos: jesse.millan

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 7: Giving Back

After a whole week of conservation and consumption tracking, the end is in sight! The final day is for giving back.

I volunteer on a fairly regular basis, but today I decided to focus on the little things I could do each day to impact someone else’s life. As step one of the No Impact Guide suggested, I made a list and it looked something like this:

*Give spare change to a tip jar or to someone in need (coins just weigh down your wallet/pocket anyway).

*Go out of my way to hold doors open for people (even if it means they are going to get in line in front of me).

*Help someone else out (this turned out to be babysitting for a few minutes at my friend’s wedding so the bridal party could take their pictures).

*Instead of just walking by trash (and grumbling about how someone shouldn’t have thrown it there in the first place) just pick it up and throw it away.

Step two was to make a list of all the charities I’d like to help, why I feel like I can’t, and how I can address and remove these barriers. The No Impact Guide asks, “Do your barriers outweigh the importance of participating?” Surely the answer to that question is almost always no.

I know I get caught up in the thought of making sure I’m making a difference by helping a lot or working on a major project, but the reality is that I can make a difference by participating in a one day project, by donating money, by playing a minor part within a bigger project, or even by spreading the word about the cause.

For resources and to find volunteer opportunities near you, try Idealist.org or VolunteerMatch.

If No Impact Week inspired you to take action about an environmental issue, try Take Back the Tap, which encourages people and businesses to eliminate bottled water; 1Sky, focusing on climate change; and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, which is working to create walkable and bikeable neighbors all over the U.S.

The final challenge was perhaps my favorite: Take a break from everything. The No Impact Guide suggests taking one day, one afternoon, or even just one hour a week to not buy, cook, answer the phone, use the Internet or anything electric. I’m going for it, but taking a break from everything each week could possibly be the biggest challenge of all.

Community Connection:

Interested in learning how you can make a big difference by making a small contribution to an important cause? Matador member JoAnna Haugen has just launched the Karikuy-Haugen Fund, an initiative intended to provide travel experiences to Peruvian porters who help tourists reach Machu Picchu. You can read more about the fund here.