The Daily Gamecock

Green Quad community strives for ‘No Impact’

Weeklong challenge inspires students to reduce carbon footprint

Students in the Green Quad Learning Community are putting their green values to the test this week on a journey to eliminate their carbon footprint.

The experiment, part of a national movement called the No Impact Project, began Sunday. Participants are following daily guidelines to gradually minimize their consumption and waste output and put their environmentally conscious philosophies into action.

The No Impact movement was conceived by New York writer Colin Beavan, author of this year’s freshman reading selection, “No Impact Man.” In his book, Beavan chronicles his own year-long journey of adopting a zero-waste lifestyle while living in New York City with his family. Beavan describes how simplifying his life and living waste-free ultimately improved his relationships and individual happiness. He also concluded from his experiment that a change in lifestyle can become a catalyst for environmental and political action.

Second-year theatre student Emily Gonzalez, coordinator of the Green Quad’s No Impact project, heard about the experiment and was inspired to start implementing these zero-waste principles in her own life.

“My family had always been [environmentally]-focused, but I knew there was always something more I could be doing,” Gonzalez said. “When I heard about No Impact Man, I was really interested in just how far he went in his beliefs. I figured if he and his family could do this in New York City for an entire year, it was about time that I stepped up and actually tried it on my own for a week.”

About 20 other students in the Green Quad community have joined in on the project, as well as a few Green Quad Learning Center staff members. Each day of the No Impact Experiment introduces a new challenge: 1) refrain from purchasing new products, 2) stop making trash, 3) use only emission-free transportation, 4) eat only local food, 5) turn off all forms of electricity, 6) minimize water use and 7) give back to the community through service. Each challenge builds on the last until, the final Sunday (the “Eco-Sabbath”), when participants are living with zero impact.

Second-year exercise science student Ellen Quigg said that living in a completely sustainable way is no easy task. Many students had to take the time and effort to plan out their week in order to keep up with the rules, such as making provisions for transportation, saving trash accumulated throughout the week, remembering to carry their own utensils and thermoses for eating and drinking and shortening showers. However, Quigg says these new inconveniences, such as toting her own trash bag throughout the week, have helped her to realize simple solutions to waste.

“Looking through the trash was the most eye-opening,” Quigg said. “I’ve had to stop using paper towels, and I’ve realized just how many I use on a regular basis. It’s so habitual, you don’t realize how much you actually accumulate until you’re forced to carry it around with you.”

The Green Quad residents will be supporting each other with their challenges throughout the week, engaging in community service over the weekend and turning off their power for an “earth hour” Saturday night. A group of students also made a trip to Furman Tuesday night to hear Beaven, the No Impact Man himself, share some of the challenges he faced when embarking on his year-long experiment.

Anyone interested in completing their own No Impact week can register online at any time of the year at The No Impact Project website features an extensive day-by-day how-to guide with tips for carrying out each challenge.

Participants recognize that some of the challenges might not be realistic for on-campus students who have little control over the origins of Russell House food or temperature and electricity regulations in residence halls. However, as drastic as the No Impact rules may seem, the rules can be followed as strictly or as loosely as each participant chooses. According to Quigg, the goal of No Impact isn’t necessarily “go big or go home,” but to get as close to the ideal as possible.

“You don’t need a No Impact week to make a difference,” Quigg said. “Small changes do make a big difference, especially if you make yourself aware and make it a habit.”