Monday, November 9, 2009

The (Long Overdue) Conclusion of No Impact Week

You all out there in Moxie-fan Land probably noticed that I stopped posting about my No Impact Experiment week after Thursday. And I've stopped posting at all for a little while. To be honest, the week of No Impact was kind of a stressful time for me and between then and now I've also had to deal with a computer crash, and other life and work matters. But allow me to give a brief synopsis of the rest of the week and how I felt about the project.

For Friday's water challenge I didn't do much, as our house already has high efficiency appliances and I try to avoid turning the faucet on full force. I considered taking really short, 5-minute "navy showers" but frankly, one of my guilty pleasures is long and hot showers so I really couldn't bring myself to give that one up completely (although I did cut back on time a bit).

Saturday I combined activism with giving back by going to a protest in Raleigh as part of the global day of climate action and a local effort to stop the construction of a new coal-fired power plant. I hadn't been to a protest since my college days, so it was kinda cool to get back out in the streets, even if I'm not as idealistic about the power of protesting as I was back then.

But the experience was interesting to say the least, and definitely made me want to help lobby for the local issue of the construction of the Cliffside power plant. After the protest I walked over to the Cherry Bounce Fest where I saw a bunch of awesome bands and fell in love with The Hood Internet on the street party dance floor. The only downside to this great day was that I couldn't find anyone to carpool with and the Triangle Transit bus system wouldn't allow me to stay for the festival, so I sucked it up and drove down alone to Raleigh, breaking one of my transportation challenges. But I thought it was for a good reason, so I let it slide.

Sunday was the Eco-Sabbath, the last day of the experiment and the time to rest and reflect on the experiences of the week. Basically, I used that day to feel guilty about all the ways I had cheated on my challenge, but also to reflect on how well I did overall.

I realized that it didn't take that much effort to create less trash, but rather a slight bit of inconvenience and a bit of planning ahead and being prepared. My trash bag for the week didn't contain all that much trash, mostly just plastic bags from food wrappers that I'd used at least a few times to cook with, and some food containers from the couple of times during the week that I caved and ate out.

One thing that I think I really learned from the experiment is just how much I crave mindless consumption when I'm feeling upset or out of control in my life. As I mentioned before, the week I did No Impact turned out to be a pretty stressful one (for reasons outside the experiment) and I kept finding myself wanting to randomly buy things or just drive instead of biking somewhere whenever I felt stressed. That was really strange for me because I never really thought of myself as the type of person that used consumption to assuage my personal feelings of angst. Now I know that while I'm not the type of person who goes out and buys 20 pairs of shoes when they are upset, I do have a tendency to buy prepared food instead of cooking, drive instead of walking or biking, and generally buy into the consumption of capitalist conveniences because it just seems "easier" when in the moment of feeling stressed out. But many meals at home can take 30 minutes or even less to prepare which is faster than the time it takes to venture out, order something, and wait to receive it. And the endorphin release from the exercise of a bike ride would probably make me feel better than if I just sat gloomily in a car and drove the same distance.

So overall I'm glad I did the experiment, and I hope to keep some of the lessons in mind and in heart for the lifestyle choices I make. The No Impact Week is having a second run starting November 15th, so if anyone is interested in trying it out for themselves, sign up!

Here's a preview of upcoming posts, inspired by my experiences during No Impact:

  • the science behind the 350 movement, and why you should care!
  • the link between endorphins and exercise
  • a discussion of an interesting article on the emotional value of music

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday: Energy

To use less energy today I turned the heat in the house down to 60 degrees. It really doesn't make a difference right now since it's not too cold outside and the temperature inside is still around 74 degrees, but it still made me feel better. I'm going to start turning it lower when I'm the last to leave the house too. I'm also going to pledge to stop using my computer to procrastinate by instituting a rule that I can't use the computer past 10:30 pm. I'll make an exception for school-work if necessary. I was going to buy some candles to use after dark instead of my lamps, but the thought slipped my mind! So maybe tomorrow I'll try to pick some up, but in the meantime I will save energy by going to bed early.

Night night, world. We take on water tomorrow.

Wednesday: Food

I will admit, I didn't try too hard on this day's assignment. The goal was to try to eat locally, but I already had food in the fridge and was tempted by falafel and hummus on the street at lunchtime. I made some trash from buying that and, GASP, threw it away instead of saving it for my trash bag. But I'll remember how much it was. A plate, a styrofoam cup (yes, I know, for shame), and a plastic fork. I wish that place had dishes that weren't disposable as an option for dining in.

But, on the plus side, I biked to the coffeeshop (3+ miles!), remembered to bring my reusable coffee mug (it's another place that only offers disposable cups/dishes), and biked my way home. I also hopped on the bike to get to the bar where I met up with some friends. I decided that if I didn't eat locally today, I was going to drink locally, so I choose a delicious Duck Rabbit Porter straight from Farmville, NC.

I don't know how well I'll be able to eat locally since the only option right now for local produce is Whole Foods or maybe Harris Teeter, and I have plenty of frozen and canned food at home and no need to buy new things. I think this might be the hardest challenge of the week, even above trying not to make any trash!

But we'll see. Tomorrow brings me the challenge of ENERGY!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday: Transportation

So the short story is that all of today I was home sick with the flu and didn't really go anywhere outside of my bed. EXCEPT I did walk about two blocks down the street to get some Local Yogurt with a friend. So I walked as transportation! However, this created some trash that I had to put in my bag for the day. It's so hard to eat anything without creating any trash! I'm not doing horribly on that front so far, but I am far from a day where I create absolutely no trash.

Tomorrow I plan to bring my reusable coffee mug to the coffee shop that only uses disposable cups. Oh, and I plan to bike there.

Tomorrow's challenge is FOOD, but I'm not sure how able I'll be to eat local or unpackaged food. But I plan to cook my meals and opt for less packaging when I do eat out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday: Trash

I will have to admit that I slipped up a little in my no trash challenge for today. I went to Subway and purchased a foot long sub in a moment of weakness.

This created a few wrappers and a bag and paper napkin that went into my trash bag for the week. I guess that means I also failed at consumption since I ate food out when I had some at home. For dinner, I did a little better by making a pasta salad dish which only created two wrappers of trash for about 4 meals. Not bad, but it' so strange to think of how it's virtually impossible to create absolutely no trash. I'm going to try a lot harder on this challenge during the remaining days of No Impact by trying to avoid eating out, trying to reuse items when possible, and composting all my kitchen waste (which I already do). I'm just wondering how full my trash tracking bag will get by the end of the week.

Tomorrow I tackle: TRANSPORTATION!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday: Consumption

Today was the first day of No Impact Week! The focus of the day was consumption. The guidelines set out were to avoid buying anything unnecessary, and to try to buy second-hand items and make things yourself instead of buying things new.

Compulsive shopping isn't really a huge issue with me to begin with, and I feel that it's even less of an issue now that I'm living on a grad stipend. I'm usually pretty good about avoiding buying frivolous things in general, but I will admit that I don't think I give enough thought to trying to buy things second-hand. I enjoy going to thrift stores and scoring something I was going to buy new for a really great price, so I will definitely keep that option in mind for the items I was planning to buy this week. I would have actually gone thifting today if most shops weren't closed on Sundays and if there was something I needed to buy for this week, but right now I think I'm covered.

I started a reusable bag to track all the trash that I will accumulate for the week, and managed to throw away only one small piece of plastic wrap that was covering the bowl in the fridge of homemade salsa I had for dinner. I actually went the whole day without buying anything, since it was dreary outside and I decided to stay in and catch up on reading and studying. The only hard part of the day was the urge to go out and buy some falafel and hummus for a meal, but I decided to suck it up and eat what I had around the house. Besides, getting take out was likely to create styrofoam waste that I'd have to look at all week in my trash-tracking bag. So far, so good! Since each day builds on the next, we'll see if I can keep this focused for the rest of the week (though I will admit that it's sort of a cop-out when you don't leave the house).

Tomorrow I tackle: TRASH.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The No Impact Experiment

I think one thing I forgot to mention while writing my introductory post is that the more I live in the Triangle the more I seem to become a huge hippie. By this I mean I have started to use a bicycle as transportation, flirted with veganism (I am currently pescatarian), and recently started using mostly natural beauty products and toiletries. So when I heard about the No Impact Week put on by Colin Beavan and the Huffington Post, I decided to sign up and challenge myself to see just how far I was willing to go to be greener. In case you haven't heard of No Impact Man, it is a book and now a movie about one man and his family's year-long quest to live greener in the midst of New York City. I've been following his project for a little while, and feeling inspired by his dedication to his ideals and perseverance. At least, it certainly added to my enviro-guilt when I opted to drive a distance less than 2 miles instead of cycling or taking the bus.

I just took the pre-week survey for the No Impact Project, and since any good experiment starts with a hypothesis, I was prompted to write one. What I came up with was, "This week I will begin to take some steps towards forming daily habits that are better for the environment, my pocketbook, and my personal well-being." I'm hoping that dedicating myself to this completely for one week will make some of the changes stick around for while, or at least change my perspective (i.e. inspire more enviro-guilt).

A brief outline of the things I'll be working on each day of the week:

Sunday: Consumption
Monday: Trash
Tuesday: Transportation
Wednesday: Food
Thursday: Energy
Friday: Water
Saturday: Giving Back
Sunday: Eco-Sabbath

The week begins this Sunday, October 18th, and I'll be blogging about my progress here as my first series of posts on Science with Moxie.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Welcome to Moxie!

Hi Readers (perhaps all 6 of you, but this is the internet, and one may never know for sure),

Welcome to this first entry in this fledgling blog about science, culture, and related topics of interest. My goal for this blog is to have fun talking about science in a way that the everyman can understand, to touch on the ways that science intersects with culture and our everyday lives, and to finally have a little fun throwing around my humble little opinions about the crazy issues that come out of all those intersections. I want to keep this blog interesting and filled with spunk and, yes, MOXIE, so that it feels less like a boring classroom lecture in textual form and more like an adventure with your eccentric babbling nerdy but lovable aunt that was such a blast that you learned something on accident. Since my favorite topics are also politics and music, some stuff related to those topics might pop up in here too. But this ride is just starting up, so we'll see where it takes us.