No Impact Week ― the carbon ‘cleanse’ challenge

By Civil Society Team on Mon, 24 February 2014

Written by Anna Oposa, Youth Researcher, ADB NGO and Civil Society Center

Starting 22 February, Asian Development Bank (ADB) is holding its second No Impact Week challenge for individuals to cut their carbon footprint, following the success of the pilot event in January 2013.

Last year about 1,500 participants committed to a one-week carbon cleanse by carrying out lifestyle tweaks, such as bringing a tumbler or reusable bottle to work, consuming less meat, and carrying a reusable bag. The results were impressive. Following the challenge, ADB stopped selling bottled water and 52% of the 700+ line items in ADB Food Services are now locally sourced. There’s also been a 50% decrease in the use of disposable items as well.

What exactly is the No Impact challenge all about? The answer is best illustrated by one example on the No Impact Project website: “For one year, Colin Beavan and his family unplugged from the electrical grid, produced no trash, traveled exclusively by foot or bike, and bought nothing except food (all of it locally grown). By the end, they discovered something surprising: living simply wasn’t just good for the environment; it made them healthier, happier, and richer in ways they’d never expected.”

The first part of the sentence alone is shocking. No electricity for a year! For a lot of people, that seems impractical and impossible. So where does that leave us in our quest for No Impact? Having zero impact is the goal we are working towards. And while we may not be able to achieve that absolute target we can still take concrete measures to sharply decrease our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

The beauty of the No Impact Project is that anyone can be part of it, regardless of age, occupation, and gender. It is especially doable for young people, because they are generally more open to change. Committing to an eco-friendly (or -friendlier) lifestyle starts with the choices we make everyday. It does not necessarily require buying less. What we can do as a first “leap of faith” is to purchase items we will actually use and which last longer than ‘throw away’ products.

It is the accumulation of little things we throw away which turns into the mountains of trash in dumpsites, or the infamous Great Pacific Garbage patch in the ocean. The trash in your house may seem insignificant, but imagine this― Metro Manila’s 11.5 million residents produce 8,400 tons of solid waste each day. This accounts for approximately a quarter of all the waste generated by the whole country.

Waste management advocates have added a 4th R to the usual 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle): Refuse. To refuse plastic bags because we have reusable ones; to refuse straws because we can drink without them; to refuse paper cups because we brought tumblers, and to refuse to accept that we can continue with ‘business as usual’ if we want clean water and air for present and future generations.

There’s a misconception that being an environmentalist means having to say no all the time (e.g., no to fossil fuels, cars, red meat). The flip side is actually saying yes—yes to greener alternatives (e.g., yes to renewable energy, carpooling, and more vegetables and fruits).  Muni.com.ph, an enterprise which creates community events, campaigns, and tools for environmentally healthy living, came out with a Muni-festo that states it best: “You don’t need to move mountains to make a difference. In fact, we highly discourage tampering with Mother Nature.”

Now go forth and start your Lo-CO2 diet. You just might feel like Colin Beavan afterwards and be healthier, happier, and richer in ways you never expected.