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Reflections on a Zero Waste New Year’s Resolution

I’ve recently been thinking about my New Year’s Resolution, which is to make as little harmful ecological impact as possible in the year 2013.The resolution is a promise to the world and to myself that I will live as a ‘No Impact Woman’ or at least, a ‘Least Impact Woman.’ For me, this means not buying anything new, not using electricity or other resources beyond my needs, and doing everything in my power to cancel out any negative impacts of my current lifestyle. My original inspiration to take on this resolution came from the book No Impact Man: The Reflections of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries he Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life Along the Way.In this book, author Colin Beaven embarks on a zero waste adventure that most would consider impossible. Yet, after reading this, I decided I would like to try and live as zero waste as possible to see what results would come about. While I do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint through my daily actions, I have found that it is impossible to fully eliminate it. After all, I am a carbon-based life form and when I die, I will leave an even greater footprint. Still, every action we perform has effects; I will list some of my current lifestyle changes and maybe motivate some folks to take similar steps in their lives.

No Impact Man

In the book, No Impact Man, an ambitious man and his family try to live zero waste lifestyles in the heart of New York City. Photo used by Fair Use.

The first change I made was getting rid of my cell phone. Since this makes my mother concerned for my safety, I keep the phone for emergencies but turn it off at all times so it never needs to be plugged in and waste electricity. I also do not give out my phone number to anyone, even possible job requests and instead give out my email due to the fact that the school computers stay on 24/7, therefore reducing an ecological impact that I have very little control over (unless I was to go around and turn them all off). Also, my friend and I turn off the televisions in the Student Union when we can so that these do not waste energy.

As for food choices, I eat vegan unless food will otherwise be wasted (such as pasta with cheese on someone else’s plate) and, since I have a Sodexo meal plan, I always observe the food choices first so as to not choose food that is most likely packaged or from long distances (such as bananas and coffee). I refrain from drinking tea because of the bag and I bring my reusable water bottle everywhere. I have never tried soda so this is not a beverage I had to give up since I never drank it in the first place.

In addition, I do not buy any products at all and I certainly do not use non-reusable items such as paper coffee mugs and napkins. I also do not buy any clothes (all of my clothes are second hand or from free boxes… I currently put on the FLC Environmental Center Free Store every Thursday, from 9-11 a.m. in the Student Union) and I do not buy any appliances or items unless they are offered to me. I try not to keep lights on during the day and I like to spread environmental awareness to the as many people as I can. Additionally, I try to limit computer use and if there is anything I am doing that is not ecologically sustainable or beneficial, I do my best to stop the habit or action immediately. I do not own a car and when I can, I avoid flying home and try to hitch a ride with a friend. I do not watch any movies or television unless this action may help to make someone else more aware of environmental issues and thus counterbalances the effect of watching the television. I also do not wear makeup due to the terrible effect it has on the environment.

I don’t want people to feel jealous because it doesn’t feel good. When people feel jealous, I have often observed they consume more due to feelings of inadequacy that may come up for them and then they may (depending on the person) go out and consume and waste items more, thus contributing more to the global carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. I also wake up at five in the morning to meditate so as to begin the day with positive aspirations and thoughts. This mindfulness meditation helps keep me aware of how I am impacting others and the environment throughout the day. I also have made a promise to the world and myself that I will remain celibate so as to not have to use condoms (terribly unsustainable) and I don’t want to marry or have kids due to population growth.

In essence, I think anyone can implement any of these zero waste suggestions and make a positive impact on the state of the world.  As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and in fact, we can. Little by little, step-by-step, we can influence a society and culture and rise up as an ecologically aware population at Fort Lewis College through any or all of our efforts.

By Michaela Steiner

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