Day 4,5,6,7 – day quit with honest reflections

The people that have lived in Holland would probably agree that the weather here is consistantly bi-polar, as a result of that i have been having cold and flu for on and off. With that i have to say goodbye to the No Impact experiment, i have had difficult times incorperating previous experimental days – they just seem so ‘off’ reality (at least my reality). Don’t take me wrong, I greatly respect people who has the will and creativity to ‘do something’ about our planet but most of us are simply too ignorant and self-concentrated to think about what we take for granted, myself included. Throughout these weeks, i have been exposed to a lot of ‘serious’ documentaries, videos, facts about garbage, water scarcity, toxics – i feel as though it will be the end of the universe soon. I remember back in 2007, I came across a very disturbing news about a sadist killing a newly-hatched duckling with her bare feet. The pictures struck me so hard till the point i can no longer eat meat or eggs for months. During that period i had many conflicting thoughts; on one hand, i feel like a hypocrit craving for meat while on the other hand i feel responsible for the sufferings of animals. At some point after 7 months of struggling i gave in, i accepted that no matter how much i love animals, i don’t think i can give up eating them. Similarly with environmental issues, i agree with Tara that when we think about the environment we usually picture the waterfalls, the green mountains and the crispy-chirping bird songs and rarely do we ever think about the ‘dark’ side of the environment – extraction, deforestation, earthquakes etc… I could write pages on how i care about the environment and how much i have become eco friendly and i could have made up my blog entries but thats not real. I think the reason why Colin Beavan was so successful in his ‘revolution’ for No Impact on the environment is because he is determined, he had the will, he cared enough and he is passionate, and i’m not. When i was watching the video ‘The Story of Stuff’ i kept asking, if we hadn’t progressed the way we did in the last decade would (you), Anne Leonard, be able to record yourself in video, post them on Youtube and share it with us through the internet? If we had not been so fast and eager in advancing our ‘living conditions’ would we have all those new innovations, technologies and medecine? I really find it hard to connect the two ends and more difficult in identifying my own stand-point in all this. I believe that if there will be a world destruction, it would be caused by humans. Perhaps i’m too pessimistic about the environment, or perhaps i’m too optimistic about innovation because i beleive we are highly adaptable and we create things so that it will benefit us better, so when we ‘run out’ we’ll ‘create’ another. Or maybe the fact that i dont believe in after-death makes me such a hedonistic-seeking being. Perhaps this is all an ‘American’ thing? I have watched  Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for more than 3 times. I was astonished by his graphs and results but in the end what was the solution- “Communal Consciousnes”? …IF we ALL quit smoking? – That’s like speaking nonsense, thinking whimsically! Anyways, my apologies for the long harangue on such a subjective view and i really do hope people continue to embrace their passions and make a difference.

Saturday: Giving Back

Just when I had started to feel good about myself… the guilt returns. I am currently not involved in any kind of volunteer/’giving back’ work, apart from donating clothes to the Kringloop every few months. BUT, I have wanted to for a long time. I took today to research various organizations in my area: One organization that really caught my eye was CADIP (Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects), which is an international volunteering organization based in Vancouver which seeks to promote “peace, cooperation, tolerance and understanding in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and international surroundings,” as well as “patterns and examples of civil activities focused on serving others, on building social ties and strengthening communities, on supporting civil society development.”

Sick of sitting on the computer and itching to get out of my apartment, I decided to go outside and do what I know best: clean. I walked around my neighborhood picking up bottles, cigarette butts, napkins, aluminum foil, bottle caps; the list goes on. I walked around for a total of two hours and by the time I came home I had three trash bags full of other people’s crap. I felt pretty defeated though. It wasn’t like the feeling you get when you finally finish cleaning your kitchen; that proud satisfaction. I couldn’t help but think that it didn’t make a difference, and I think that this- futility thinking- is a general attitude among people in respect to many things, but in particularly ‘giving,’ and it’s a problem. The beauty of solving problems you already know the answer to, is that you just have to figure out how to get there.

Friday: Water

Today’s challenge: Water! I’ve been looking forward to this day all week. Water is one of the most precious and valuable resources on earth, and without it, we would perish. Despite its significance though, over 1 billion people around the world continue to lack access to clean water and millions die every year for lack of it. Additionally, many of our most important aquifers are being over-pumped and half of the world’s wetlands have already been lost. There’s a political dimension to water too: Almost every major river system on the planet is shared by two or more nations, making water a source of international conflict and a matter of national security. As for me, my water footprint as I calculated is 2197 cubic meter per year, 1233 of which come from meat: yikes!

I began today’s challenge by making a list in order to predict the amount of water I will consume today:

  1. Shower (ca. 12 minutes)
  2. Dishes (ca. 15 minutes)
  3. Toilet (use about 9 times)
  4. Drinking water (ca. 2 liters)
  5. Water to cook (ca. .5 liter)
While I was showering, I only ran the water to wet and rinse myself, enabling me to reduce running water by about 9 minutes. As for the dishes, I was more conscious about reusing dishes. I used the same cup all day, and reused plates and silverware when I could. I let the dishes I couldn’t reuse pile up all day, rather than cleaning them after every meal, and when I finally did clean them, I soaked them in hot water for about 20 minutes and then finally was able to quickly rinse them off. As for the toilet, my goal was to only flush it three times. There’s a toilet lid for a reason, right? No need to flush every time you use it! My boyfriend at first was not very impressed with the idea, but when I began to talk about reusing rags instead and nixing toilet paper, he quickly complied. This got me thinking about people in the ‘modern world’s’ conceptions of hygiene and cleanliness. Not only are we not okay with our own bodily functions (i.e. burps, farts), we are obsessed with a totally false notion of cleanliness. People, myself included, pump their body with toxins (sometimes unknowingly, sometimes willingly), yet dust, polish, prim and perfume ‘the surface.’ This seems to be quite a social theme of our time: Out of sight, out of mind.  As for drinking and cooking water, I was not able to minimize my use.
Today, I am especially grateful for:
My couch, pictures, my job, my bodily functions!, and my past.

Thursday: Energy

Today’s challenge involves eliminating unnessecary energy consumption. I began by deciding what items I could eliminate, or at least mitigate:

TV (eliminate- gave it away!)

Refrigerator (mitigate)

Laptop (mitigate, use only for school, and turn off when not in use)

Light (eliminate)

Coffee machine (eliminate- my boyfriend was very unhappy!)

Water boiler (eliminate- used the gas stove to boil water for tea and such)

Microwave/oven (eliminate)

Cellphone and charger (mitigate)

Radio (eliminate- instead opened our windows and let the Greek music coming from a resteraunt next door pour into our apartment!)

The hardest, and subsequently the most rewarding, part of reducing energy consumption was without a doubt my laptop use. On average, I spend a considerable amount of time watching shows, ‘surfing the web’ and chatting with friends. Thankfully the weather was beautiful, so I spent the day in the park reading and soaking up the sun. The evening however, was much more testing. My boyfriend and I usually end our day with a movie or tv show, and he was not excited to say the least. As the sun slowly disappeared and night fell, we lit every candle we own; there’s something incredibly romantic about candle light. Initially, we struggled, but as time passed we began to talk: about our past, our hopes and ambitions, our fears. We talked about what makes us happy and what we want out of life: spending time with loved ones, meeting new people, going to strange and far-away places (in a physical and mental way), the pursuit of knowledge, compassion for others. We talked about death; about losing people. I thought of my mother and father, my brother and sisters, and about having to one day bury them. The tears begin to pour. I feel that I have conceptually come to understand the fact that death is a part of life, that everyone of us will die someday; but I have yet to live in that understanding. When I think about death, I feel like I am 7 years old again, waking in tears from a nightmare that something horrible has happened to Mommy and Daddy.

As I sat in my candle-lit apartment with my boyfriend, I felt content. I think about my life and how blessed I am. Moments like these are too rare. When we started No Impact Week, I certainly didn’t think it would be such a ‘spiritual journey,’ but it makes sense that what’s good for earth, is also good for us. Colin says that he wants to live a life in line with his values, and I think that’s really the core of all of this.

There is not a doubt in my mind that consumer culture must come to an end. It’s been fun- but we can no longer afford to bare the cost. Like Mark Bittman said, “Only once before has the fate of individual people and the fate of all of humanity been so intertwined- there was the bomb, and there’s now. And where we go from here is going to determine not only the quality and length of our individual lives but whether if we could see the earth a century from now, we would recognize it. It’s a holocaust of a different kind.”

What’s eating you?

“Variety is the spice of life,” and I have found this particularly true in regards to food. There’s nothing I love more- well, almost nothing- than going to my favorite Indian Restaraunt and pigging out on Butter Chicken and naan. When I calculated my average ‘carbon footprint’ using the Bon Appétit Management Company Low Carbon Diet Calculator, I came up with a total of 2237 points: about 4.5 grams of CO2 emissions. While this is declared a relatively conservative amount by Bon Appétit, it still blows my mind! My goal was to lower my CO2e by at least 15%. The first thing I decided to eliminate was red meat. According to Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 18% of greenhouse gases come from animal production alone. As a matter of fact, more CO2 is produced as a result of livestock production than transportation!  I expected this to be INCREDIBLY difficult as I am a huge fan of (especially) red meat, but found it suprisingly easy. The next thing I eliminated was coffee, then sweets of any kind, and finally, I eliminated all food produced outside of Holland.

For breakfast, I ate Muesli with strawberries. Then, for lunch, I had salad with goat cheese and chicken and for dinner I ate fish and veggies (squash, mushrooms, broccoli). I have struggled for a very long time with my relationship with food, as most people do- whether they realize it or not. It wasn’t until fairly recently (about a year or so) that I really started to be conscious of what I put into my body. As a result, I can really feel the difference between eating a microwaved pizza for dinner, or for example, fish, and even my taste buds have adapted accordingly. Now, I don’t avoid eating chips because I want to watch my weight; I don’t even feel like I’m depriving myself of anything- they taste like shit!

Colin’s wife, Michelle, following a visit (or ‘holiday’) to a local farm, talks about how her family were farmers, and how, while she has spent her life in the city, she felt like she was “coming back” for something that she had left behind. This really struck a chord with me. I think this is true for all of us who live in a consumer society. I really believe that as we are a part of this earth, it is a part of us; a part many people have ‘left behind’ without realizing it. The times that I feel most at peace, or even ‘closest to god’ (for lack of a better term), are the moments where I am in nature. As a teenager, my friends and I would often travel to Scandanavia and camp for weeks at various fjords. I think those were some of the happiest, awe-filled, most peaceful moments of my life- and that’s what we all want right? I often meet people who “don’t like nature,” and I just can’t relate. What do you mean you don’t like nature?! Is the society people have created more ‘real life’ than ecosystems which have evolved and sustained themselves over millions of years? I often consider leaving everything behind; packing my things and ‘returning to nature.’ I admire people like Colin and Michelle, however, who are able to find a balance between the two, because it seems incredibly difficult. It entails a lot of questioning, a considerable amount of consciousness and also I think, doubt.

I am grateful for:

Mountains, making new friends, this guy , music and my mind!

Day 7- “ Difficulties”

 The 7th day of the No-Impact week. Interestingly enough, a week has 7 day, yet there is still one day left to go. Today was a ‘giving back’ day to society. This was, according to me, the most difficult day and I didn’t truly succeed in ‘giving back’ in any way locally. So here is my list of my contribution to my community:

  • talk to a few neighbors

Many of my neighbors that don’t live in my building are unknown to me, except the restaurant owner who runs the restaurant underneath my building.

Even though I don’t help out for charities during this Saturday, I have helped out before. Usually it’s my family, who help an charity that deals with giving school kids in India an education at the Full Color Festival in Emmen.

With all these difficulties in getting the nerve to go to a charity, I remembered a website I used to visit quite often many years back.

Yes, there is a way to donate to a charity without really changing your lifestyle, and at the same time it can improve your vocabulary. This online word game is called Free Rice, http://www.freerice.com/. It’s the ultimate in terms of ease,effortless, and fun type of charity giving one can do, from the comfort of their computer chair, sipping a cup of whatever one might drink.

I guess it made my day worthwhile, magically being able to provide rice cups to feed a hungry family located somewhere in this world.With the social networking phase in the world today, and with people being more comfortable behind their screens, and with a gaming culture websites such as these should be advocated. There is no energy being used for transportation, besides the miniscule needed to fire up that electric current of zeros and ones through the wires. Unlike many charity giving activities , you couldn’t meet anyone in this word game, and even that would be easy to implement with interactive chat rooms.

I hope that kind of helps the whole equation the No-Impact man created, Negative Impact + Positive Impact = No Impact.

It’s a strange equation, and it seems there are many ways to ‘play’ around with the equation.

So five things I’m grateful for:

  1. Internet games(inclusive of these charity games)

  2. creative minds around the world

  3. books to store and transfer information

  4. baroque style buildings

  5. electronics

Day 6 – “ A drowning moment”

It is already the 6th day of the No-Impact week, and the end is nearAs I sit here typing this up, 600 ml of hot water-ready for me to consume with a taste additive of tea, lies waiting for me. Just this morning I took a nice 5-6 minute shower, faster than usual I would have to say due to the No-Impact week. Never to mind the dishes, which I usually clean every 2 days as I don’t have a policy of reusing dishes later on at the same day, unless I’m in my room the whole day.

Having water in plentiful seems to be the usual life when living in a nation that seems to have enough wealth to pay for the expensive water processing facilities that can recycle water. Also, the Netherlands has an abundance of water, we even have water flowing through towns and cities in the form of canals, although that water is not drinkable. Opening the tap, one can think that water is in endless supply, yet many times I wonder how much the ratio of recycled to freshly pumped out of the river is.

Using the http://www.waterfootprint.org waterfootprint calculator I figured out how much water I individually consume on average per week.

Thats around 495,000 liters per year!

When it comes to food and drinks, tea for example

Eggs2169.04095 liters

Potatoes113.562354 liters

Cheese3391.72896 liters

Tea (236 ml) — 26.4978825 liters

Wheat Bread582.953415 liters

Groundnuts1393.03154 liters

I understand why eggs would cost a lot of water, as a chicken is a living being. Ground nuts however surprised me the most, I always envisioned that the plants that produced these ‘ground nuts’ would be well adjusted to arid areas. Now it would seem that it costs a lot of water, eating less ‘ground nuts’ would help lower my water impact.

Today is a Friday, so the water I would like to consume has to be:

  • tea

  • boiling potatoes

  • showering

  • flushing the toilet

  • doing the dishes

  • washing my hands

  • splashing my face to cool me down in these hot times

Water consumption however has been very difficult to decrease due to the daily hygienic requirements I myself am used to. I guess the fault could be aimed at products as there are many products that actually require water to function. Yet even I’m at fault for taking long 10-15 minute showers and doing the dishes too often with the water running.

 Let’s take a water needing product, soap for example, it always requires huge amounts water and sometimes they design the soap so that you have to use quite a bit of soap and quite a bit of water to rinse your hand fully. A lot of these products react to water in a special fashion, and since they aren’t going to go away in my lifetime I guess we need to tackle the source that limits water recycling, energy,chemicals, and certain other resources. I do wonder if energy was in unlimited supply, whether our water consumption would have so great an impact. After all, according to data from http://www.noaa.gov/ocean.html, the oceans contain 97% of our Earths ‘water’, and desalinization would become a very feasible possibility with an unlimited energy supply.

So what have I figured out to reduce my water usage.

  • When it comes to dishes, I turn on my tap on and off very quickly, lather a plate in soap, and then turn on the tap and rinse. I just repeat that same quick process for all my dishes.
  • Taking shorter showers
  • Not drinking coffee-I never drink coffee yet I guess not drinking it at all helps?

I’m not sure I would go to the extremes of No-Impact man, especially the ‘stomping’ his clothes till they are ‘clean’. Probably would work as well as a washing machine, yet looks time consuming.

Many times the technology to ‘save’ water exists, yet it sometimes costs more to implement that technology to save water than to use the water. With a price of 1.51 Euro per 1000 liters of water, as the Association of Dutch Water Companies formally states, the price of water to the average consumer is very cheap. I would expect water consumption in the developed nations to wane down as energy prices increase, which leads to higher water prices, and finally lead to a ‘green’ revolution in efficiency of water utilizing machinery such as showers, baths, washing machines, and so forth.

In the article titled, “Convenience, schedules, and sustainability”  by Lancaster University they talk about how our scheduled lives have led to us to waste less time on doing an action, and that the time excess thats now available will lead to a more convenient schedule. This got me thinking about water, as water access is conveniently accessible everywhere, and as it is so convenient we sometimes forget the impact of the usage of this water. If water access was inconvenient, where we actually had to take our bucket to a dug-out well and hoist it up ourselves, I would assume that our water usage,or should I say wastage, would decrease drastically. I guess there is always a pay-off for convenience.

 Five things to be grateful for are:

1.limitless supply of cheap high quality water

2.computers

3.digital camera’s

4.sun that nourishes the Earth

5.microwave

Edwin