I’m taking part in an experiment. What will your impact be?

Theresa Bruskin

Credit: DKS Editors

Everything you own and have ever owned will someday become garbage. In fact, 99 percent of what we produce ends up as garbage within a mere six months of production. And it adds up: The United States produced more than 251 million tons of garbage in 2006 – that’s 4.6 pounds per person per day spread among 1,754 landfills.

Regardless of your views on global warming (it’s real, by the way), there’s no question that our choices can have a negative impact on the world we depend on. But can decreasing our impact on the earth and its environment better our lives and increase our happiness?

“No Impact Man” Colin Beavan thinks it can, so in November 2006, he and his family began a year of trying to have the smallest possible impact on the world. Along the way, they found that their lives improved as well – they spent more time together, became more active and more creative and led fuller, richer lives.

Beavan is so convinced of his thesis (living a happier life results in a happier earth) that he designed a weeklong experiment beginning Sunday so that more people can change their lives the way he did.

I signed up a few weeks ago and have been looking through the guide to get an idea of how the week ahead will work. It’s pretty simple because each day has a different focus:

•Sunday – Stop consuming new goods.

•Monday – Stop making trash.

•Tuesday – Find alternative transportation.

•Wednesday – Eat healthy and local.

•Thursday – Reduce energy use.

•Friday – Use less water.

•Saturday – Be charitable and better your community.

•Sunday – Take an “Eco-Sabbath” to take a break from everything and appreciate the bare necessities.

As Beavan explains on the project’s Web site, “It’s not about giving up creature comforts, but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern ‘conveniences’ you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.”

If it sounds a little hippy-dippy, let’s-sing-Kumbaya-and-hug-the-earth, that’s because, well, it kind of is – but in a good way. The idea of the project is to learn how to incorporate no- or low-impact living into your life by making small changes at a time and figuring out what works for you. It’s a how-to guide for everyone who always wanted to be more “eco-friendly” but never knew how. Whether bettering yourself or bettering the earth is your main goal, the experiment has the added bonus of accomplishing both.

The way I see it, even if I decide some changes don’t suit my lifestyle, I’ll try to make up for them in other ways. In the end, anything we decide to do differently is more than we were doing before. Even just making small changes is a step in the right direction.

And hey, who doesn’t want a happier life? If it makes life even a little bit better, then it’s at least worth a try.

Learn more about the experiment

Tips for healthier living

Theresa Bruskin is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].