Little impact, big deal?

During class today, I listened to my peers convey frustration with their peers.  My classmates are mocked for taking this low-impact project seriously.  Some receive texts with pictures of trash, subtitled “recyclable?” or “#landfill or naw.”  Some have their actions counteracted: they turn the light off, and a roommate turns it back on.  Friends at the lunch table still use a bunch of napkins after a warning from an ENVS student to use less.  I found this all very interesting.  I have encountered almost none of this.  But maybe that’s because I am not being vocal.

I go about my day quietly not using paper towels, using a library computer, eating every bite of non-processed foods.  My impact is minimal–later I’ll need to charge my phone and take a short shower after a run.  But otherwise, I’m invisible.  And I now realize THIS IS NOT THE POINT.  The point is not the antithesis either, to be obnoxious about how much or how little I consume.  Rather the point is to create discussion around impact.  In order to even think about altering the current high-consumption, instant gratification-centric behaviors we display, so often unbeknownst to us, we have to build a comfortable platform for discussion.  We have to open a dialogue in which we admit to the reality of our behaviors without being ostracized and embrace the actions we already take towards minimizing our footprint on the earth.

So the stealth with which I’ve been conducting this project isn’t so impressive.  Yes, modest maybe, or humble at best.  But it’s egocentric and individualistic.  It’s time, now, to spread the good word.

Grace Bachmann


  1. I am fortunate enough to have my roommates not make fun of what I am doing, yet their actions speak otherwise. I think discussing this with the student population is a great idea and can really open a lot of student’s minds about how much we use and waste. I see this as a possible series of interesting discussions or if not, just a huge topic to cover. Aside from this, being conscious about how we see our waste is a win in my book.

  2. I think you’re right–it’s not necessarily about me taking a shorter shower, but about the dialogue I’m starting. Just three days in, a few people are starting to ask me things like “Luce, should I put this in the compost?” It’s a small step, but I can tell that people are starting to think about their impact, because they know I’m aware of mine.

  3. I can completely relate to that experience. When i first went vegan, multiple friends and family members told me that they were “sponsoring me” (google “sponsor a vegetarian t-shirt” and look view the image results). And i think you’re totally right about having to find that happy place in the middle, between being silent and abrasive. Let me offer you a personal story which was pivotal in my ever continuing journey to finding the right approach for me.

    I worked with this animal rights group in Minneapolis that had a tendency of being pretty abrasive – like yelling at stranger’s kids for chasing pigeons abrasive. The local new channel was doing a christmas light photography contest and the grand prize was a gift certificate to a fur factory. So the outreach coordinator asked everyone she knew to submit a picture and a description, sending hers as an example – a pile of carcasses outside of a fur factory, and your standard inflammatory description about murdering innocent beings. This approach IMMEDIATELY makes people defensive, and did little more than annoy the poor intern who probably had to weed through the submissions. I submitted a picture of a dog tangled in a pile of Christmas lights, and in my description said what an awesome idea this competition was, how much a part of my family’s christmas tradition looking at lights was, but also asking that they pick a prize that was more respectful of life and in line with the Christmas spirit. Mine was one of the final 5, which meant it made it on the website and on TV.

  4. I can relate to your post. My roommate does make fun of me, but he is the only one I have told I am doing no impact week. So, I will be more vocal with my friends and discuss the impacts of taking 40 napkins at lunch or throwing away a whole plate of food. I think our friends will make fun of us, but deep inside they will begin to think about their actions. I think if they begin to think about their consumption, then the point of the No Impact week has been accomplished.

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