Starting Sunday October 18, HuffPost hosted the inaugural No Impact Week, where people around the globe examined and reduced their ecological footprint by taking part in a short and intense period of conscious consumption supported by local and online communities.
Of the over 5,000 participants, an environmental-conscious organization of Muslims who call themselves Green Muslims in the District was the largest localized community to take on the project. The D.C. Green Muslims used No Impact Week as an opportunity to improve both their spiritual and environmental practices, and to be "green in a Muslim community, and Muslim in a green community." They created this inspiring video to sum up the eight-day experiment:
Sign up here for the next No Impact Week, which starts November 15.
This Muslim community, which created a unique guide that placed inspiring quotes from Islamic texts side by side with tips for how to live a lower-impact life, was only one of many groups that customized the week for their specific location or religion. Throughout the week, four hundred participants interacted on a daily basis through the No Impact Project Ning and created over seventy groups based on shared geography, interests and heritage -- from a Mt Eden, New Zealand group to a Spanish language Latino American group.
We hoped that people would take on this project in a community. We asked for participants to share their stories and lessons from their experience. Here's what they had to say.
For Donna Joseph from Everett, Washington (who inspired Arianna with her blog about getting ready for the project), No Impact Week made her rethink what she needs to buy versus what she has fallen into the habit of buying:
I was able to take a second look at my consumption. This is the area where I need the most improvement. I, like so many others, have some leftovers from single-motherhood. It is the poverty consciousness that makes us all want more. This week, I did stop and think. Did I really need that new mop? Yeppers, I did, but I could do without the cleats to put on my shoes to walk on ice this winter. After all, I use a wheel chair anyway. I have learned to reuse and make do. I knit blankets for traumatized kids for the Binky Patrol, and find I can get all the yarn I can use at the thrift store. It takes a little creativity to join the colors, but that is where the fun comes in.
For Elanor Moore, No Impact Week also helped improve her spiritual practice:
On a spiritual note, I learned that when I'm a better Buddhist, in the moment, fully experiencing what I'm doing and understanding all the implications of my actions, it's easier to be green - and vice versa. Participating in No Impact Project Week helped me be a better Buddhist, and being a better Buddhist helped me make fuller use of No Impact Week. Once again, I found that when I did things the right way, the smart way, the responsible way, the greener way, life became that little bit easier. And my path ahead became a little bit clearer. I don't know about happiness or money, but gaining clarity was definitely a plus from the week's activities. I'd rather have clarity than happiness or money anyway.
Leda Meredith discovered her reliance on electronic sources of music, and that giving them up created a sense of inner peace:
Powering down was the big one for me. Even though I got rid of TV months ago, like many people, I'd gotten used to my life having a soundtrack: earphones on and tunes or podcasts while I walked to the train station, videos on my iPhone while I rode the train; even my cookery had music or downloaded programs accompanying it.
Suddenly I was cooking to silence, by candlelight, or listening to the city as I walked through it.
I thought it would be boring and that I'd be restless without that electronic soundtrack. Instead I found myself feeling something so unfamiliar that it took me a while to identify it.
I felt peaceful.
I've often felt happy and just as often excited, and told myself that made up for the anxiety I also often feel. But peaceful? That hadn't been part of my usual repertory.
Meanwhile, Jean Godar from Costa Rica discovered a sense of camaraderie that carried her through the week, and most of all, the beauty of volunteerism:
This whole week was a chance to focus on the various aspects of my habits and feel connected to like minded people. This week I learned, that I am not doing enough to lower my impact, that it is not so difficult to do better at lowering my impact, and that it is actually fun. Part of the pleasure and satisfaction I got out of this week was the feeling of camaraderie I felt with the people involved in the No Impact Project. The other part was the focus and self examination required for each day's goals - I saw change.
The best part of the week was my volunteerism, I began working with a newly forming organic farmers cooperative here with my neighbors in Costa Rica where I live. The cooperative's goals include creating a sustainable healthy way of life for our local small farmers and to provide locally grown organic food for the people in our community. I am very excited and hopeful about this project.
Elizabeth Borelli used No Impact Week as an opportunity to learn how to make a variety of foods from scratch:
I made a lot more healthy food from scratch, which meant less pre-packaged snacks, so our family reserves dwindled to none by the end of the week. That was when my four year old demanded "Mom, how do you spell 'Can you go to the grocery store and buy more snacks?'" in an apparent attempt to cast her own vote for change. Instead I handed her some homemade granola and that seemed to suffice. I never did get a chance to make my own yogurt though!
Lysa from Hawaii discovered that living a No Impact lifestyle was more difficult than she initially conceived:
I was so sure this week was going to be easy for me. Instead I was surprised to find that even with all that I do to reduce my "footprint" it is still pretty large. I've learned a lot from all of you in just one short week and find myself contemplating simple daily moments in a clearer view now. I will continue to improve my ways and share my thoughts and experiences to everyone inside my sphere of influence. I truly believe we as a collective whole can and do make a difference and I congratulate all of us for trying.
For Jerina Page from Cottage Grove, Oregon, No Impact Week provided a great blueprint for how to bring our environmental concerns into the the real world:
Weeks such as we just held are critical to the success of future environmental change because they provide a nonthreatening way to explore just how easy it is to lower your impact on the environment. This event helps fight the truth that "thinking about it is far worse than doing it" for those who are just thinking about it or taking baby steps toward smaller footprints.
Sign up here for the next No Impact Week, which starts November 15.