No Impact Week Promotes Environmental Consciousness In Daily Activities

In the documentary No Impact Man, Colin Beavan and his wife spend a year attempting to live with no environmental impact. As part of this effort, the Beavans cut off their electricity, stop using disposable diapers for their young daughter, and eat only local food. They purchase no new items, wash their clothes in a tub, and generate almost no trash throughout their experience. 

This week at Pomona College, student employees and volunteers of the college's Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) have been trying to do something similar by hosting No Impact Week. Each day, the group has hosted events focusing on different aspects of living with no environmental impact. 

As part of the event, 184 participants pledged to live with "no impact" for a week. 

“You sign up to be part of it by pledging to try to reduce your impact in these various areas—there’s about eight of them, one for each day," said Jen Schmidt PO ’14, who works at the SIO and planned the week's events. 

Each day's events had a theme, such as food or transportation. No Impact Week began on Sunday, Feb. 23 with a screening of No Impact Man

While most of the participants who made the "no impact" pledge were Pomona students, a few students from other schools participated, as did some staff and faculty members. Schmidt emphasized the diversity of participants, pointing out that students from a range of majors, not just environmental analysis, were represented. 

Monday and Tuesday—focusing on trash and water, respectively—also included documentary screenings at Frank Dining Hall.

The goal of Monday's event was to produce no trash for that day, and to collect all trash from the previous day in a bag.

Tuesday’s challenge continued with a water tasting in the courtyard of the Smith Campus Center, designed to raise awareness about the sources of drinking water and to reduce consumption of bottled water as part of the Take Back the Tap campaign.

Davey Holmes PO ’16 and Chelsea Fried PO ’14 ran the water tasting. Participants were given four cups of water and asked to identify each one as either Fiji bottled water, Mountain Spring bottled water, filtered tap water, or unfiltered tap water. Success varied, although most students were able to distinguish between bottled and tap water.

While students tasted the water, a film about the origins of bottled water played on a laptop, and signs presenting statistics about bottled water hung from the table, including one that read, “48 percent of bottle water in the U.S. is taken from municipal water sources.” 

“I’m hoping that people who came to the bottle water tasting will be inspired,” Schmidt said.

Wednesday’s energy theme tried to reach a larger student body with a low-energy Walker Coffeehouse event. Thursday, which focused on food, included a farm stand and the annual Organic Dinner at Frank. 

Friday’s theme of giving back focuses on volunteer efforts with local environmental groups, but the events will likely be rescheduled due to weather. Saturday will focus on transportation, featuring a group bike ride, and Sunday is "Eco Sabbath," the day participants are challenged to unplug all of their electronic devices.

Schmidt said that she doubts that many people will participate fully, since Sunday is a “prime homework day,” but she hopes that people will work in communal areas and turn off the lights in their rooms.

Schmidt said that she sees the week as an opportunity to educate. While not an impetus for infrastructural change, the week focuses on changing the way that people view their own impacts on the environment, and she hopes that there will be lasting—if seemingly small—changes made among the student body.