If you're going to have a project, you need some guidelines. Here's how No Impact Man Colin Beavan described his mission to live with no net environmental impact for a year, in New York city:
"I aimed to go zero carbon - yes - but also zero waste in the ground, zero pollution in the air, zero resources sucked from the earth, zero toxins in the water. I didn't just want to have no carbon impact. I wanted to have no environmental impact."
He then described how he went about easing his small family into the project, in stages. First, they would try to figure out how to live without making garbage (so they'd stop using disposable products, reduce packaging, etc). Stage two involved transportation: getting around without emitting any carbon (no cars, taxis, buses, trains, planes, no escalators or elevators either). Then they'd look at their food choices and try to live more sustainably there. Finally, they'd try to make as little environmental impact as possible in terms of consumer purchases, household energy use, water use and pollution. No Impact Man also wanted to make a positive impact where he could, by cleaning up garbage on the banks of the Hudson River, planting trees, and so on.
The cool thing about his approach was that he looked at it as a "lifestyle experiment", a year of inquiry into the way we live and how that impacts the planet. What can we do without, what can we do differently, what actions have the biggest impact on the environment, in positive and negative ways? "What would it be like to live a no-impact lifestyle," he said, and: is it even possible, would living this way be more fun or less fun, more satisfying or less satisfying, harder or easier? Of course no living thing can have no impact on the planet, but the idea was to see what happened if he tried to reduce that impact, to find the balance between use of resources and quality of life.
So, without further ado, here are my guidelines for my No Impact month on the other side of the world, in Sydney. The plan is to focus on a different issue each week but, inevitably, they all overlap and intermingle...
1. Transport: Travel without creating any carbon emissions. Walk, ride a bike, take public transport, car-pool. And if all else fails, offset emissions so that your travel is carbon neutral.
2. Food: Buy organic, local, seasonal produce (with minimal packaging). No red meat, less dairy (or seek alternatives such as goat's cheese). Sustainable seafood.
3. Energy: Reduce household energy use. In Australia this is a biggie because most of our electricity comes from coal-fired power stations.
4. Waste: Reduce waste by buying products with no, minimal or recyclable packaging. Food scraps go to the compost bin and the worm farm. No bottled water (that goes without saying, I think).
5. Consumption: Buy nothing new. Shop only at op-shops; buy essential items made using minimal resources or that can be composted or recycled.
6. Positive impact: Get involved in and support projects that are making a positive impact.
That's it. Simple. But not easy.