No Impact Week, Day 1 – Sunday: Consumption
Is it possible to live a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff?Posted Jan 4, 2011
This is the first in a series of eight blog articles chronicling my experience participating in the 2011 No Impact Week, a global challenge to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible over eight days, initiated by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project.
Day 1: Consumption
No Impact Week kicked off with a challenge to reduce personal consumption, and do more with less. Starting Sunday and running through the week I will be buying nothing but the necessities. This challenge is a relief after the holidays, as my credit card is still smoking from buying presents for friends and family, dining out, and bringing in the New Year with parties.
As I currently track all of my personal expenses, I know by looking back over past months that I rarely go through an average week without spending at least 10 to 50 dollars on various “wants.” Usually it’s the little things that add up: a latte on a cold morning, a beer out with friends, a movie in a theater, etc. When you add all of your tiny daily expenses up it is quite surprising how much money you are spending on these little wants over the course of a week.
Is there anything wrong with spending $4 a day on a latte before work? For many this small indulgence is a key ingredient to daily happiness, and worth every cent. But $4 a day times 365 days in a year is $1,460. That’s a round trip ticket and week-long vacation in Hawaii!
It’s said that during a recession sales of chocolates and alcohol spike because people spend less on big-ticket items, but still seek happiness from splurging on little things. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little indulgence in chocolate and alcohol, but it’s wise to ask yourself if it’s really the product that’s making us happy, or the act of buying itself?
Consumption for consumption’s sake generates shallow, short-lived pleasure. This week, I am going to focus on enjoying myself as much as possible without spending money with the hope of experiencing a deeper, more fulfilling form of happiness. In place of shopping for new clothes I am going to look at Freecycle and other sharing websites where I can swap things I no longer want for used stuff. Instead of going out to dinner I am going to be hosting a low-waste, local organic food potluck and games night.
After auditing my day-to-day expenses over the last few months, I have determined that there are a few things I can cut out which will allow me to save up for something much more rewarding. By focusing on creation, as opposed to consumption, I think this week will end with better memories and a fatter wallet.
“A year after doing the No Impact Experiment the first time, I can see how it changed my life. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it and I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.”
– Aran is a partner at Eartheasy.com.