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Earth Day caps off 'No Impact Week' on campus

By Erin Stanton
On April 25, 2012

  • VSB week t-shirt sales went towards the student run homeless shelter. COURTESTY OF BUSINESSWEEK.COM

  Earth Day has always been highly recognized by the University. For the past 42 years, the University has held annual Earth Day celebrations. This year, however, a new aspect was added to the usual events. From Sun.  April 15 through Sun.  April 22, No Impact Week was held at the University for the first time. 

Through a week of environmental challenges, No Impact Week aims to inform and inspire students to prepare them for Earth Day. Created in 2009 by Colin Beavn, No Impact Week is an international event. Beavan's well-known book, documentary and blog, all titled "No Impact Man," detail his attempts to live a full year without having any environmental impact. 

The weeklong University challenge is a scaled-down version of Beavan's idea. Each day of No Impact Week, participants were asked to take on a certain challenge, each one adding on to the next, making it so that by the time Earth Day came around, students could experience for a day what it was like to live with no environmental impact.     

Sophomore Michelle Velez, president of the University's Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), took a large role throughout the week's events. As an Environmental Science and Spanish major, Velez cares deeply about both the current state and future of the environment. 

"I am passionate about issues of sustainability and environmental justice and look forward to a career where I can make a difference in not only the way we treat our environment, but the way we treat each other," Velez says. "I am especially interested in exploring the intersection between the environment and human health."

Velez, along with other members of CCL, first had the idea to bring No Impact Week to campus after seeing the "No Impact Man" documentary. 

"I was inspired to find more ways to decrease my personal environmental impact and hope that this week has shared some of that passion and inspiration with other participants," Velez says. "Despite the many challenges the Beavans faced during their experiment, they found a strong sense of community and humility from their experience, and I yearn for the day when I can lead a similar life that is reconnected with the earth and my community."

While CCL arranged the University's first No Impact Week, they worked together with both the Villanova Environmental Group (VEG) and the President's Environmental Sustainability Committee as well.

According to Velez, each challenge of No Impact Week was delivered to the 80 student participants through daily emails. 

Challenges students were expected to attempt throughout the week were to stop consuming new products, stop producing trash, stop using any transportation that burns fossil fuels, to eat locally, organically, non-processed, vegetarian foods, to try to reduce their energy levels as much as possible and to reduce water use. 

The last day's challenge, which was the day before Earth Day, was to give back to the community through community service or advocacy. 

On Earth Day, April 22, student participants were told to reflect on the week and consider how they could use what they learned to incorporate these lessons into their everyday lives.  

"The goal was not to necessarily have people transition to having no environmental impact, but rather to make them reflect on all the ways that they have a huge negative impact on the environment and encourage them to make small changes in their daily routine once the week is over," Velez says. "Many participants found that activities that are healthier for the earth are also healthier for themselves. They were encouraged to complete the challenges to the best of their ability."In addition to the challenges, No Impact Week also included a documentary screening of "No Impact Man" and all participants were informed of the University's Earth Day events that were being held throughout the week, including a Silent Spring Symposium, a Sustainability Fair, a Farmer's Market and an Earth Day barbecue hosted by VEG.  

"I really enjoyed watching the movie again with people who had not yet seen it," Velez says. "It was inspiring and helped me to start the week with a positive outlook on the challenges I faced in trying to reduce my impact throughout the week."

Although Velez had already seen the film "No Impact Man" and was informed about what No Impact Week entailed, Velez strongly upholds the conviction that No Impact Week can teach valuable lessons to all who participate.  

"While it is challenging, it is not impossible," Velez says. "There are so many minor changes you can make that can really add up to make a difference. For example, No Impact Week has shown me that it isn't hard to bring your own utensils when you eat in Connelly instead of using plastic ones every time. From now on, I'm going to carry some with me when I eat there."

According to Velez, CCL is already looking forward to another No Impact Week and the University's 2013 Earth Day celebrations. 

"Perhaps this is idealistic, but I treasure the notion that every individual can make a difference and wanted to show people that it isn't that difficult to make changes that will help preserve and protect our environment and our own health and well-being as well," Velez says. 


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