The End of the Eco-Challenge

Extrme Eco Challenge - Crunchy ChickenMay is officially over so we have finished our Extreme Eco-Challenge. Our original goal of eliminating plastic was completely abandoned and our goal of generating no trash for a month was replaced with the goal of minimizing trash generation. Will and I both agree that we did pretty well keeping our trash to a minimum – until we went on vacation. We could have done a lot better during our travels but it would have required a lot more preparation, especially in terms of meal planning. I had forgotten how much trash is generated from eating fast food on the road.

Frankly, I found the eco-challenge pretty frustrating. It was an unhappy reminder of how much of an impact I have on the planet by doing normal every day things like eating. Yes, it is possible to eat without generating trash but it requires a drastic change in lifestyle that I don’t quite feel ready for. I wish there was an easy alternative that would allow me to live trash-free. Can’t we get all our food from reusable/recyclable containers made with basic materials so I never have to search for the little number on the bottom again? Would it be so hard to use regular paper for junk mail, package inserts, receipts, and other pseudo-paper debris that accumulates on my desk and challenges me to guess whether or not it’s recyclable? Could the world stop making weird little plastic knick-knacks?

Still, we have identified a few areas where we can reduce our trash generation. I feel slightly more motivated to experiment with making crackers and chips after collecting empty snack bags for three weeks. I’m also rededicating myself to the use of handkerchiefs and cloth menstrual pads. And I’m sure we’ll continue to be aware of our trash generation and be more conscious about keeping it to a minimum where we can.

June is a fresh new month and I’ve decided to embrace a new challenge… bicycling. I have biked a little already this spring, just enough to rediscover some muscles I have been ignoring for years. Now that it has warmed up, I’m ready to get my body in shape and reduce my carbon footprint. The big challenge is that I’m really lazy and it’s soooo easy just to drive everywhere. Luckily, I’m also cheap so I’ve devised a motivational strategy that involves money. Every time I drive somewhere I could have taken my bike, I will put $5 in the incentive jar. (I’m allowing myself to drive to places that are beyond my normal bicycle range, which right now is about 5 miles.)

Hmmmm. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the money at the end of the month. Will says he just finished reading about a website called StickK that helps people create contracts motivating them to reach their goals and they suggested giving the money to a charity that is contrary to your personal beliefs. However, I’m not quite ready to pledge money to the Hummer Association of America or anything. Maybe I’ll pick a lucky reader to receive my incentive funds. Well, lets assume there won’t be any incentive funds.

Hilly Hundred, here I come!

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Student Doctor Green said,

    June 2, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

    My challenge pledges bit the dust too :-( May was such a blur everything just kind of fell by the wayside. I hope your biking goes well. I bet you guys have nice weather up there right now.

  2. 2

    Kim said,

    June 3, 2008 @ 4:19 am

    I feel you in terms of being overwhelmed by that challenge. I had every intention of joining, and realized I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.
    My lifestyle is so close, in so many ways, but just not quite there. Too many things that are (feel) impossible to give up, that I’m unwilling to sacrifice other quality of life activities for (enjoying the Alaskan summer means driving places) and just so difficult given the way everything works (ie, food.)

    I think the important message to take out of that challenge though, is the awareness and the baby steps it fostered in all of us…Most of the people I know (in life and virtually) who participated had a fairly difficult time of it (I suppose the reason it was “extreme” to begin with) but no one has left it feeling less aware and less motivated.

    Perhaps a bit like posers and a tad insufficient…But I’m working hard to not feel that way, because it’s not productive toward our goals, right?

    Anyway. It sounds like you guys made great steps regardless. Good job and good luck with the biking!

  3. 3

    Environmentalism the influential way | GreenCouple.com said,

    June 3, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

    […] why I think Maggie’s driving promise has value, even if she doesn’t figure out what to do with the money.#arkayne { clear: both; } […]

  4. 4

    Angel said,

    June 4, 2008 @ 7:20 am

    Congrats on the progress you made during your May challenge. I think the important thing to take away from it is the constantly striving. As long as we keep up the motivation to continue to look for ways (large and small) to change our habits to better the world around us, we haven’t lost. None of us can be perfect, and we can’t all live the “perfect” eco-life, but we can all take steps. It sounds like the challenge was certainly extreme, but you really sank your teeth into it.

    As for biking, I’ve found the biggest impediment to getting around Greenville is the lack of respect for the biker. There’s only one road that has a “bike lane,” and the lane disappears whenever the road widens to add a turn lane. I get alot of strange looks for riding on the street, where I’m legally supposed to be, rather than on a sidwalk. Once you get in the habit, though, it can be quite enjoyable. I really look forward to my daily rides to and from work (except during thunderstorms, when I feel like a moving metal target). If I could just get some bike bags to increase my trunk space, I could expand my biking to small food runs, runs to the drugstore, etc. That’s a future goal of mine.

  5. 5

    Maggie said,

    June 4, 2008 @ 9:08 am

    Thanks for the encouragement. We pretty much knew we were set up to fail in our quest to go garbage-free but it was still a little overwhelming to really pay attention to how much trash we generate! Baby steps…

    As for biking, luckily Bloomington is pretty bike-friendly. We’re legally supposed to bike on the street but I am a big fan of biking on sidewalks along a lot of roads. There are some nice bike lanes and bike paths, though. And I have a pretty nice bike bag that my parents had in their attic for about ten years. (Ironically, just this week they bought a bike and are starting to get into it as well so now they’re going to buy some new bike bags.) I biked in the rain yesterday and it was actually pretty pleasant (it is getting HOT here) but I decided not to brave the thunderstorms/tornadoes this morning….

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