Thursday Night Grassroots (TNG) is currently in the midst of its weeklong event in honor of Earth Week titled No Impact Week. Running from last Sunday through this Sunday, No Impact Week consists of eight days of events and initiatives, with each day focusing on a different aspect of sustainable living. The event was originally conceptualized and largely organized by Lexie Carr ’13 with the help of the Center for Environmental Studies and the financial and planning support of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives throughout the year.
Carr first thought of the idea for No Impact Week after reading the book No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. In the book, which is available in Sawyer library, Beavan makes actual changes to his modern lifestyle in an attempt to be more sustainable (“Life itself is a resource,” April 10). Carr turned the themes from the book into a Williams project via her internship with the Zilkha Center, beginning last fall. “I had a few different ideas for what I wanted to do [as an intern], but No Impact Week became my main project. I proposed it to Amy [Johns, assistant director of the Zilkha Center], and she was in total support of it,” Carr said.
Carr and Johns worked together on the event through the fall, eventually developing the week-long programming that is currently underway. Each day had a theme of its own, progressing from Sunday (April 21) to Sunday (April 28) in this order: Consumption, Food (and Earth Day), Transportation/ Take Action, Waste, Energy, Water, Giving Back and Eco-Sabbath. Each day has a range of events from demonstrations to discussions to bike rides. Carr and members of TNG also partnered with various other student organizations throughout the week. For instance, the Williams Sustainable Growers ran an Adopt-a-Seed event on Monday and WCFM DJs helped with a “Stuff Swap” in Baxter Hall on Sunday. All-Campus Entertainment is also working with TNG to host a No-Waste Stressbusters tonight in Goodrich.
An event so all-encompassing involved an entire year’s worth of planning and funding. “No Impact Week was [Carr’s] idea from the beginning,” Johns said. “It’s involved a lot of planning and work on her part (with support from other members of TNG) – I’ve been advising and providing funding.”
In addition to all of the student groups that TNG collaborated with, Dining Services also helped plan a series of meals called 150-Mile Meals. On Monday, each dining hall hosted one meal in the day that was committed to only serving food and drink obtained within 150 miles of the College. Brent Wasser, sustainable food and agriculture program manager at the Zilkha Center, helped with this aspect of No Impact Week.
“Planning and producing the meals was educational for everyone involved,” Wasser said. “I thank the staff in Mission, Driscoll and Whitmans’ for designing creative menus that reflect the possibility of the season. It took months of planning to make sure that each dining hall had the necessary locally grown food available to produce a complete meal. We are fortunate to be surrounded by talented farmers who can provide us with food of such high quality.”
In addition to the planned programming, No Impact Week also provides students and community members with the opportunity to sign the Williams No Impact Week Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment that anyone can sign if they agree to uphold a number of sustainable initiatives throughout No Impact Week. The suggested things to do change each day and range from refraining from online shopping to obeying the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule in the bathroom. While many of the tasks would be difficult to achieve, the Pledge states at the top that, “If at first a task seems impossible, I pledge to try to find an alternative way of accomplishing it.” While the week is not yet over, Carr reports that they have already exceeded their original goal of 100 people pledging.
While students may not attend or notice all of the events for No Impact Week, the intention of the week is largely to raise awareness in the College community about our environmental footprints, both collectively and individually. “One of the things that [Carr] and I both believe is that an exercise like No Impact Week can help people break out of their normal day-to-day lives and think more consciously about their actions and impacts on the environment, on other people and on their own happiness,” Johns said. “Some of the aspects of modern life really add happiness and productivity to our lives, but some of them are things that we do just because we’ve always done them or because we haven’t made the effort to try a different way.”
Carr echoed John’s sentiments in discussing her goals for the event. “I want students to challenge themselves to think about the impact of their everyday activities to an extent they may never have reached before and to rethink what they can and cannot control and change in their lives,” Carr said. She also mentioned how an event like No Impact Week can be a great way to build community around a common goal, citing the involvement of so many student and administrative groups on campus as evidence. While there are no current plans to expand this week’s programming into anything larger or annual, Carr hopes to discuss the prospect of doing so at the final event of No Impact Week, a dinner and discussion on Sunday night in The Log.