University of South Carolina

A week without impact

By Megan Sexton, msexton@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-1421

Joseph DuRant is doing his best to make no impact at the University of South Carolina.

A carbon impact, that is.

So this week, he’ll join more than 500 of his fellow USC students taking part in No Impact Week. That means he won’t buy anything new. He’ll cut his water and electricity consumption and try not to make trash. He’ll walk, bike or carpool anywhere he needs to go. And the hardest one for him? Eating only locally grown, seasonal food.

“It is a challenge, but it’s worth it to see just how much you actually normally use,” DuRant said. “It helps to call attention to what you need to be doing and it’s a reminder for things you know you should do but sometimes forget to do.”

This is the second year DuRant, a sophomore in the South Carolina Honors College, will participate in the carbon cleanse on the USC campus, which offers students, faculty and staff a chance to see the difference no-impact living can have on a person’s quality of life. The experiment is based on the ideas of Colin Beavan’s “No Impact Man,” last year’s selection for USC’s First Year Reading Experience. No Impact Week is a chance to test whether the conveniences we take for granted are making us happier or are simply consuming our time and money.

“The daily challenges are a manageable, but meaningful, way to evaluate your own habits and see where you can make improvements to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” said Margaret Bounds, coordinator of environmental sustainability with University Housing.

DuRant has always been drawn to environmental issues and sustainable living, reading green blogs and discussing climate change issues with friends when he was in high school in Sumter, S.C. When he arrived on the USC campus last year after reading “No Impact Man,” he became involved with the campus EcoReps, peer leaders working in their residence halls to educate students about environmental issues and how to live in a more environmentally friendly way. And he participated in the university’s inaugural No Impact Week.

“Parts are easy, like not buying anything new. But trying to eat local, seasonal food was difficult. I had to fudge a little on that. I got some tomatoes and goat cheese and a loaf of bread at the farmers market. I went to the Russell House, where they have a lot of vegetables that are grown in South Carolina,” DuRant said. “But it was hard."

This year DuRant lives in an on-campus apartment, so he planned to visit the farmers market in downtown Columbia Saturday morning to stock up on local produce.

“No Impact Week is a great way for the EcoReps to bring sustainable habits to a wider audience and our hope is that even if you can’t fully complete every challenge, you can find at least one or two new things that will stick with you after the week,” Bounds said. “Maybe that is making a new carpool connection or swapping out all of your old light bulbs for CFLs - even these small things can make a huge impact on our campus if there are enough of us doing them.”

That’s been the case for DuRant, who said after participating in the No Impact Week last year he was more aware of his food’s packaging and paid more attention to his energy use.

“It does take an effort and it takes changing your habits,” DuRant said. “I was already trying to do a lot of things. It’s just a good reminder.”

About No Impact WeeK

  • No Impact Week features a daily green challenge for participants. Here's the lineup for  this week.
  • Sunday, Nov 11: Buy nothing new (except food)
  • Monday, Nov.12:  Make no trash
  • Tuesday, Nov.13, Take sustainable transportation (carpool, bike, walk)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14: Eat local, seasonal food
  • Thursday, Nov. 15: Use as little electricity as possible (Swap your incandescent bulb for a free CFL, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Greene Street)
  • Friday, Nov. 16: Use as little water as possible

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Posted: 11/11/12 @ 9:00 AM | Updated: 11/12/12 @ 8:10 AM | Permalink