It's easy being green

Jessica Parker is trying hard not to have an impact — and all week she has been doing less and less. On Thursday, she barely even turned on the lights or booted up her computer.

But make no mistake, the sophomore isn’t some hopeless slacker who can’t be bothered to get out of bed. Parker is participating in this year’s No Impact Week, a six-day challenge, sponsored by Sustainable Carolina, to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle by gradually giving up more and more modern conveniences. The ultimate goal is to be making “no impact” on the environment by the weekend.

On Sunday, participants gave up shopping. On Monday, they stopped producing trash. On subsequent days they stopped driving, started eating locally and generally reduced energy and water consumption.

Meanwhile, Parker and 20 other peer leaders known as “EcoReps” have been hosting a full calendar of events to educate students about environmental issues and sustainable lifestyles. The group also emphasizes the university’s ambitious sustainability goals.

On Tuesday, for example, students sorted through the trash at USC’s Office of Housing to assess the university’s recycling efforts; on Thursday, the EcoReps hosted a light bulb swap where people exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents. The real impact of No Impact Week, however, is on the lifestyles and attitudes of participants like Parker.

“Going green is so much easier than it’s sometimes made out to be, and I think that No Impact Week is a great chance for students to really start making that change,” says Parker, who took part in last year’s challenge as a freshman and credits the experience as “a turning point” in her environmental awareness.

“I recycled in high school, things like that, but it really kind of surprised me when I got to college to learn how little I really knew about the environment,” Parker says. “That’s what led me to the EcoRep program. Once I went through it, I was so excited that I pursued a position on the executive cabinet of student government so that I could do my part to help the university become as green as possible.”

That kind of enthusiasm is music to the ears for Margaret Bounds, USC’s coordinator for environmental sustainability and the EcoReps’ adviser, who is calling this year’s event a success.

“We have had higher attendance at all of the events we have had so far and we also have more events planned this year than last,” says Bounds. “The week of events is a lot of work for me and the EcoReps, but it is also a really exciting time for us because we get to interact with a lot of new students and help them take small steps towards being more sustainable.”

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