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"No Impact Week" promotes a green initiative on campus

In honor of Earth Week, the Sociology Department’s Roots and Shoots class hosted “No Impact Week,” encouraging the entire university to take part in a one-week consumption cleanse.

Dr. Beth Morrison, Roots and Shoots Club advisor, was the professor of the similarly titled Sociology level-400 course offered this spring 2013 semester.

“I have been the Roots and Shoots Club advisor for four years, and I am a member of the Jane Goodall committee on campus,” Morrison said. “These kinds of projects are near and dear to my heart, especially when they can involve student service learning.”          

Dr. Morrison built this semester’s Roots and Shoots course around service learning; one of the philosophies of the Roots and Shoots organization. Students then were told to create a project that encouraged environmental and social change for the benefit of the university community.  For senior Christina Ruggiero and many other students, the class encouraged thinking about how to decrease negative impact on the environment. 

“Before this year I didn’t really think about it,” said Ruggiero. “This class showed me how to take knowledge learned through research, watching documentaries and reading articles, and bring it to a more public space.”

 At the beginning of the semester, the class had a lucrative brainstorming session where they began to form a concrete plan for their service learning project.

“I remember everyone threw dozens of ideas out and completely filled the white board with writing,” Ruggiero said. “I recently had learned about “No Impact Week” after watching the documentary film No Impact Man and realized it would be a great way to encompass everyone’s ideas.”

The film No Impact Man is a hilarious, eye-opening look into the Beaven family’s year-long challenge to abandon high consumption and decrease negative environmental impact. Author and co-director Colin Beaven’s experiment teaches that it is not about what is being given up, but instead what is gained.

“Much of this low impact and environmentally conscious lifestyle is about eliminating the overload of consumerism and continually buying things we don’t need,” Ruggiero said.

WCSU “No Impact Week” focused on various daily themes, with a number of events each school day.

“Nature and the environment are very important to me and that is why my event was the Friday hikes at Tarrywile Park,” Ruggiero explained.  “And I think outdoor activities can have a huge impact on the individual because they help people realize that our actions greatly affect the beautiful nature you just interacted with.”  

Keeping with the theme of no impact, the students worked with almost no budget and forced themselves to be resourceful and recycle materials.

“The students utilized social media as a way to promote their event,” Dr. Morrison said. “They recycled and repurposed the backs of old flyers as well. If they had purchased or used new materials it would not have been in line with the message being promoted.”  

“No Impact Week” hosted a wide spectrum of activities that took into account the various lifestyles of university members. These included yoga in front of Fairfield Residence Hall, a Midtown campus scavenger hunt, an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, a plant sale, and a continual trash display on the quad. The week’s success was not measured by the number of participants at each event, but rather by its ability to get participants to reflect on their treatment of the world and to see if there are ways to decrease that negative behavior.

“This is not an individual or even a university issue, it is a problem borne from our culture as a whole,” Ruggiero said. “We need to shift our focus from overusing consumable things, and, instead, promote a simpler lifestyle without all that extra ‘stuff.’”

In a society consumed with material goods, have we forgotten to appreciate the world around us? Have we become too accustomed to the buy, use and toss mentality? Perhaps we have, but “No Impact Week” proves that it is never too late for change.

“I am not sure if an event of this size and intricacy will happen again, but I know the Roots and Shoots Club will continue to provide services, education and events that promote the ideals of “No Impact Week” and this class,” Dr. Morrison said.

Roots and Shoots class and club will continue to spread the word of “No Impact Week” and encourage new people to think about their actions, research the issues and develop ways in which together we can connect personal happiness and service to the environment.  

“I am hoping that this class and this week will get enough positive feedback that it can start to become a core part of the academic curriculum, but also the culture of this university,” Morrison concluded.

Cover Photo: Roots and Shoots class and organization members selling plants on the Midtown campus quad

Story Photo: "No Impact Week" trash display on campus showing the Western community how much they actually waste per day

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