Islanders take on global 'no impact' challenge

Ava Rockefeller Campbell, Mira Rockefeller Campbell and Cleo Cark-Athans clean up plastic on a local beach to give back to the community during
Ava Rockefeller Campbell, Mira Rockefeller Campbell and Cleo Cark-Athans clean up plastic on a local beach to give back to the community during 'No Impact' week.
— image credit: Courtesy of Rebecca Rockefeller

It would have been difficult to surmise that little 5-year-old Mira Rockefeller Campbell was participating in a global movement as she sipped her hot chocolate in an island coffee shop.

Perhaps few even noticed the homemade travel mug she and her mom concocted from a marmalade jar and a felted wool sweater sleeve before they left their neighborhood.

“Sometimes I drive my kids crazy,” said Mira’s mom, Rebecca Rockefeller. “But they also enjoy being able to help me think of what we can use from home instead of creating more waste.”

The Rockefeller family was one of many islanders who spent the first week of 2011 cleansing their daily routines of waste and carbon-laden activities. Bainbridge residents joined families and individuals around the world to form a community of ideas, experiences and struggles in the weeklong “no impact” challenge to live a more efficient, happy life.

The inspiration behind the challenge stems from Colin Beavan, the original ‘No Impact Man,’ who dedicated a year of his life to chronicling his family’s zero-waste lifestyle. After he wrote a book, kept a blog and made a documentary, he coined an experiment to expand his mission and challenge anyone else, especially those who aren’t already “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas-bag toting, eco-warriors” to try his lifestyle.

Bainbridge Island nonprofit Yes! Magazine, partnered with Beavan to kick-off the project on Jan. 2 and registered some 2,000 people around the world to join.

Each day, participants were charged with reducing waste in one aspect of their life at a time with the help of an electronic how-to manual. The areas included reducing consumption, trash, transportation, food, energy, water and a day for giving back and celebrating an eco-sabbath. Participants were invited to collaborate and share their experiences, photos and stories through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

“For me it was illuminating,” said Rockefeller. “It felt really good to go online and see blogs from people working all over the world. Some of them are having the exact same issues that I do. It was nice to be in good company.”

As a single mom with two young girls, Rockefeller said she decided to reduce her consumption and waste more out of economic necessity than just wanting to lower their carbon footprint.

“Our financial reality changed and we couldn’t afford to buy all those ‘things.’ We really had to be careful,” said Rockefeller.

Rockefeller and her girls grow their own garden and purchase meat with other local families from a cut-to-order butcher who delivers grass-fed, locally raised beef to the island once a year.

Rockefeller said the “no impact” challenge was another opportunity to learn and engage with her girls about ways to lead a more efficient life. Rockefeller and her girls headed out to a local beach to cleanup plastic debris to celebrate a day of giving back. Beach cleans are a frequent adventure for the family, and a chance for Rockefeller to not just talk the environment, but another way to give a lesson on counting and categorizing.

“Living in a place like Bainbridge you aren’t looked at as crazy for doing something like this,” she said. “There are a lot of great examples of people on the island making sustainable choices and leading by example.”

Many islanders started changing their consumption-heavy lifestyles long before it was posh, but the “no impact” challenge was an extra push to make a change.

“It made me more mindful of my current way of doing things and giving me that extra oomph to make changes,” said islander Diane Landry.

By cutting up an old T-shirt from the garage Landry had a reusable hanky rather than disposable tissue. Instead of letting the 1-2 gallons that usually plunge from her shower head to the drain while the water is heating Landry used an ice cream bucket to catch the water and pour it into her toilet tank to save additional water from being sucked from the underground aquifer. Making the plunge to go from paper to electronic bills was another “no impact” effort.

As the week progressed, islanders and the global community weren’t sharing major life-altering decisions. Many ideas were just small incremental adjustments that were meant to enhance, not inhibit, busy daily life.

Bainbridge High School senior Grace Porter volunteers at Yes! Magazine and joined the global ranks to participate. Though she said it wasn’t as difficult as she expected, she did run into complications.

Trying to make it to school using public transportation led to a long, cold walk from the ferry terminal when she missed her stop. Trying to eat locally made foods in the dead of winter and finishing school work without a computer also posed challenges, but her alternative choices were noticed by others.

“Just being at school and having kids notice the changes I was making got the word out and raised awareness,” said Porter.

Islanders Kate and Jason Ruffing, both of whom have full-time jobs in Seattle, opted to telecommute for a zero-emission workday instead of navigating the public transportation system, according to their blog.

The Ruffings are one of many islanders, including the Rockefellers and Porter, who have kept an online diary of their efficient-living adventures. Over the last few months the Ruffings have chronicled their mission to whittle down their trash consumption to just one bag a month.

Van Calvez lives in an intentional community on the island at Sacred Groves and plans to create his own challenge for their community over the week of Feb. 14 since he was out of town on vacation.

“One of my ideas is to try living for a week without generating any trash or recyclables,” said Calvez.

Calvez is serious about reducing his waste; in 2005 he could fit his personal trash for the entire year in a small plastic (recycled) bag.

Calvez said anyone who missed last week’s challenge should consider Feb. 14 their next opportunity to make a change.

Dana Berg biked the three miles to recycle her holiday trash instead of driving. Berg is making an effort to buy local, reuse and ride her bike more.

Courtesy of Dana Berg


Island resources for sustainable living

- Freecycle Bainbridge: Online forum dedicated to keeping used, but useful items out of the landfill by exchanging goods for free.

- Bainbridge Online Yard Sale: Online forum to sell unwanted items and search for wanted items.

- Sustainable Bainbridge: Island nonprofit formed to help identify sustainability needs in the community through local initiatives including:

Zero waste: aims to reduce trash flow to the landfills through reduction, reuse, recycling and compost; Sound Food: dedicated to expanding local food system; Sustainable Business Network: Promotion of business practices that are socially, environmentally and economically responsible.

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