The No Impact Challenge: Just Say Yes!

Can you become rich just by changing the way you think? There's an
entire sub genre of self help books dedicated to this premise, the best
known being The Secret. The problem with The Secret -- well, OK, one problem with The Secret
(there are others, but that's a discussion for another day) -- is that
it promotes the fatally flawed equation that more stuff equals greater

What if the opposite is true? What if it turns out that true fulfillment comes from having less stuff, simplifying our lives, trading money spent badly for time spent well? That's the premise of the No Impact Project, the non-profit foundation that grew out of Colin Beavan's No Impact Man blog and book.

Admittedly, I'm closer to this project than most folks, both
literally and figuratively; I live around the corner from Colin and
share his passion for environmental issues. Like Colin, I believe we'd
benefit from living a less fossil-fuelish way of life, whether by
adopting alternative modes of transit, growing some of our own food,
shopping secondhand, or turning off the TV and turning to each other
for entertainment.

I wasn't always a fan. When Colin embarked on his year-long
ecological experiment to see how far he, his wife Michelle Conlin, and
their little girl Isabella, could go to lighten their 'carbon
footprint,' I wrote him off as a shameless self-promoter. The long list
of creature comforts the family gave up made the whole endeavor sound
like a contrived reality TV drama about drastic deprivation.

But I defected from the anti-Colin camp early on, after encountering
several folks who'd been genuinely inspired by the No Impact project.
Colin turned out to be a compelling advocate for "engaged citizenship,"
a twofold approach to ecologically minded living that calls on us to
act both individually and collectively to improve our own lives, our
communities and the world beyond.

Colin and his family discovered the upside to downsizing; that real
wealth accrues from cultivating relationships and resources, from
spending time with friends and family, and developing skills that help
you achieve self-sufficiency. If we invested in these intangible assets
instead of accumulating more things, we'd amass a fortune that couldn't
be wiped out by fires, floods, market meltdowns, or any other disaster,
man made or natural.

Of course, this would undermine our consumer driven economy, which
relies on keeping us in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction in order
to sell us all that stuff we don't need. So it's kind of heretical to
suggest that we flee the mall and seek refuge at the Church of Life After Shopping.

But, as Michael Moore so aptly documents in Capitalism: A Love Story,
a society that permits a wealthy few to prosper at the expense of the
rest of us is a morally bankrupt culture that impoverishes us all. And
can we really justify burning through nearly 25% of the world's
resources when we're just 5% of the population? How can we tell folks
in India and China that they can't drive everywhere and eat meat three
times a day just like we do?

By hopping off the consumer treadmill and living more mindfully,
Colin and his family have sparked a national discussion about our way
of life and the things we choose to value. And now, Huffington Post's
asking you to join this crucial conversation by participating in the
inaugural No Impact Week challenge.
Starting today, October 18th, and continuing through the 24th, we're
encouraging you to share Colin's experiment with low impact living and
become an environmentally engaged citizen.

The No Impact project asks you to rethink a particular area of your
life each day, beginning today with consumption. Tomorrow, it's on to
trash, then transportation, food, energy, water, and community
involvement. The No Impact Project guide
is full of great resources, relevant links and helpful tips for each
category. Your fellow No Impact participants will offer virtual support
and share their own adventures and experiments over the course of the
week. Us Huffington Post Green page bloggers will be giving our take on
each day's chosen topic, too.

I've signed up for this "carbon cleanse" and it's my sincere hope
that you will, too. What better way to flush the toxins of contagious
consumerism out of your system? The No Impact Project can empower you,
help you connect with your fellow citizens and counter what author
Barbara Ehrenreich calls the "empathy deficit" -- the disconnected,
self-absorbed mindset sanctioned by The Secret and other advocates of the new-agey narcissism that conflates net worth with self worth.

Ehrenreich appeared last week on the Daily Show to promote her new book, Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.
She bemoaned our tendency to offer glib exhortations to "think
positive" in lieu of becoming actively engaged in addressing the crises
that confront us. Ehrenreich suggested that we "...try to see what's
happening in the world and figure out what you can do to change it if
it's going wrong."

Well, when it comes to our environment, plenty of things are
going wrong. You know it, too. It's enough to make you want to curl up
into a defensive, defeated little ball of doom and gloom. The climate
change experts are even admitting that their worst case scenarios may
have been too rosy. What can one person possibly do, at this point?

A lot, as it happens. Join us for No Impact Week and you'll find out
that there are plenty of choices you can make that do matter. And you
won't be making them alone; you'll be part of our community of carbon
cutters. Let the No Impact Guide be your low impact life coach. Once
you reevaluate your needs and wants, you might just discover, as Colin
and his family did, that you're a lot richer than you think.

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