My Zero-Impact Week

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We all keep hearing about what our part looks like to help offset global warming. But taking a big leap for the rest of your life is daunting. So instead, I chose to tackle two changes that I thought I could manage for seven days to reduce my impact on the environment. Here’s what I learned.

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Trade car for bike

This is one of the most obvious swaps to make. Before the week started, I hadn’t used my bike in about six months, so I gave myself the out that if the distance took greater than 30 minutes to reach, I would drive. But, it turned out most distances were much closer than I thought. A blessing and a curse.

The biggest benefit was how happy it made me. When in a car, I often end up at my destination without an awareness of how I got there because I’m mentally on autopilot. On a road bike, I have no autopilot. I read every pothole and intersection. Plus, the contact with the outdoors—with the sun on my skin, the smells of the lakes I pass—reminds me of what I’m really thankful for.

TIPS

Plan ahead. Bikes change what you can carry. AKA there is no Starbucks run unless you remember your reusable mug or mason jar. So that’s a bonus in terms of not accruing excess waste. For grocery shopping, I did manage to squeeze my haul into a backpack and a tote. It was not convenient, but that helps limit late night grocery runs for sweets or other cravings.

Check the weather. Because I live in Florida where it rains every afternoon, I tried to leave for my destination early in case I had to duck under a gas-station awning or have a coffee break to wait out a quick shower.

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Go vegetarian

Skipping the meat is the number one thing every ocean researcher, climate specialist and eco-warrior has told me will help limit global warming. This was not a big change for me as my diet is mostly vegetarian anyway. I typically have a smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, and, for dinner, either a stir-fry or roasted veggies. It was hard to give up fish. And I did find that I needed to be conscious of how much protein I was getting, so I turned to hemp seeds on my salad and nut butter in my smoothie.

I did cheat once as my birthday fell within the week, and the restaurant I wanted to attend was light on veg options that felt celebratory. What’s the vegetarian big splurge equivalent to the steak? Roasted Portobello mushrooms? Now I’m obsessed with knowing for next time.

TIPS

Read the menu before you go. This is a trick from a longtime Weight Watchers friend. If you already know what you’re going to order, it’s easier to not fall victim to peer pressure. Easier, not easy.

Bring nuts. The other thing I found helpful was to carry nuts, like almonds or walnuts, and also Larabars with me at all times. Nuts can add protein to any menu item, or can be a snack on their own. The Larabars are great because when you bike everywhere, you’re burning so many calories. And, most refueling options are not that healthy. What’s available at the coffee shop or convenience store is always sub-par to what you can find in the grocery store. Even a quick banana or apple gives more power than a muffin or sugar-fueled granola bar.

Overall, I noticed that every inspired action motivated me to make another one. It builds. Granted, some of the changes were forced. I had to remember my reusable bags when grocery shopping as it’s nearly impossible to bike while toting plastic or paper bags. But it all boils down to one question anyway: What do you really need?

Inspired? Get involved now. Download handy tips, resources and tools from Project AWARE.

Also, read our blog article “10 Easy Ways to Protect the Ocean 365 Days a Year.”