Low-impact day


Melissa Morrison, shown here at the Rolla Recycling Center, is trying to minimize her environmental impact. Photo by B.A. Rupert

For 24 hours last fall, Melissa Morrison gave up some of her favorite things — chewing gum, toasted Pop-Tarts, the Internet and text-messaging.

A freshman civil engineering major from Nixa, Mo., Morrison was one of several S&T students last semester who tried to minimize their impact on the environment for a day. During her 24-hour experiment, Morrison went without prepackaged foods (like Pop-Tarts), soda, television and computer games. She also ate no meat, poultry, fish or seafood. Perhaps most challenging of all, she did not send any texts that day.

In other words, Morrison tried to do in 24 hours what Colin Beavan attempted for a year.

Beavan is the author of No Impact Man, the book all students enrolled in English 20 (Exposition and Argumentation) were assigned to read this year through Missouri S&T’s One Book Program. In his book, Beavan, a New York-based author, chronicled his year-long “lifestyle experiment” to answer the question, “How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat?”

Morrison was enrolled in the English 20 course taught by Fred Ekstam. As part of that class, Ekstam asked Morrison and her fellow students to attempt to follow Beavan’s human guinea pig approach to low-impact living — but only for 24 hours — and then to write about the experience.

Morrison survived the day without many of the conveniences we take for granted. She also survived without elevators, which can be tough to do in Thomas Jefferson Hall when your friends live on the 11th floor and you aren’t allowed to use technology to communicate with them. “I took so many stairs that day,” she says.

Despite the inconvenience of that day, Morrison discovered that minimizing her environmental impact wasn’t as difficult as she’d imagined.

“When I first heard about the assignment, I thought it would be fun, but I also thought it might be kind of hard,” she says. “It turned out to be easier than I’d expected.”

Morrison’s main insight from her low-impact day was the realization that “we use so many resources.

“It showed me how much we could live without,” she says.

Since her 24-hour project, Morrison is trying to purchase more goods in bulk.

“But it’s hard to buy too much in bulk,” she says, “because I have limited refrigerator space and limited room space.”

Morrison was one of about 440 S&T students who read No Impact Man last fall. This semester, some 240 S&T students are reading Beavan’s book. It will be offered again next fall and spring semesters, and Beavan is scheduled to be on campus to speak next April during Earth Day 2013.

Maybe you’d like to try the experiment yourself. To find out how, go to noimpactproject.org. If you do attempt a no-impact day (or week), leave us a comment to let us know how you did.

By Andrew Careaga

This year’s Earth Day activities will be held on campus Friday, April 20.