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The Carletonian

No Impact Challenge returns for second year

<te Action Week, which will run from Friday, Feb. 10 to Saturday, Feb. 25, will feature events on sustainability solutions, this year’s theme, and will include the second annual No-Impact Challenge.

Natalie Jacobson ’18, SOPE board member and sustainability office special events coordinator, discussed the importance of Climate Action Week to her, especially given current events. “In this time right now our environment is being threatened by a lot of different factors, and our administration is saying that they don’t believe that this matters.

“I think something that is really cool about Climate Action Week is the theme of this year is sustainability solutions, so it is all very positive and it is focused on what we actually can do to make positive change.

“I feel like that’s what we need to be reminded of right now, because people are feeling very down and helpless. We are giving people knowledge and also tools to use that knowledge to act to make change.”

Organized by Students for the Protection of the Environment (SOPE), the No Impact Challenge involves teams of students that compete to have the lowest environmental impact. This is measured by each student carrying around the trash they create, and the team with the lowest collective weight wins.

This year, the No Impact Challenge has expanded, as it will include teams from St. Olaf. Whichever school wins will be awarded a trophy in the form of a small owl statue wearing a handsewn tunic. The leaders of the challenge were unable to explain the reasoning behind this trophy but were very enthusiastic about it.

Members of the SOPE board had differing views on the success of the previous year’s program and some of these criticisms will shape changes to how the program runs this year.

Sarah Ogle ’19, a SOPE board member, said she believed the No-Impact Challenge had been a success last year, stating “it made over 100 people more aware about the amount of waste they produce. The challenge managed to reach people who were not already engaged in environmental clubs, which is always challenging to do. It also made being good to the environment a fun competition instead of a rather depressing obligation.”

Veronica Child ’18, a SOPE member, also saw last year’s challenge as a success. “Last year was the first year, so it is harder to define what success is for something in the first year. On a whole, I think it was pretty successful.

“I think the people enjoyed it and had a fun time and so we learned from it definitely, and hopefully, we’ll implement those changes, so No-Impact Challenge can be as successful as ever.”

Jacobson ’18 agreed, saying: “I would say it’s very successful. It was the first year we did it, and we had over 200 people sign up and over 150 people participate. This was a massive undertaking. We started this program from scratch. Martha Larson, the director of the sustainability office, who has been overseeing Climate Action Week ever since its inception, told us that last year was the most successful Climate Action Week to ever happen, and she has the long view.”

Pallav Kumar ’18 had a more mixed review, pointing out that while many people signed up, not everyone participated at the same level. “Not everyone wanted to pick up their bag and do it. We had a solid amount of people who didn’t know they were signed up. It was like an RA that was like: ‘Hey, we’ll do it’,” Kumar said.

He described the inconsistencies of participation, saying, “The final weigh in was the only one that was mandatory, barely anyone came to the ones before that, and in the final one, the amount of waste that people had was much less than anyone could create in two weeks, even if you are living on campus. Sure, it was alright for the first year of it happening, but it definitely could have been run a lot better. It definitely was not as successful as it could or should have been.” He did insist that: “I don’t think it was a failure.”

Kumar hopes the new changes to the No-Impact Challenge will make it even more successful than it was last year.
Jacobson explained the larger importance of the event. “With the No-Impact Challenge, I think, on the surface, it might seem like ‘oh people are just going to start thinking about their own personal consumption patterns,’ which is true. But then I think it can make people think about consumption and consumerism on a broader scale, so there are different levels even to just the challenge,” Jacobson ’18 explained.

“I think one of the really cool things about the No-Impact Challenge is we live in this disposable culture where we are just constantly throwing everything away and not thinking twice about it.

“But to have this bag is really symbolic because we think that we just throw trash away, and then, it goes away and disappears and is gone, but the reality is that trash actually stays there, so to be carrying it around in a bag is a symbol that that trash actually never goes away or takes a very long time to go away.”

The Climate Action Week will incorporate events from over 15 students organizations on campus who will be hosting many different events, incorporating outdoor camping on the mini bald spot with CANOE club, dinner discussions in WHOA house, CANOE house and Farm House, folk singing at Farm House, lip balm making in CANOE house and a vegan potluck, sponsored by Food Truth.

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