Northwest Earth Institute’s 2016 EcoChallenge begins Oct. 14, when thousands of people all over the world will choose an action (or a few) to reduce their environmental impact and stick with it for two weeks.
The purpose of the EcoChallenge is to set goals that stretch your comfort zone and have a positive impact on your life, your community and the planet. It is free and open to anyone who wants to get involved, so if you don’t live in Oregon, or even the US, you can still sign up. Last year more 4,000 people across 25 countries participated!
This will be the fourth year I have participated in the Challenge and every year I look forward to choosing something new to focus on. Here is a summary of my past challenges:
2012 – Zero waste food packaging: we committed to buying food without packaging for two weeks. It’s when I started making my own almond milk and vegetable stock, things I still do four years later!
2013 – Avoid products bound for the landfill: we attempted to be a ‘zero waste’ household for two weeks. We were not 100% successful but we continue to be mindful of what we buy and only produce one small sack of trash every month.
2014 – Conserve water: we committed to reducing water use by taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth and saving dish and cooking water in the kitchen. We still follow many of the same practices, although our showers have increased in time since then.
2015 – Did not participate
The format of the 2016 EcoChallenge is a bit different, so I opted to try three different challenges this year. Categories include energy, food, water, waste, nature, community, simplicity, transportation and there are multiple ideas provided. Some are daily actions and others are one-time actions.
This year I will focus on reducing my daily screen time – time spent on my phone, computer or watching TV. I spend most of my work days on a computer connected to email and social media, and I often spend my evenings doing the same so I am challenging myself to limit my screen time during meals and in the evenings after work and to replace that time with other activities, like reading, journaling, cooking or working on house projects. I also have a variety of environmental causes I’d like to support so I chose a challenge that would encourage me to reach out about issues I am passionate about.
Choosing actions related to simplicity and nature are very different than past challenges, where the results were very tangible. Of course I will be reducing energy use by not using my electronic devices as much, but I think the value in this type of challenge lies with what I make a priority. I hope to gain more quality time with Josh, to reduce “FOMO” that can come with too much time looking at other peoples’ lives on social media, enjoy fall in Portland, and simplify my life so I have more energy for the things I care more about. Spending so much time on my phone or computer and watching TV makes me forget how much time passes, and makes me feel like I don’t have time to do the things I care about. As a result, I feel like I don’t have “enough” time to cook, work on my blog, volunteer or just spend quality time with Josh. I am hoping that by disconnecting I will be able to refocus on what really matters to me.
Like how that sounds? You can join the EcoChallenge too! I set up a team called Kelly’s Eco Warriors and anyone can join. Just log in to NWEI’s website, search for my team name to join my team and get your profile set up. You don’t have to join a team to participate but I think it’s more fun that way.
Choosing an EcoChallenge doesn’t have to be complicated, and you certainly don’t have to choose three different challenges to benefit from the experience. For a successful EcoChallenge I suggest looking through each of the categories and identifying actions that you are interested in and that you will be motivated to complete. For example, my co-worker Alodie joined my team and chose three things she already does often but would like to improve upon – eating more vegetarian meals, eating meals without distraction (same as mine) and reducing energy use. It’s all about your interests and what areas you want to improve upon.
The goal of the EcoChallenge is not perfection. I know I will not be 100% successful, and that is okay. The real purpose is to provide a platform in which we can use competition to encourage improvement in our lives. As the EcoChallenge organizers put it, “we believe the solution to the planet’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective action. By taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact.”
What do you say, are you in? Challenge yourself!