January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year!

Last night marked our first new year’s celebration at Harpoon House! And now that we have officially welcomed in 2011, we are preparing for our first project of the year: a week-long carbon cleanse. A couple of months ago, we took a cross-country train trip to visit family in Oklahoma and San Francisco, which provided the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading.

One of the books I brought along was Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man, chronicling one family’s year-long effort to lead a no impact life. The premise of their experiment oftentimes seems absurd (off the grid in New York City?) and the tasks at hand daunting (eliminate trash, don’t buy new stuff, use only natural or candlelight, unplug the refrigerator). The changes that this family ultimately made were profound and resulted in dramatic lifestyle changes that not only disrupted a cycle of consumption, but, they concluded, made them happier.

Since the publication of the book, Beavan has continued his experiment by creating a non-profit and organizing collective action through the No Impact Experiment, in which people nation-wide agree to reduce their impact for one week. Harpoon House will be beginning day one of the experiment tomorrow.

I find the term “no impact” misleading (all life has some impact, we just need to figure out how to make that impact positive, or at the least, less bad), and I don’t think one week is enough to truly enact lifestyle change. But I like that this project gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate our habits. We have already made many decisions throughout the construction of Harpoon House that are affecting the way we live, and the impact of our lifestyle — from location to size to energy.  But we should not lose sight of the fact that we make dozens of much smaller decisions each day that can increase or lessen our impact, from choosing what we eat to deciding what we buy (or don’t buy).

We will be blogging throughout the week, so check back for regular updates, beginning tomorrow when we address the first challenge: consumption.


  1. […] day into the No Impact Experiment, and I have already had the realization that I am far less concerned with the strictness of a […]

    Pingback by harpoon house » Day 1: Consumption — January 2, 2011 @ 22:46
  2. Sounds like a fun and worthy endeavor. You expressed surprise that Beavan would aim at No Impact within NYC, the most urban of urban environments. Seems, however, that such an experiment will be most effective in such a setting. Dense infill makes possible public transportation, farmer’s markets, and walkable or bikeable access to most of the goods and services that one might require. Jake and I, in our rural setting, continually grapple with our use of fossil fuels, which is decidedly at odds with other progress that we have made over the past decade to reduce our carbon footprint.

    That said, I find the concept of ‘No Impact’ to be quite myopic if you look beyond the household unit to the complex networks that bring food, water, energy and shelter to the urban grid. If you want your FSC-certified lumber (harvested by diesel-powered equipment), and want your watersheds managed properly (by people who drive around in the woods), and want organic, locally-produced food from a rural farm, ‘No Impact’ becomes, at the landscape scale, a chimeric goal indeed.

    Comment by Kirsten — January 5, 2011 @ 15:06

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