During No Impact November, you can look at your lifestyle anew.
MARA Chambers has decided to change the way she shops – and she’s starting with a weeklong challenge. From November 11 to 18, Ms Chambers, from Altona, will skip the supermarket altogether.
“I’ll buy what I need from organic shops or farmers markets,” she says. “I’ll also have to nut out what to do if I need things like toilet paper or washing liquid. I’m hoping to change my habits for the long-term, so I need to look for something else that’s achievable.”
She’s avoiding the well-trodden aisles as a part of No Impact November, run by the Ethical Consumer Group.
In the lead up to the challenge, participants have been meeting to devise their individual goals. The ideas for action range from switching off electronic gadgets to using a composting toilet.
Ms Chambers chose a supermarket-free week because she’s become increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of transparency in the provenance of house brands in the large chain store where she’s been shopping. “I feel like there’s a lot of greenwashing with their organic produce, and they don’t seem to stock many smaller suppliers anymore,” she says.
“I’m really conscious that my power is where I spend my dollar. There are lots of things I can’t control, but I do have freedom over where I spend my money.”
No Impact November is the third annual household action challenge run by the Ethical Consumer Group. In previous years, the participants sought to eat from within one hundred miles, and to produce no waste for a week.
Nick Ray, from the group, says the hard work of changing habits is made easier by doing it together. The people taking part are planning to gather for a meal at the start and end of the week to share their experiences.
“We all have impacts in our everyday life,” he says. “Often people are unable to minimise them because they feel overwhelmed, or because they’ve tried and burnt out. The idea of our household action challenge is to choose something that’s manageable. It pushes us hard for a week, but then we can digest it.”
This year, Mr Ray and his family have come up with a three-pronged challenge: to bake their own sourdough bread, to forgo driving their car, and to cut their electricity consumption by one-third.
“The average Australian citizen consumes an amount of energy equivalent to nearly 50 people pedalling bicycles non-stop, day and night,” he says. “That statistic makes me think twice about our energy use. Do we want to be dependent on oil, or on slaves when oil runs out? Or is there another way?
“We need to really pioneer new ways of living that aren’t fossil-fuel dependent, and that’s why we’re not going to get into the car for the week,” he says.
If you’d prefer to start with a shorter challenge, November 27 is Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest against over-consumption.
Alternatively, to find out the facts behind your regular buys, check out the Ethical Consumer Group’s Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping. The fourth edition will be available shortly, as both a booklet ($6) and an iPhone application ($4).
“It’s great for people who are looking for something with an ethical edge for Christmas stockings or to buy for their friends,” Mr Ray says.