How to do a "no impact" month

If you're going to have a project, you need some guidelines. Here's how No Impact Man Colin Beavan described his mission to live with no net environmental impact for a year, in New York city:

"I aimed to go zero carbon - yes - but also zero waste in the ground, zero pollution in the air, zero resources sucked from the earth, zero toxins in the water. I didn't just want to have no carbon impact. I wanted to have no environmental impact."

He eased his small family into the project, in stages. First, they tried to live without making garbage (so they stopped using disposable products, reduce packaging, etc). Stage two involved transportation: getting around without emitting any carbon (no cars, taxis, buses, trains, planes, no escalators or elevators either).

Then they looked at their food choices, and tried to make as little environmental impact as possible in terms of consumer purchases, household energy use, water use and pollution. No Impact Man also wanted to make a positive impact where he could, by cleaning up garbage on the banks of the Hudson River, planting trees, and so on.

The cool thing about his approach was that he looked at it as a "lifestyle experiment", a year of inquiry into the way we live and how that impacts the planet.

What can we do without, what can we do differently, what actions have the biggest impact on the environment, in positive and negative ways?

Of course no living thing can have no impact on the planet, but the idea was to see what happens when you investigate how to reduce your impact, and try to find a balance between use of resources and quality of life.

Feel inspired to do a No Impact month? Here are the six main issues to deal with, and a few basic tips to reduce your impact in each way. You'll already have others, I'm sure, and will find more, depending on where you live, your family situation, how far you're willing to go; and of course all the issues are connected, and overlap. The important thing is to start where you are, and to make choices that suit you and your life. Good luck!

1. Transport: Travel without creating any carbon emissions. Walk, ride a bike, take public transport, car-pool. And if all else fails, offset emissions so that your travel is carbon neutral.

2. Food: Buy organic, local, seasonal produce (with minimal packaging). Reduce the amount of red meat you eat, eat less dairy (or seek alternatives such as goat's cheese). Buy only sustainable seafood.

3. Energy: Reduce household energy use. In Australia this is a biggie because most of our electricity comes from coal-fired power stations, but you can sign up for green energy in some states.

4. Waste: Reduce waste by buying products with no, minimal or recyclable packaging. Food scraps go to the compost bin and the worm farm. No bottled water (that goes without saying).

5. Consumption: Buy nothing new. Shop only at op-shops; buy essential items made using minimal resources or that can be composted or recycled.

6. Positive impact: Get involved in and support projects that are making a positive impact. Volunteer, work at your local food co-op, or just pick up rubbish at your nearest beach or park when you're there.