UniversityAttuned to a sustainable earth: DLSU and the No Impact Experiment
Attuned to a sustainable earth: DLSU and the No Impact Experiment

In the last year, the University’s Vision-Mission statement was modified to include the phrase “attuned to a sustainable Earth.” The move signifies DLSU’s renewed commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and protecting the environment.

In 2010, all 16 Philippine Lasallian schools conducted a study on their carbon footprint. The largest contributor was transportation, which the University has difficulty addressing. CSO Director Antonio Maralit, however, reveals that the University’s expected carbon emissions must be much higher now due to the Henry Sy Sr. Hall. Additionally, he notes that the University has been involved in planting more trees to counter its growing emission rates. His office also takes care of the new governing unit of the school: The Internal Pollution Control, which is law-and-standard-compliant in terms of addressing the issues regarding pollution control in the University.

The University also takes other steps to decrease its impact on the environment. To address water waste and comply with government regulations, the University has established four sewage treatment plants around the University to purify dirty water and reuse it. These plants have greatly contributed to the efforts to decrease water consumption. Maralit also points out that the University has five Pollution Control Officers that ensure compliance to six key environmental laws and report related data to the government.

Environment_Jonathan Dizon

No Impact Project

Last June 13 to 26, DLSU’s third No Impact Experiment was held, spearheaded by the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (BNSCWC), Campus Sustainability Office (CSO), the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI), and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration. The program is also absorbed by the Office of the Chancellor.

The event is characterized as a “two-week carbon cleanse program” that aims to encourage the Lasallian community to be more conscious of its effect on the environment. It also challenges members of the community to partake in small activities to help protect the environment. Each day is assigned a theme with suggestions for participants to do in compliance with the No Impact challenge.


Tracing the roots of the No Impact challenge

The idea is credited to Colin Beavan from the United States of America. During one winter in New York City, he noticed college students walking around in tee-shirts and shorts. It was then that he realized the implications of climate change and his need to do something about it. He started a blog that documented the life changes he made to decrease his impact on the environment. Afterwards, he published a book entitled No Impact Man, which was followed up by a documentary of the same name.

Led by Beavan, a team came together to create the nonprofit organization, No Impact Project, in the spring of 2009. They aimed to encourage behavioral and cultural change across the world by getting people to switch to low-impact and zero-waste lifestyles. They have since successfully spread the No Impact Experiment to universities, communities, workplaces, and individuals all over the world.

On the DLSU front, the project began in 2013 when BNSCWC Director Shirley Lua attended a one-day seminar, Redraw the Line, which was organized by the Asian Development Bank. The No Impact Project was introduced in the seminar focusing on how much impact we have on the environment, and how can we lessen this impact.

The project was then brought to the University, and BNSCWC together with VCRI worked together with Maralit in the planning and the implementation of the project. The first run of the No Impact Project took off in 2014 and was popularized with the help of social media.

On its pilot year, less than 500 students participated. However, in its most recent run, nearly 1,000 people signed up to join. Participants were encouraged to post and share their experience on the No Impact Experiment Facebook group.


Themes for the No Impact Week

This year’s No Impact Week started with the theme of trash with the challenge to not generate waste. The participants were encouraged to go paperless and not print anything, use reusable eco bags and containers, and dispose PET bottles and aluminum cans in the proper bins. A sachet recovery bin was also set up to gather used sachets from participants.

The next theme was transportation. In an effort to burn calories and decrease carbon emissions, walking and commuting via buses, the LRT/MRT, and jeeps were among the suggestions of the organizers. Carpooling was also included in the list to minimize traffic and negative carbon impact.

Wednesday revolved around food and the challenge to eat healthy. The activities for the day were to drink and eat local, as well as to consume more vegetables and less meat. Avoiding food waste was also a priority and participants were challenged to order only as much as they could eat and to finish everything on their plate.

The succeeding challenge was to reduce energy use. The activities for the participants were to take the stairs, unplug electrical appliances, Google less, and not to use the TV. Everyone was also enlisted to observe the daily green hour, an hour that should be dedicated to spending time in nature.

Water was the theme for Friday, when participants were required to save water. Participants had to bring their own tumbler or mug and not buy bottled water. They were also required to finish their drinks and conserve water usage in bathrooms.

Saturday focused on community development, with the theme of giving back and the challenge to share. To help society at large, participants had to perform random acts of kindness, give time to those in need, and pick up trash. Bigger efforts were also suggested, such as planting trees and joining eco-advocacy campaigns like those of Haribon and Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

Lastly, the week was capped off on Sunday with the theme of eco-sabbath. To take a break from the regular commotion of an urban life, participants were encouraged to pray, be grateful, spend time with family and friends, appreciate their surroundings, read a good book, and sleep well.

The themes repeated for the second week and the third run of the experiment ended on June 26.


Participating in the experiment

Abigail Laurel (III, AB-LIM), who started participating in last year’s No Impact Week and also participated this year, shares that the themes helped in extending her existing efforts to aspects of her day to day life that she needed to improve on.

“Outside the experiment, I have already designed my lifestyle to be as green as possible,” she narrates. “I reuse, recycle, minimalize, am mindful/aware of my trash and waste, live an all-natural and active lifestyle, use homemade products, buy organic and natural cleaning agents, read outdoors, hike, use public transportation, and just recently started giving talks and presentations about the environment and its biggest enemy, coal,” she enumerates.

After participating in the two-week carbon cleanse program, Laurel admits she began to understand the different angles in which the University could contribute to the preservation of the environment. “This experiment made me see just how big the footprint of our University is, and how desperately we need to start pressuring the school to fund and put together more projects like this to make the students more environmentally aware and active,” she stresses.

When asked about what she can do to help promote and encourage most of the University in participating in the No Impact Experiment, she voiced that social media is the biggest platform for social change among the youth.

Recently, Laurel also performed at Earth Jam, an event organized by Cultura, the Literature program’s organization for its students. It was a celebration of nature and environment through the arts such as music, poetry, and dance. Laurel performed as one of the singers in the event.


On continuous progress and efforts

In an interview with The LaSallian, Director of the College of Liberal Arts Research and Advanced Studies Program Dr. Elenita R. Garcia shares that the University will continue with their advocacy in line with the No Impact Experiment. “We have invited a climate change manager from Germany to help us build a strong campaign for environment care,” Dr. Garcia notes. ”She will be coming in September, when we hold another No Impact Experiment Week.”

An exhibit featuring Philippine coral reefs entitled “Bankota” will also be held during the September No Impact Experiment Week. “It is hoped that the exhibit will bring together everyone, as it brings artists and scientists together and think seriously about the way we negatively affect our environment,” she comments. She also expresses her optimism “that everyone may understand enough to commit to the necessary change in worldview and lifestyle.”

There will be applications for students who want to be ambassadors for the cause. Afterwards, they will be tasked to attend seminars and help come up with novel and innovative ideas to protect the environment with the help of the said guest speaker.