As you likely know, today marks day number one of NWEI’s Annual EcoChallenge. From October 1-15th, people and organizations throughout North America are choosing one action and committing to it for two weeks. The EcoChallenge is an opportunity to change your life for good. Common wisdom says it takes two weeks to change a habit: if you can stick with a new behavior for 14 days in a row, you’re a lot more likely to keep it up for good.  Participants share their progress online, and after two weeks of shared inspiration, camaraderie, and a little friendly peer pressure, most find they’ve changed their habits—and reduced their impact—for good.

Today we’re highlighting Kelly’s Merrick’s EcoChallenge: to buy no food with packaging. Here is an excerpt from her blog, Kelly’s Sustainable Life: Its about more than just the environment. Its about health and happiness too.

Like most people, I love a good challenge, especially when it comes to sustainability. So this year, when my company decided to start a team and participate in the Northwest Earth Institute’s 2012 EcoChallenge, I immediately decided that Josh and I needed pick something that would be a big challenge. As you know, we already do most of the basics – we recycle, compost, take public transit, buy local, and sustainable products. So I wanted to pick something that would a real challenge.

So what did we decide?

For two weeks, we’re not going to buy any food with packaging. None. Not even recyclable materials. The goal for this challenge is to focus on the “reduce” part of “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

The Rules:

  1. We can eat food we already have in the kitchen, even if it has packaging
  2. No stocking up on packaged food before the challenge (starting today)
  3. Recyclable materials count
  4. We can eat in restaurants but have to bring our own container if we want to take food home
  5. If we are invited to dinner at someone’s house, that doesn’t count unless we are asked to contribute (we have to draw the line somewhere). But rule #4 still applies to any food we bring home.


  • Cheese – I can’t have cow’s cheese, so we only eat goat cheese, which I’m not sure where to get without packaging so we will have to go without cheese for two weeks.
  • Beer – We can have kegged beer, but not from bottles
  • Milk – We’ll have to make our own almond milk (we don’t buy cow’s milk anyway)
  • Beans and other canned items – We’ll have to purchase them dried in bulk and then hydrate them, which will take more planning for meals
  • SoupCycle – I will have to go without my SoupCycle subscription, as it comes in plastic containers each week

  Frequently Asked Questions:

  1.  Why are you counting recyclable containers?  Reduce is the key here. While recycling is    better than throwing things away, reducing waste, recyclable or not, is always the better option. Plus, it is more challenging.
  2.  What packaging waste do we generate the most of? Based off of a quick assessment of the garbage in our can now, our garbage consists of takeout containers, almond milk containers and bags from snack foods. Our recycling consists of a lot of aluminum cans, egg cartons and beer bottles. 
  3.  How are you going to have time to prepare everything from scratch? Luckily we  already eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit from the Farmer’s Market, and we already purchase a lot of items from the bulk section using our own containers. The challenge is going to be finding time to cook our own beans and making our own almond milk. I like to improvise the food we eat during the week, and with dried items it’s going to be harder to make dinner if I have to soak and cook beans, as opposed to opening up a can.

I am really excited to start our challenge.

For the full story and to visit Kelly’s blog, click here. And, it isn’t too late to register for the EcoChallenge! Join us today.