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Imagine that you have to put all your trash of one month in one small Ziploc sandwich bag. Everything you use and buy for 30 days, that would normally be thrown away, has to either fit inside this bag or be recycled or composted. Michael Brown did just this, for the first of a series of 30 day experiments. And better yet, he documented it in his blog, The Young Urban Unprofessional.
“When I started this blog I had been living in downtown Boston working full time for about a year. I was having a hard time coming to terms with the daily grind and general lack of diversity and excitement associated with being a young, urban professional (yuppie). I was losing my small-town roots in favor of the luxuries and daily grind inherent in young, urban professional life.”
Brown grew up in a small town in Maine and has now been living in an urban environment for approximately six years. He graduated from Tufts University in 2009 and in his first year after graduation, Brown’s days consisted of a routine: commuting, working and going out with friends on the weekends. This wasn’t enough for him; he wanted to have more meaning in his life. During this year he read various books, blogs, and websites that talked about the idea of lifestyle design.
He came up with the idea for ‘The Young Urban Unprofessional’ one Sunday afternoon, sitting in his apartment discussing urban sustainability with his girlfriend and roommates. He decided he was going to find out if it was possible to have a lifestyle without a landfill, and for 30 days he didn’t throw anything away and only consumed recyclable and biodegradable materials.
That lead him to a 30-day lifestyle experiment that he has been doing for the past eight months. He forced himself to study his life and change his habits.
“I decided that the focus of my lifestyle experiments would be centered on challenging yuppie lifestyle, looking for a more fulfilling and examined way to approach life,” Brown says.
The first experiment, “Life without a Landfill,” was by no means easy to pull off. To get rid of his food waste he had to build a compost. Because he lives in a city environment, he built a vermi-culture compost (which Brown describes as a “worm bin”). Unfortunately, the first 20 days of the experiment he didn’t have the compost built and was keeping 20 days worth of food leftovers in a large Tupperware container.
“It was incredibly hard to pull off because everything seems to involve the production of trash in one way or another. The habits I learned during that month have crept into my daily life (composting, recycling, reduction of trash) and it really improved my outlook on urban sustainability.”
Some of his other life experiments have included daily conversations with people on the public transport, a month of being a vegetarian, a month of getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night and writing a dream journal. Additionally, Brown has experimented with doing daily random acts of kindness. He normally gets his ideas from talking with friends and family, but also encourages readers of his blog to submit ideas.
Brown says that each life experiment has affected his life and his daily habits change even after the experiment is over. After the “Life Without a Landfill” experiment, he now has a Kleen Kanteen thermos and almost never uses throw-away coffee cups. He has also continued composting all his food scraps.
After his ‘random acts of kindness’ experiment, he finds himself helping lost tourists with directions or people needing help getting their suitcases off the train more often than he did before his experiment.
“It really doesn’t take much time to help people out, you just have to keep your eyes open, be able to recognize situations when they’re happening, and then do something about it,” Brown says.
His current experiment is to be sober for one month. Brown says he feels fit, happy, and healthy. But just because he isn’t drinking this doesn’t mean he’s not going to parties with his friends. He says he’s gotten over the awkwardness of not drinking alcohol at bars and parties.
“I’m hoping the habits I’ve learned from this month will help me to moderate my alcohol intake and purchasing going forward.”
Brown already has several ideas to try in the future and says for now he doesn’t see an end to these experiments. He knew he was on to something when his friends started teasing him about it. He says it’s often that friends sarcastically ask, “Is this going to end up on your blog?” or “What are you going to tweet about this?”
Putting sarcasm aside, Brown feels lucky to have such a strong support team. He says that his girlfriend has been a great influence and support from the very beginning. His family, roommates, friends and Twitter followers have been helpful with ideas and content for his blog.
Image Courtesy of http://theyoungurbanunprofessional.com/