I recently watched a documentary about a guy named Colin Beavan, a.k.a. “No Impact Man.” Basically, the film documents a pretty extreme year-long experiment during which Colin, his wife Michelle, and their daughter Isabella try to reduce their environmental impact to zero. What did I think about it? Well, it was definitely entertaining, thanks in large part to the (very understandable) resistance from Michelle. After all, I’m sure when she said her wedding vows she never imagined that “for better or for worse” would include a lifestyle full of challenges like raising a small child with no electricity or toilet paper. C’mon. A woman has limits.
Besides being entertaining, the film was also pretty inspiring. If you’ve been wanting to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly, you’ll probably come away from the film admiring the Beavan’s efforts and feeling like you’re ready to ride your bike to the nearest farmer’s market and buy some seeds to plant a new garden in the back yard.
Most of us, however (myself included), being the typical, average, garbage-producing, resource-consuming, ozone-depleting, convenience-driven humans that we are, may come away from it a little glazed over. Overwhelmed, perhaps. The film really opened my eyes to the unending ways that my life impacts the environment.
This is where i found the real value in “No Impact Man.” It makes you think. It’s really easy to overlook all the little ways we impact the environment in our daily lives. It’s much too easy to get too busy or distracted, or rushed, or whatever it is that keeps us from taking that extra 5 seconds to think about our actions and choices, and their consequences. If you find yourself in that boat, you’re definitely not alone. “No Impact Man” rocked my boat a little bit. But that’s a good thing. There will be some positive changes coming from it soon, but that’s another post.
No Impact Man – The Trailer
What You’ll Get From Watching “No Impact Man”
What can you take away from watching “No Impact Man?” You can become aware of all the different ways your lifestyle impacts the environment. You can see what actions Colin and his family took in order to reduce their impact. And you can decide what actions you’re willing to take in your own life to reduce your environmental impact.
Equally important, you can decide where you personally draw the line. For example, I personally will not live without toilet paper. Nope, not gonna’ happen. Let’s look at some more examples of where Colin found ways to reduce his impact…
“For one year, Colin Beavin and his family unplugged from the electrical grid, produced no trash, travelled exclusively by foot or bike, and bought nothing except food (all of it locally grown).” — NoImpactProject.org
Colin’s experiment was driven by a simple question he asked: “Is it possible to live a good life without wasting so much?” So, the actions he took had the results of less consumption and less waste. Here are some of the actions he took to achieve that:
- He didn’t use elevators
- No buying new products
- No soda cans
- No water in plastic bottles
- Canceled newspaper and magazine subscriptions
- No airplanes, subways, or taxis
- No TV
- Eating only locally grown food
His experiment lasted a year, and he didn’t implement all these changes on day 1. But he did eventually go as far as turning off his electricity completely. This meant living by natural light during the day, and candlelight during the evening, as well as finding alternate methods of cooking and refrigeration. And how do you wash clothes without your washing machine? For Colin, the solution was to throw all the clothes in the bathtub and get the whole family involved in “agitating” them by walking around in the tub. Colin’s young daughter seemed to think this was a brilliant new game! Again, further than I’m willing to go, but it made for entertaining TV.
Colin and his family also rode their bikes or walked wherever they needed to go, bought their food from local sources, and started composting. The practicality of some of these actions depends a lot on where you live. I would be arrested if I tried to bike to work, since I’d have to get on the expressway where bikes are prohibited. Aside from that, I’d have to leave home yesterday to get there by tomorrow!
I’m Definitely Not “No Impact Woman” But…
My approach to “going green” is to pick the “low-hanging fruit” first. Do what’s easiest first, and keep looking for opportunities to make gradual improvements that lessen your environmental impact. So, you will not find me dancing around in my bathtub anytime soon! But watching the movie did encourage conversation between myself and the hubby about making some changes, and we’ve started a list of things we can do (and that we’re willing to do long-term) to screw up the planet a little less. I’ll be posting more about that soon. Keep an eye on the “My Journey” section of the blog!
Again, I recommend watching the movie to see what’s possible, and then see how you can apply some of the information to your own lifestyle. I can certainly find ways to reduce my consumption. There’s also way too much garbage going out of my house, and watching “No Impact Man” made me more aware of that fact and more determined to do something about it.
Here are some links you should check out if you want to learn more about Colin’s experiment and what he’s up to now:
No Impact Man (Colin’s blog)
NoImpactProject.org (Colin’s organization)
You can also grab the DVD or the book from my Amazon Store
If you’ve seen “No Impact Man” I’d love to hear what you thought about it! Did it have an impact on you? Whether you’ve seen it or not, where do you “draw the line” when it comes to eco-friendly living?