No Impact Man
Living for a year having no impact on the environment. That's quite a challenge. Yet that is what Colin Beaven and his family, wife Michelle Conlin and daughter Isabella did. I'm not sure why, but I resisted watching the video I got out from the library. I don't know if I expected someone who was holier than thou about living in an ecological manner, maybe I thought I'd feel guilty that I am not doing enough to protect the environment, to conserve energy.
It didn't help when someone told me that they were less impressed because the documentary was about a family with lots of financial resources, living on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan.
But I knew I needed to watch it, so I finally popped the DVD in and thought I'd give it at least ten minutes. I was hooked right from the start. Here was a real family and they were making real choices and sacrifices, and at the same time, were going to make a lot more people aware of how their consumption affects the planet, and especially the future of our planet.
I found myself thinking yes, I can pay more attention to not buying things with lots of plastic packaging, I can be more careful to bring bags to the supermarket, I can take more political action around energy legislation. And as someone who uses my bicycle as my main means of transportation I was pleased to see them getting around in NY on bicycles.
There were some things they did which I can't see myself doing - going without electricity for months, but it does make me think more about seeking alternative forms of power generation for my home. I've been told that this location won't work well for wind generation, and my house isn't pointed in the right direction for solar panels, but that was a while ago and I know advances are being made all the time, so who knows.
I know that small changes make a big difference. A team of local volunteers came and weatherized my house last year and my house is certainly much snugger, and I rarely turn the heat on. Here's the blog I wrote about that experience.
What I liked best about the movie, and watching the family being interviewed at the Sundance Film Festival, was seeing the transition that Michelle made. She had the most resistance to making changes, giving up her caffeine, designer clothing purchases and giving up lots of foods she liked to eat. My sense is that she came to embrace many, if not all of the changes they made, even becoming an avid biker.
And it struck me that the comment made to me about how this would be easier for a family with more than sufficient resources to live with no, or less environmental impact, missed the mark. Here were people, who have the potential to consume the most, who were willing to make changes, to get a
bit way outside of their comfort zones. I admire what Beaven and Conlin did in experimenting with getting way outside of their comfort zones. And I hope it will be an inspiration for more and more people to similarly pay attention to changes they can make to lessent their impact on the planet.
I'll be interested to hear Beaven speak at the Ethical Society of Westchester - and I'm grateful that I haven't given up electricity so I can take advantage of the phone, and possibly video connection when he speaks at their Platform on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 at 10:30 am ET.
Later that day, the ESWoW Community Call will focus on what we can do as individuals and collectively to lessen our impact on the environment. (We do get a gold star for not driving to our meetings!)
You can get the video of No Impact Man, as well as the book, from many libraries, and the video is also available for immediate playing on Netflix.
Below, find some of my favorite links about the No Impact project followed by some suggestions from Bart Worden, Leader of the Ethical Society of Westchester for taking action towards having less impact.
Colin Beaven on The Colbert Report
Suggestions and resources from Bart Worden:
Screening the video - For single viewing, the library or NetFlix are good options.
Sign a petition. Attend a rally. Whether any of it will have a lasting impact on the environment nobody will know. What’s important is how these simple actions make you feel. Here are a few easy ways to get started.
- Become a local organizer in the fight against climate change. Sign up to become a 1Sky Climate Precinct Captain and organize activists in your community.
- Use your purchasing power to pressure companies to take climate action. The Climate Counts Scorecard rates everything from airlines to fast food restaurants. There’s also a handy tool to e-mail companies to let them know that their record on climate change matters to you as a consumer. Need the info on the go? Check out Climate Counts Mobile.
- Protect Clean Water and Water Jobs. Ask your Senator to support funding for more jobs and clean water in your community.
- Kick Your Bottled Water Habit and Educate your Friends. Gather your friends together to watch FLOW; Blue Gold; or The Water Front — all powerful documentaries about the right to safe, affordable and accessible water. Learn more about bottled water here.
- Encourage your kindergarden through 8th-grade classes to adopt a green transportation curriculum. Learn more at streetseducation.org.