What does it mean to live making no impact on the environment? As we all clutch our necessities, a family in the heart of New York decided to explore this very topic. In doing so, they created a unique documentary following their journey to a changed life for one year. This film won’t make you cry, won’t make you angry, but it will make you think about your own impact on life. At first their sacrifices were small yet HUGE to so many of us. Working off the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” model, the Bevan family began with the simple things. Instead of doing without some stuff, they decided to do without it all. They took stairs in place of elevators and eliminated all other transportation that produced carbon, removed their TV from their home, decided to buy no new clothing and use what they have, and only purchase food from local providers – the goal to minimize their impact on the environment.
This film was SO much more than an environmental film….it was about life, feeling good, feeling bad and the choices we all make. Some people gave this film a little grief because the “no impact man” was actually author Colin Beavan working on a book on this very topic. Personally I don’t have an issue with a plug for the book or the film because this wasn’t a film about talking…it was a film of action, contemplation and realization. Colin’s wife Michelle was fantastic in the film. Where her husband jumped feet first into doing everything to the extreme, she was more like most of us…hesitant and a bit resistant. Don’t get me wrong, she was fully supportive of him, but it was a struggle at times. There were moments where she had to sneak off to get her coffee fix or show her disgust at the compost worms living in the house, but in general she was a real trooper even when the people at work made comments about her being unclean because they no longer used toilet paper. YES – they were using rags. That had to be hard on her. She worked for a major magazine and let’s be honest, opinions matter. On top of all this, their 2 year old toddler, Isabella, converted to cloth diapers. Luckily daddy seemed to have the wrapping under control. They weren’t very different from couples I know, BUT they had a mission and they were committed to change their lives….at least for a year.
So here is the basic breakdown on some of the things they gave up to join the “Green Century”:
- No food grown further than 250 miles from home – this really limited their consumption and they pretty much ate a vegetarian diet
- No restaurants or take-out OR Starbucks- I’d be in trouble!
- No coffee because none was grown within 250 miles.
- No use of cars, subways, elevators or anything carbon producing
- No buying new clothes (or accessories) for a year
- No disposable diapers for Isabella – only cloth reusable
- No electricity for the last 6 months which meant no refrigerator or anything – all my candle light
- Garbage via compose.
- He rode a bike and Michelle typically rode a razor to work- YES…that kid toy!
- No products in packaging
- No material consumption like clothes or non-necessities
- Laundry was done in the bathtub with borax and natural cleaners
- Local milk only
I learned something about organic milk. The local dairy guy on the show mentioned that he wasn’t organic because when his cows got sick he wanted to be able to give them an antibiotic. I never thought about that. I don’t want cows to die for the sake of an organic label. Can’t there be a new classification or something? The guy talked so kindly about his animals and really stressed that people should get to know their local dairy people and check out how they are treating the cows. It matters. I think I just may do that.
At times the film was like a roller coaster. One moment they were riding high learning to live more at peace with the land and then they found themselves depressed as they sat in the dark wondering what they had done with their lives. In general, Colin was pretty enthusiastic and Michelle was far more practical. However by the end you could see that both of them were happier and feeling better about their lives.
I couldn’t help but think of the strain this had put on their relationship. Michelle was FULLY supporting her husband, the film and his experiment. But there was a moment when the film shared a deeper side to the relationship. Here she had given up so much and all she really wanted was to have another child…something that Colin was against. I felt horrible for her. After all the sacrifices and he was concerned about the impact on him and his life. As she sat there denying herself of espressos, a washing machine and her reality television shows, she looked empty. The only thing she asked and he was resistant. In the end he decided to leave it to chance and come off birth control. However I have to wonder if having a child when one parent clearly doesn’t want it…will that end up hurting the relationship?
Colin had a hard time. Environmentalists were telling him that he was giving them a bad name; people thought he was extreme and a bit crazy and others thought it wouldn’t make a difference. I was astounded at the irritation of others. Why does it matter to them what the Colin and his family are doing? So they got some publicity and some networks noticed. This was their journey, not a lecture. In fact, this film did make a difference. It showed us all that if the Beavans can do ALL that they did, we can surely make small changes that can help to minimize our impact on the world.
“No Impact Man” has us questioning our own personal comfort zones and boundaries. Now I just need to find where I am willing to cut back….maybe I will start with taking my own cup into Starbucks! Tell me how you are making small changes that impact your life. I’d love to hear about it.