Over the weekend I watched the documentary, No Impact Man. Have you heard of it? Writer Colin Beaven talked his wife Michelle Conlin and their two-year-old daughter into dedicating a year to trying to make zero impact on the planet. That meant turning off their electricity in their New York City apartment, eating only local foods, giving up toilet paper, washing laundry in the bathtub, and riding bikes everywhere. Beaven says the point of the experiment was to see what would be easy to give up and what would be not quite as easy.
I loved that:
- Michelle was a self-described reality-show addict and retail junkie and was less than thrilled about the project at first, but by the end, she loved riding bikes (even through Manhattan traffic), spending TV-free time with her family, and shopping at the farmer’s market.
- Both Colin and Michelle said that the year made them better parents.
- Michelle found that turning off the TV and all the gadgets made time slow down.
- Colin discovered that working in the garden helped him connect to the rhythms of nature.
- As the project went on, Colin reflected more about not just making personal changes, but getting involved in making change on a community level.
Things I wondered:
- Why was it not against the rules to use hot tap water and the city sewer system?
- Did they wash the diapers in the bathtub?
It’s a fun movie. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet. I love that the message is not that we all must deprive ourselves to save the planet, but that less can be more. Simple living can be a deeply satisfying, rich, entertaining, connected, and fun way to live.
It left me wanting to power-down more often and do more bicycling, but more importantly, it renewed for me the importance of building community. At one point Colin Beaven said almost precisely what Rosie Kirincic told me recently when I visited Aprovecho, a non-profit collective dedicated to researching and teaching sustainable living practices and green skills: ““There’s accountability in knowing your community. It’s really a powerful thing.”
Have you seen No Impact Man? What did you think?