Watching this documentary brings up a lot of mixed emotions.
On the one hand Colin Beaven ( No Impact Man) appears to go to extremes, trying to eliminate ALL .... from his life. It was painful to watch his wife "going along" with the program when obviously it was difficult for her. Or, maybe I was reading her body language incorrectly. I can understand giving up things, but coffee or tea just because it doesn't come from a 250 mile radius. Olive oil? Diapers for the baby?
I have lived in a time when cloth diapers and rubber pants were all that was available for babies. Not only is it difficult to get diapers sanitarily cleaned without HOT water and bleach, (or direct sunlight), the effect on the baby can be medically disastrous. A baby with raw sores on it's bottom suffers. A baby with a fungal infection is heartbreaking! And if one is trying to live a no impact life, what does one do to treat those conditions?
I cringed as I watched No Impact Man washing clothes in the bathtub by stomping on them like they were grapes in cold water. I guess he hasn't heard of a scrub board. My grandmother boiled her wash water over an open fire. She hung her clothes on a rope in mid air summer and winter. Obviously No Impact Man couldn't do that. How clean could those cloth baby diapers become?
They never did mention what they did to substitute for toilet paper.
Doing without A/C or heating in New York city seems extreme. They still used electricity for cooking and telephone in the first few months. Then lived in the dark with candles. How safe is that with a toddler in the house? There were exceptions to the rules, but who decided it? No Impact Man. He got to keep his computer running by using a small solar panel, which I thought was maybe a bit hypocritical. (I wont go into the carbon footprint of creating a solar panel.)Though in this day and age, why do without one's computer, even if there is paper and pen available? Okay. I will give him the computer. After all, he was writing a blog and a book about all this at the same time he was being filmed.
I do not mean to make this a criticism of the intent of No Impact Man. I think it's admirable when anyone makes a clear and conscious change in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint whatever their methods. But, I still would like to know why, what and how.
Some things I liked in particular, probably because I can see the feasibility for the average person.
1. No water in plastic bottles. This I already do by keeping water in bottles from previous beverage purchases of Tejava. I've done this for a couple years.
2. Using old clothes for cleaning rags instead of paper, etc. Some old clothes in good condition, I advertise on my local Freecycle, ( see: freecycle.com ) or donate to local charities.
3. Make do with what you already have. I always ask myself if I need this item I'm thinking of buying or if I just want it. Can I do without it? Can I substitute something else.
4. Don't buy new products, just used. I can go part way with this idea. Buying from thrift shops is not a problem for me. Though, I would rather not buy used underpants! Thank you!
5. Don't use electricity and gas. I like the idea, but find I am not committed enough to do without them entirely. I have made concessions though. I have permanently turned off the pilot in my gas-lit wall furnace. It's a big waste of energy, a very inefficient way of heating the house. In the wintertime, I am able to wear warm clothes in the house just like I did as a kid when I lived in New York. I have noticed, though, when it gets below 55 degrees inside the house I then feel chilled, and my bones get creaky. I think arthritis should be respected, especially when it is my own. I remedy this in one of two ways by using the electric space heater in whatever room I am in, or by using an electric blanket when sleeping. It is not necessary to run a space heater all night when sleeping! I am not being a No Impact Woman, but I am using considerably less energy than I would be if running the furnace throughout cold weather. I've been doing this for about two years.
6. Don't waste water. That's a big one for some people. I see it all the time as I drive down the street. Sprinklers are watering the grass, the sidewalk and into the gutters down the street. I don't have grass. My whole yard has been turned into a garden. I don't water the plants. I have chosen plants that grow in my area without watering. When I first made the decision to get rid of grass and have the whole yard be a garden (with pathways), I decided that the plants that wouldn't make it without watering would just have to go their own way. For the most part they have adjusted.
When I compare my water bills from a few years back to today. I have lowered my average water usage from 900 units down to 200 units. I think that's pretty good. I know I could lower it more, but not ready to give up bathing.
I like eating seasonally. That is how I was raised. It doesn't seem to be a sacrifice to me. Peaches in January shipped in from Where? Peru? Australia? Who knows where? Though I must admit I live in a part of the country where strawberries and salad makings grow almost year round. I would miss them if living in snow country. I didn't miss them as a child. We ate what was available. Root crops and what ever fruits that had been canned the previous summer.
One thing in particular stood out for me in watching this film is when I heard, "Why do I need to wait for congress or big business to change things? What can I do myself?"
The first picture is of my house when it had a lawn that needed mowing and watering.
The second picture is after the lawn was turned into sustainable garden which needs no watering.
The third picture shows how the trees grew up enough to provide shade for the house and eliminated the need for air conditioning!
To see a short and fascinating movie trailer on No Impact Man