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No Impact Man’s Big Impact

September 17, 2009

no impact manLast Friday my boyfriend and I left work at 9:30 (yeah no double!) and scurried down to the Angelika to see No Impact Man on its opening night.  I have NO idea how I completely missed Colin Beavan + Family’s big experiment to attempt to live a zero net carbon footprint life for one year in NYC, but I did.  What can I say, 2007 was a bitch.  Regardless, we had heard about the opening of the documentary on NPR earlier that week and we were both excited to check it out.

First, I need to say that I loved it.  Second, here’s a quick synopsis (quoted from the blogsite): “For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…”  And so they do.  The project occurs in 4 stages over the course of the year.

Why did I like it so much?  Well, first of all, Colin Beavan and wife, Michelle Conlin aren’t your average environmental fringe extremest (for clarity’s sake I’m going to use first names).  Michelle is a self-proclaimed shopaholic and coffee addict.  She’s what some might call a “good consumer.”  A quick glance and her AMEX bill at the beginning of the movie made the audience cringe, and rightly so– $900 for a pair of high heels is a bit much!  Colin is more down to earth, but has a naivete about him that can come off as flippant or even ignorant.  Ultimately, what they are is human and flawed, and that makes the entire project feel so genuine.

They also had a level of humor and banter at some of the most difficult times.  One moment that sticks with me the most happened during their first attempt to do laundry in the tub.  It was the dead of winter, Colin was cleaning out the last of Michelle’s cosmetics, and there was a tub full of cold, dirty laundry with baking soda for detergent.  Michelle was curled up in bed sulking, listening to her husband and daughter walking on the laundry and laughing.  Instead of staying in bed, she got up, and with some coaxing was walking on the dirty laundry too, churning it clean– and they were having the time of their life!!  I grew to respect their love for each other, general optimism, open mindedness, and journey over the course of the year.

Above all, though, they had a message.  Not only are some of these sustainable life changes important for the planet, but they are also important for humanity.  Not to get too gooey about it all, but it sort of felt like the answer.  In an attempt to live sustainably, it is necessary to develop local eating habits, which leads to an interest in the community, and better health, and in this film a closer family, and a sense of the earth, and an ownership of you and your impact.  It also shows that there is a choice to be made.  We make them all the time, every day.  All they did, for one year, was make the most earth-friendly choices everyday.  Ultimately, what they realized is that those same choices were the most human-friendly too.  As they both said numerous times, it’s not about deprivation, it’s about exploration.

I’m going to make a really cheesy analogy now, but I can’t help it.  You know in the movie Contact, with Jodi Foster?  Ok, well at the end when she is dropping in the ball through the alien thing (god it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie)?  Right, well you know how she is strapped in the chair, and is rattling around, but when she gets out of the chair she is able to just float?  That is how I think we need to solve the environmental crisis that we are it:  we need to get out of the chair.

Or, something like that…  haha!  See the movie and let me know what you think!

Keep spinning.


One Comment leave one →
  1. October 17, 2009 6:00 am


    Thank you for the great quality of your blog, each time i come here, i’m amazed.

    black hattitude.

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