Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Local Review: No Impact Man

Posted Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 7:25 am on
by Amelia Baker

We all have a negative impact on the planet, everyday. Well, all of us except Colin Beavan.

In No Impact Man, Colin Beavan drags his wife Michelle and daughter Isabella along for a 365-day project to live with no impact. That means absolutely zero environmental footprint as a result of their daily lives. Why would someone want to do this? To know if one person can actually make a difference. With camera crews in tow and frequent blog postings about the phases of creating no impact, Beavan set off to cast no environmental shadow.

No Impact Man is exactly that. No caffeine. No electricity. No restaurants. No vacation. No meat. It’s a lot of NOs, but the begrudging wife, Michelle, is the one to point out that these NOs are what kept them inside. Without television, air conditioning, and lights, you actually get out a little more and you gain money, health, fun, and time.

As you can tell, Beavan takes things really, really far. Even environmentalists question his integrity and methods, saying he’s going too extreme, he’s not relatable; he’s that kooky environmental nut giving tree-huggers a bad name. But, honestly, I got what he was doing. There were no expectations for anyone else to follow his no impact trail, but only a desire to engage the masses, make them pay attention, wake up.

This quest to get rid of the waste exposes and further emphasizes over-packaged products lining the shelves of every store. One of my favorite quotes from the film was “Where did all of this crap come from?” Seriously. Where did all of this crap come from?

As an American, it’s your duty to shop, shop, shop. Consume. Consume. Consume. When you dump your money in exchange for excess, you’re being a good American. Right? I don’t know, maybe, but it’s pretty tough to be a good environmental steward if you’re in overconsumption mode.

There’s a point in the film when Colin has decided to wash his clothes in the bath tub to conserve energy. His daughter, Isabella, excitedly joins dad stomping clothes like grapes and mom comes to take in the fact that this is how laundry will be done for the next year. I was certain she would not be agreeable. It was heartwarming and sweet when she rolled up her pants, climbed in the tub, and helped with the unconventional washing.

It’s short and it makes an impact, in a good way. So, can one person make a difference? I think so. By the end of the project, 200 NYU students signed on for a one-week carbon cleanse. That one person engaged and provoked others to reflect on personal consumption and waste was the point. Not only was the film worth the watch, but Colin Beavan proves that happiness does not need to be something you buy off the shelf. There’s a way to get what you want, just do it in a sustainable way.

It’s a cliché, but it makes me teary every time I say it. One person really can change the world. Amazing.

No Impact Man plays tonight at The Naro with speakers and discussion at 7:30.

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