In the instant classic 2009 documentary, No Impact Man, writer Colin Beavan takes his family on a yearlong adventure to live greenly, leaving no impact on the environment. Eating only locally grown food, reducing trash output to only compost, and using no carbon-fueled transportation for a year sounds like a challenge for anyone, and it’s especially so for this Fifth Avenue family. The film captures the daily drama of making meaningful changes, not just in being green, but in improving the overall quality of life for you and those around you. As TreeHugger founder Graham Hill says in his Life Edited project, he’s trying to “reduce his footprint and live happily with less space, less stuff and less waste on less money, but with more design”.
No Impact Week and the No Impact Project were started by Colin after the success of the book, movie and his blog, No Impact Man. “Want to save money? Lose weight? Have more time? Live healthy and be happy?” Uh, yes I do, please sign me up.
It’s easy to get cynical about projects like No Impact Week. In one sense it’s the epitome of eco-fanboy-ism that scores an A+ in an epic netroots blogging effort and ends there. Let’s face it, when the week is over most people will still drive to work with their daily Starbucks in their $50 pre-faded jeans, while texting.
The thing is that it’s genuinely hard to make these kinds of changes in your life. We live in a consumption based culture. We have commitments where we work, like a week-long conference that requires air travel, a stay at a hotel, and dining out all week. We may not live somewhere with great public transportation and we may be stuck with that low MPG car. This is the reality that much of western humanity faces when we start the process of change. How many people do you know that were impacted by the economic downturn that are going to prioritize solar panels over mortgage payment? How many people can increase their food bill by 10-15% to buy organic? That doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do, but it all starts with a change in thinking.
Although it sounds like they’re already well down the path of progress, read yesterday’s post from Plant This Garden where the author worries they’ll become neurotic over trying to make these changes because “they suck at it” – and I can totally relate to that. Hey, we all suck at it, that’s why we have to change it. The good thing about projects like NIW is that we can all stumble around sucking at it together and see what we learn. Everyone can feel good about being a beginner and drawing a line in the sand to move forward from. From urban homesteaders to inner-city apartment dwellers, permaculture pioneers to make-mavens, with a series of small consistent changes we can start to make our own little pocket of the world a better place.
I’m looking forward a place where I spend more time with the people I love, helping others, and leaving my space in better shape than when I found it.
Here’s how to get started.
If you have Netflix you can Watch Instant the No Impact Man documentary and see the trials and tribulations of the Beavan family as they commit to real change and the real challenges it brings.
Of course if you’re looking for the lazy approach to No Impact week, just do nothing, literally.