I just watched this film for the second time in one month. I wanted to share it with my family. It’s made a huge impact on me, and I keep coming back to it, trying to see what I can do in my own small way.
It’s the story of a family living in Manhattan who try to live without carbon impact for a year. When I first met them, on the screen, I instantly fell in love with Michelle, a self-avowed consumer who is addicted to shopping and reality shows.
I’m like a high-fructose corn syrup-addicted meat-eating takout junkie
What struck me about their experience is that, ultimately, it wasn’t an experience of sacrifice, but one of joy, with just enough struggle thrown in to make the joy that much more palpable.
The other thing that surprised me was how many people got pissed off by their experiment. It really touched a nerve, both in people who felt like they wanted to consume what they wanted to consume, dammit, and by environmentalists who felt they weren’t doing it “right.”
I first saw this film at the Mendocino Film Festival, with an intimate audience that was already pretty hip to conserving resources. It’s a small community in one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been, and the contrast to the trash on the street in New York, where I grew up, and the lack of it in Mendocino was very sharp. There’s a sense of stewardship, of personal responsibility there.
It’s easier to see your choices as a drop in the bucket in the big city. One of the things that Colin Beavan (No Impact Man) advocates is volunteering with a local environmental organization, both to offset personal carbon usage, and also to gain a sense of community.
Since seeing it, I notice much more the numerous tiny decisions made every day, and pause and think about what I’m doing. Every time I use a plastic bag or order takeout, I think much more about what impact that will have. Sometimes I put them back and sometimes I don’t. I’m working on it. I feel motivated to be a better person, not by guilt, but by inspiration.
It’s so much easier it is to eat locally in San Francisco than it is in New York in the winter, and I have some solar power, which goes a long way with the carbon footprint. It covers most of my electricity, except some of my heat.
That being said, I still have a long way to go with my plastic and paper usage, and I still drive when I could be riding my bike. I’m thinking of trying to do the No Impact Experiment in August:
The No Impact Experiment is a one-week carbon cleanse. It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern “conveniences” you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.
Who’s with me?