Monday, November 29, 2010

No Impact Man sends shockwaves

So, I recently gave up my cable connection at home and have been filling the void with stacks of (free) movies from the Central Library each week, (not to mention daily abuse of Netflix). In my newest hunt I discovered No Impact Man, a documentary from 2009 about one man's quest to live off the grid for a whole year.
At first I was unsure about the content, as it had the ability to be somewhat contrived and/or on the flip side, degrading to those who actually live strict environmentally conscious lifestyles, without documentaries or media coverage. Especially when I read that his wife, a big-wig fashion addict and Starbucks slave was begrudgingly going along with it (scenes from The Devil wears Prada came to mind). However, a few minutes into it and I was hooked.

I have to start by saying that I usually consider myself a low to mid-grade environmentalist. I recycle everything, use fabric grocery bags, and re-use most materials that are considered trash. I shop primarily at Thrift stores and only indulge on bigger corporations for household items I can't get used. I have plants. And walk places. I have reduced the amount of meat I eat to a few times a week and/or in small portions. I air dry my hair. I care, way more than most people!

I care, but am always aware of what more I could do, and the effect of not holding myself to
that standard is sometimes harsh, and unforgiving. It is hard to eat locally grown self-made meals when you work full time. It is hard to walk everywhere when you live outside an area that has access to everything, because that is where you can afford to live, and so on... These excuses seem weak in writing and even weaker after watching the near torment Colin Beaven and this family went through to completely eliminate their personal impact on the environment for a full year. This meant eating strictly locally grown vegetarian meals, and turning off the refrigerator. It also meant no elevators, television, cars, buses, or airplanes, no toxic cleaning products, no electricity, no material consumption, and no garbage. All of this while raising their 2 year old daughter in the middle of Manhattan. Sounds easy right?! The reality is walking up 9 flights of stairs to get home, no coffee (!), no heater in the frigid New York winter and no air conditioning in the summer. No cosmetics or laundry, and at one point, no toilet paper!

As the months went on, they became more exhausted yet more inspired by the changes they saw in themselves and in their quality of life. One scene struck me, where Colin explained that his feelings of not being connected to anything, of feeling depleted and "unplugged" with the world, had morphed into a beautiful clarity and appreciation for the changing climate and sense of timelessness since he began gardening and eating seasonally.
In my own life, I resent those feelings and immediately felt both sad and relieved that maybe some of the depression I harbor could be blasted away by living a more strict rendition of what I want to be. Going full throttle, instead of letting the guilt and feeling of insurmountable responsibility overwhelm me.

So, I am starting small and solid.
For one week, I am not going to spend a penny on anything. Today is the "prep" day where I am tying up loose ends, the unavoidable few things that I can't ignore: paying a parking ticket and rent, picking up my clothing alterations, filling up on gas, replacing the broken piece on my french press. But after today I am going 7 days without using my debit card or cash, merely by using what I already have, and by reducing the amount I consume. I am both excited and nervous! I want to succeed, I have to, it sounds easy. But I know that in our "working" world, the surroundings in which even most environmentalists spend the majority of their time, is based on quick-fixes and accessibility. Having what we want, at that moment, without regard of the consequences. Low accountability, the lovechild of toxic advertising and instant gratification.

I don't want to disappoint myself, and I thought by sharing this experience I would be less inclined to slip up. So over the next week I will posting daily, and exposing the highs and lows of my time as Low Impact Girl! Care Bear Stare!

Now, rainbows aside, I can't end this without a slight edge of my Feminist nature showing through, yet I sincerely hope it doesn't sour all the positivity I just poured out. I just wanted to mention that in some parts of the film I did feel it was a bit unfairly directed at the wife and her habits, with slight tints of a Patriarchal dictatorship on the husband's behalf. Granted it was "his" project that he "imposed" on his wife, but I would have liked to have seen more of a balanced agreement and/or general development of the experience past "my husband was right" epiphanies. I also felt it was unfair that he set the standards, going as far as throwing out her makeup, at the same time installing a solar panel so he can keep his blog going, and whatever else he utilizes the Internet for... grrrr.

So, on your end, watch it and send me your thoughts!

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