Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Could You Go "No Impact"?

When I first watched the documentary "No Impact Man", based on a year in the life of Colin Beavan and charting his family's attempt to make changes in their lifestyle so as to have absolutely no environmental impact, two thoughts crossed my mind. First, I thought he was crazy - here is a man with a wife and a young child who is about to radically change the way they live, and life may be hell for all of them.

Then as I watched it I wondered, could I do this? Would my family be able to make it for twelve months with no electricity (meaning no Noggin' or Sprout for the kids, no "Days of Our Lives" for my wife, and no way to charge my Kindle when it winds down), composting our own trash, eliminating the use of any transportation not powered by our own feet? More importantly, how long into such an effort would it be before my wife contracted out with someone who could make me disappear?

Beavan's project seemed to work well in Manhattan, where things are much more "compact" (a good brisk walk could get them wherever they needed to go, with the exception of a train ride to the country for a five-day stay on a farm). I'm not so sure that it would translate well to life in the metropolitan Washington area, however; it's 10 miles to my office (which I could bike, I suppose), but there are also day care and school transportation issues to consider (while it wasn't covered, would this project eliminate having our kids ride the school bus?) and trips to the grocery store and church. We possibly could do without electricity, although it gets pretty darn hot and muggy during the summer. Recycling wouldn't be an issue, because we wouldn't be able to buy anything that couldn't be composted or reused.

So the thinking on this continues. I'll ultimately sit down and read the book version of this year-long adventure penned by Beavan, and perhaps may pick up more answers to questions that I'm still considering. In the meantime, I enjoy watching others try more scaled-back, one week mini versions of the "No Impact" project, which for many would be a much more realistic or feasible way of eliminating their footprint. There are even some great videos posted on YouTube that show how folks are going about this; here is one that Beavan linked to his blog (which is well worth a visit) that shows how one college is going about their week-long project.

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