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No Impact Man (DVD)
Label: Dogwoof
Time: 93 minutes + approx. 1 hour of extras

The stats and warnings about our growing environmental impact are so frightening that people often ignore them and hope the problem might go away. Not so New York writer Colin Beavan. He recently tried to spend a year leaving no net footprint.

On his initial blog (http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/what-its-all-about.html) he explained that “for one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment: no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…

“What would it be like to try to live a no impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more fun or less fun? More or less satisfying? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or is there hope? These are the questions at the heart of this endeavor.”

One of Beavan’s key obstacles was not a practical part of the project, but convincing his wife Michelle to get behind it. As a writer for a leading financial newspaper, she was used to indiscriminate shopping and was not keen to stop drinking her coffee from plastic cups.

This DVD charts their plans, progress and pitfalls through the project and is open about the criticism Beavan received from those who thought it was just a stunt to get writing work. It is also very candid, as the couple argues out how they will make the experiment work.

They came across plenty of problems, as you would expect. Their Nigerian-style pot-in-pot ceramic fridge was not as effective as they hoped; the composter they used to reduce their waste unleashed a swarm of flies on one hot day; trying to read by candlelight was trying; and when people read about their style of hygiene, they were not all keen to shake hands!

But the surprises were often positive ones. Beavan learnt about gardening in the city and discovered the joy – and taste – of seasonal cooking. Doing the laundry by walking on the clothes in the bath was an entertaining novelty. Losing the TV meant a far more rewarding social and family life. There was also the satisfaction of making little or no environmental impact.

Because this was a phased experiment, some of the larger things only happened for six months, such as living without electricity. Some critics say that he had an advantage by living in the city, as many facilities were within easy cycling distance.

There are plenty of short extras, which include extended scenes, background musings and resources for living more simply.

Did the experiment work? Grappling with issues as the couple systematically worked through them made it worthwhile and sharing the process with the rest of us has made it even more so. This is entertaining, thought-provoking, and well worth watching.

Derek Walker


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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