Friday, May 14, 2010

No Impact man

I just watched this documentary last night and it was wonderful!  A family in NY city decides to try to make no environmental impact for one year.  They give up cars and take to biking.  They give up elevators and take to the stairs.  They give up toilet paper, premade cleaning products, and washing machines.  They start composting and eating only local foods.  I never heard of it at the time, but I guess it was a big deal in New York, they were in the Times and on Good Morning America.  It was all new to me, though, and I loved watching it.

They got a lot of negative comments about what they were doing and it just amazes me how people think doing little things like using cloth instead of disposable anything, or making your own cleaning products, or buying local food, is so crazy.  To me it has become so common to use cloth wipes, rags instead of paper towels, and although I haven't done it in awhile, I used to make my own laundry detergent and cleaning products out of cheapness :)  And it's not hard!

The wife of this family was into reality tv, shopping, and eating meat.  By the end of the year, though, she was definitely turned on to the positives of the changes they'd made.  She no longer spent $950 dollars at one clothing store (??!!) and she gave up her coffee addiction (no coffee was grown in New York, therefore had to be nixed.)  There were wonderful scenes of the family stomping their laundry in the bath tub, and playing with their daughter, and eating by candlelight.  I was just so excited to see someone that had a ton of reservations about the project totally turn around and embrace things. 

Obviously not all was good.  They gave up electricity for six months and instead of a refrigerator used a pot in pot contraption that was supposed to work but didn't.  They were basically camping in their NY city apartment, as the wife said.  I'm sure there were times it sucked beyond belief and they probably wanted to go out and get fast food and not have to cook their root vegetables.  But like they said, they were going to the extreme to see what worked, what was possible, and what wasn't feasible.  They realized that it wasn't about giving things up but doing the things they wanted to do in a more sustainable way. 

It was really interesting to me because a lot of what they were doing reminded me of "olden times" for lack of a better term.  Before everything was processed and marketed, people used what they had to do what they needed.  When I was looking at making my own cleaning products everything I read was recipes from someone's grandma.  That's just how it was done.  You took some things you had in your pantry and you cleaned with them.  You drank water from the tap, you didn't buy plastic bottles of it.  You bought your food from local farms or markets, and didn't depend on having blueberries shipped in from Chile in the middle of the winter. 

I know that convenience is really nice sometimes.  I have been known to go for the easy way out many times.  But is it really worth it?  (The stupid thing about this is that I just bought a pack of disposable diapers for Ingrid yesterday after her cloth ones leaked through three nights in a row!  I guess some things are convenient, aren't they?  Sigh...)  For me the movie just drummed up ideas of what I was comfortable with and what I wasn't.  But it got me thinking, and that's the good thing.  I think more people need to think about what they are doing and see what they could maybe do better.

One thing I think I need to work on is the local eating.  Every year I want to do a CSA but every year it seems too expensive.  Every week I say I should go to the farmer's market and then realize I missed it the next day.  When I shop I should look for more locally grown things, and things with less packaging.  What do you think you could change about your habits? 

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Great and thought provoking post. The documentary sounds awesome (but we don't have tv, so your explanation was great).

I think where I could do better is the shopping locally thing. We do use and support our local farm shop, but the selection can be a bit limited. For example my kids just loooove mango, and I love that they eat them. But living in Switzerland this is not something I am ever going to source locally :-(

So do I deprive them of it (and lots of other healthy but imported fruits and veg), and reduce the wide range of foods they do eat, all for the sake of only buying local?

I do think about this one a lot, and am not really sure what the answer is tbh.