I’ve been in a documentary mood lately. I started with one and Netflix keeps making great recommendations for me, so…
Last night I watched No Impact Man. It’s about a man, Colin Beavan, his wife, their 2 year old daughter, and dog, living in New York City who undergo a year of making no impact on the environment. This ranges from not purchasing anything new to indoor vermicomposting to not creating any waste/trash to no electricity to no toilet paper to no traveling to only shopping at the farmers market to becoming vegetarians to no coffee to urban gardening, etc etc etc. The amount of change they undertook was pretty brave and Colin structured it all into manageable phases.
The star of this documentary wasn’t their ambition or their project or what they learned about themselves in the end, it was totally the wife, Michelle Conlin. At the beginning she admits to being a reality TV freak, coffee chugging, screen addicted, shopaholic. Like most of us; normal. Throughout their year she has an understandably hard time adjusting, and complains and gripes. All the while though she supports Colin. She agrees not to see her parents for a year (no planes), she readily gives the go ahead when Colin enters the bathroom ready to box up all of her cosmetics, she stomps laundry in the bathtub, goes coffee free, learns how to cook, and agrees to go on this crazy journey though she clearly has major reservations about how her quality of life will change.
Over time though Michelle slowly realizes the positive impact on her life. She uses her vacation time to go to the farm where all of their food comes from even though she hates camping, doesn’t want to be on a smelly farm, and is pissed she’s using her vacation time to go to a farm. But while they are there something clicks for her. Something inexplicable. She gets it. She’s always supported Colin however outlandish his no impact ideas have become. And it clicks for me too, she’s supported him all along even when she didn’t get it.
And so, for me, this movie spoke volumes about marriage, support, and compromise. About picking your battles. About being there for your spouse when they need to complete something or fulfill a dream.
I took away that theme loud and clear. Also, of course, was the theme of how Americans are in a massive consumption coma. I don’t think I could ever do, or sustain, half of the things they do in this documentary to have no impact on the environment but I admire their determination and creativity.
Towards the end Colin says that many people ask him if there’s one no impact thing they could do, what would he suggest. His answer was pretty amazing to me. The one thing he suggests the most passionately is to be involved in your community. That without awareness of how what you do everyday effects those around you, you have no accountability. Without a sense of community individuals will think they are most important thing in the world. And once everyone understands that what they do effects more than just themselves they will act more mindfully, globally, and respectfully. Now that is pretty amazing.