An Impact on Society
I recently watched the documentary, No Impact Man, which details the experiences of Colin Beavin and his family for a year while they experiment with trying to have absolutely no impact on the environment. Each month marks the start of a new method for reducing their environmental impact, such as the month marking the beginning of no waste, and in the sixth month going as far as turning off all electricity. This was all in attempts to reduce the ecological footprint of the family. Colin stated that he wanted to discover, “Is it possible? Is it practical?” to live a life without an environmental impact. The family went to impressive amounts to perform their research, some of which even discouraged people from associating with them any longer. For example, instead of using toilet paper, which cannot be reused and promotes the cutting down of trees for paper, the Beavin family used reusable cloths to wipe themselves clean after they used the bathroom. Their soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and toothpaste all had to be environmental friendly, organic, come in reusable containers, etc. Colin actually made a lot of the products they had to use in this year in order to ensure that they were all natural, and that the family would not have to go buy new materials, which is one of the costs (and benefits) of living a life with no environmental impact. Other changes in their lives include but are not limited to: using a cooler instead of a refrigerator, candles as means of light, maintaining a compost bin in their apartment, riding bikes instead of driving, buying local, eating no meat, and using the stairs instead of the elevator. In the end, the family was satisfied with their results, although they did decide that it is not practical to live the rest of their lives with no impact. As a family they decided to ride bikes more often, eat less meat, have no television, and try to reduce their waste.
I think that every subject that we have ever talked about in class was talked about at least once in the video. One topic is waste. Colin describes the idea of reducing waste, which is important because in class we learned that landfills (which are very unnatural) are overflowing, releasing toxins into the environment, are polluting bodies of water, etc. The main idea of getting rid of waste is really following the mantra of, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Producing no waste as in individual goes hand in hand with not consuming anything, or rather, reducing the amount of consumption. Another important topic that Colin talks about that we also learned about in class is the reason why eating red meat is bad for the environment. Cows release a lot of methane into the air through their excretions, which are then trapped in the atmosphere as fossil fuels. As we have mentioned countless times in class, it is fairly certain that fossil fuels released into the atmosphere due to human demands for certain resources are causing the global temperatures to rise. Thus, by reducing the amount of red meat one eats they are essentially indirectly reducing the amount of methane released into the environment (reducing their ecological footprint).
Although we have decided that yes, in the United States in this day and age it is impractical and nearly impossible to live with absolutely no environmental impact, it is very important that the human body as a whole recognizes how everything they do can have a negative impact on the environment. If everybody starts to make small changes in their daily habits that affect the environment, it may be possible to help prevent the climate from destabilizing further. If one small act, such as the creation of this film, could raise awareness in a city as big as New York, maybe a few bigger acts could raise awareness globally.
No Impact Man. Dir. Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein. Perf. Colin Beavin, Michelle Conlin. 2009. DVD.