Last night I watched the film No Impact Man, at home. A good time to reflect on my life and my impact. It was a one year experiment of a man and his family to live with no environmental impact in New York City. It wasn't billed as a scientific experiment: they did what they thought was the best option to reduce their impact. So it was also a social experiment. They wanted to see how they would deal with the challenge.
The challenge progressed in stages. By the end, they produced no garbage, bought nothing except local food, turned off from mains electricity and only rode a bike or walked. This wasn't an environmental activist family: the wife at least had a typical life and so had a high consumerist lifestyle. It was hard. Many families say that having a child increases waste generation: they had a toddler to contend with!
The more you get into such a challenge, the more you realise the impact of your life. Producing no waste meant buying food free of packaging, so mainly possible at farmers' markets and bulk supplies stores for dry goods. Only local food meant no coffee, which was very hard for the wife. Only walking or cycling meant they didn't even use the subway and they took the stairs instead of elevators & escalators.
By the end, they had definitely reduced their environmental impact. But they felt the wonderful extra benefits were that the simpler lifestyle meant the family was healthier, happier and had formed better relationships with each other and those around them. They were richer by being free of the excess. After the year, they kept some actions and let some go.
It was good to be personally challenged and inspired. I feel I do a fair amount to try and live sustainably. Watching the film made me reflect on how even my actions that evening required a lot of energy and produced waste. I had the heater on, was watching a DVD, had more lights on than where I was sitting, had eaten a non-vegetarian take away meal which came with two plastic bags, a plastic container and styrofoam container, to which I added a dash of Japanese made soy sauce and then I washed the dishes with store bought dishwashing liquid. The plastic bags are recyclable if I take them to a supermarket (I've never done this) and the styrofoam is headed for landfill.
It inspired me to follow Cecilia Macaulay's suggestion of getting a good set of stackable plastic containers and using them at food co-ops: decrease useless diversity in order to help you have good dinners. I searched the local supermarkets today for what the Decor range could offer.
I went online tonight to The No Impact Project. I was greeted by the offer of undertaking the No Impact Challenge, along with thousands of people around the world. The next week long challenge starts 18 September. Should I just do it? It even has the option for a group starting a challenge team. Pretty cool to get support from those around you and give it a go together! I'll ponder.