No Impact Man
No Impact Man, the movie, finally arrived in the mailbox. I placed it in my Netflix queue months before it was released and it finally made it's way to the top of the list. Now halfway through the book, No Impact Man, I am re-energized about our lifestyle choices and am becoming even more committed to reducing our consumption and living a simpler life.
Colin Beavan and his family embark on a one year journey from their Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan to live sustainably for one year. What this translates to is: no cars or any other transportation that leaves a negative impact on the environment, no food that comes from anywhere more than 250 miles from NYC, no electricity and no garbage.
Both the book and the documentary are inspiring and thought provoking. In trying to apply it's lessons, I can see how some things would be challenging in NYC and other things easier than in my rustbelt city. For instance, the farmer's market shown in the film offers a much wider variety of goods than our newly formed downtown market. When I inquired about cheese at last years market, I was informed that health codes would make it difficult and expensive for vendors to sell. We do, however, have many local produce stores but then the problem is sprawl/transportation. It is very difficult to exist in our city without a car. Cycling is an option for many short trips but our public transport is lacking (to put it mildly).
The big issue is over-consumption which then breaks down into a series of smaller issues that have to be tackled individually.
I know I can't change everyone's love affair with their cars but I can change mine. In an effort to tackle our transport problems, we have implemented a few things:
We only have one automobile. It is a four cylinder that gets great gas mileage. Purchasing a new hybrid is not in the budget even with a tax credit. In the beginning, it seemed impossible to survive with only one car but it's been seven years and it's fine. When we lived in Florida, the car would remain in it's parking place for days. Not the case now but we each have several bicycles and working legs to supplement the car. It is important to note that maintenance is important to insure optimum gas mileage and to increase the life span of our vehicle.
We combine trips for errands. A little planning goes a long way. Sometimes my mom and I will go shopping together which saves a trip for one of us. One major challenge is my work schedule. Although work is less than 2 miles from home, I come home from work at midnight. The neighborhood that I must pass through is not safe to walk or cycle through after dark (although I've done it a few times, the stress just isn't worth it). In 5 1/2 years we have only put about 30,000 miles on our car and that included a few long trips.
We have purchased a carbon offset for our vehicle. Since we have accepted the fact that we cannot live here without a car, at least we can invest a little money toward an eco-friendly project to try to undo the damage it is contributing to the environmental problem.
It's apropos that No Impact Man arrived now. April 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. It's the perfect time for us to renew our committment to a life of simplicity.
Thanks to Colin, Michelle and Isabella for the inspiration.
For information about No Impact Man go to: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/