The No-Impact Man: A Film Review
Yeah, so I’m a bad blogger because I’ve abandoned my readers for three days. But I am a good student!
I had to write a film review for my Global Issues class and I totally chose one that would be relevant to my blog. That way, at least when I’m writing papers instead of blog posts, it can be something you will enjoy.
And I wrote it this morning at 7:00 am, due at 9:30 am.
I give The No-Impact Man a “2” on the Splurge-Worthy Movie Scale, although if you haven’t already splurged, the movie is now out on DVD which makes 3 & 4 good options.
Splurge-Worthy Movie Scale
- Worth the splurge for a full price ticket
- Save on a matinee ticket or wait for the Dollar theater
- Put it on your Netflix cue
- Get on the library wait list
- Wait for it on TV… if you bother at all
And now, for my paper.
It’s not so perfect. I know this. Don’t judge.
The No-Impact Man
The No-Impact Man is a documentary about a Collin Beaven, a man who attempts to live for one year in Manhattan while making no harmful impact on the Earth. This includes no mechanical transit with the exception of scooter or bicycle, no electricity, and no new clothes. By limiting his food consumption to food from a 250 mile radius, he eliminates coffee. Because of the environmental impact of meat consumption, he has none for a year. He generates little to no trash and recycles and composts everything possible. Most interestingly, his wife, Michelle, and baby daughter participate.
Each small choice they made impacted the family in a big way. Because Collin chose to limit his food consumption to a 250-mile radius of his home, coffee and tea was out. This posed quite a problem for his wife Michelle, who is a self-described caffeine and retail junkie. They were only able to eat in-season vegetables and fruits so their winter diet tended towards bland. Their diet was also heavily impacted by their choice to unplug their refrigerator. Their food could only be purchased two or three days in advance to prevent spoilage. This would have made meat consumption nearly impossible if they had not already cut it from their diet.
Their choice to use no electricity required them to live with the sunlight or use candles otherwise. Michelle also quit using her hair dryer, as well as most other cosmetics. The lack of television was hard to cope with at first.
I enjoyed watching little events occur, like getting composting worms for the compost bin, or washing clothes in the bathtub. It was interesting to watch the family’s values change and to watch them cope with the changes. They did quite well and even ended up enjoying themselves in the end. They built a lot of good relationships with other people, like the man who helped them have a community garden, or the farmers at the market.
I was very excited for this documentary to come out this January, as I have been following Collin on his blog for the past two years. My point of view, and how I interpret Collin’s to be, is that he doesn’t expect anyone to live like he did. He hopes that people will see how little you can get by with and still be happy. He wants to show how much small decisions add up. He doesn’t expect anyone to live making any impact for a year, but he hopes people will be open to trying it for a day, or will at least consider their food consumption or their trash output.
Other critics were not as friendly. Some commenters on his blog accused him of making people who care about the environment look like freaks. Others blamed the recession on people like him, saying spending money makes the economy work and that he was being selfish. Others said that he was making “green” look too difficult and were turning people away from the idea. Overall, about 40% of the comments on his blog were negative, although this improved as the experiment went on.
The cultural context was interesting in this film. Someone watching from a developing country would not find it difficult to live without electricity, go without cosmetics and take out food, or to hand-wash clothing. But with Collin being from Manhattan, the film made quite an impact because his lifestyle was so completely out of the norm of living. To me, watching from Iowa, I don’t think it would be quite a struggle. Take-out food has never been a fix of mine, so I didn’t understand Michelle’s difficulties. Also, I know how to garden and cook over a fire. Limited space in Manhattan made gardening difficult, and fire impossible.
It did give me hope to do more for the environment. I have made excuses that I can’t be as “green” living in the city because I have no clothesline, garden, or compost bin, but Collin had all three in a tiny Manhattan apartment.
Collin addresses the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability. Clearly over-consumption in the United States is a major culprit in several environmental issues. In this film Collin left nearly no carbon footprint, or at least lived within the average that each person in the world is entitled to. It would take 2-4 Earths to sustain the world if everyone lived the way Americans do. Collin is working to limit America’s consumption.
Seeing how simply Collin had to live to keep his carbon footprint small enhanced my global perspective. The film reiterated what our guest speakers had to say about over-consumption in America and ways to help the environment. It made me realize that although not everyone has to live like Collin, if everyone made one small change it could make a great impact.
I very much enjoyed this film. It was a good time to watch it because shortly afterwards we had guest speakers about the environment and the MDG of ensuring environmental sustainability. I also watched it during the first month of my own year-long-experiment, the Compact. The Compact is a group of people who, in 2007, made the commitment to buy nothing new for one year. I joined the group for 2010 and bought only business expenses so far: a ball winder and line meter. Collin provided great inspiration to me. Although I’m not turning off my electricity any time soon, I may reconsider my coffee consumption, or eating apples in February. This film can teach Americans a lot about their impact on the environment.
No Impact Man. Dir. Laura Gabbert & Justin Schein. Perf. Colin Beavan, Michelle Conlin. Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2010. DVD.
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