It's not about swearing off toilet paper: Thoughts on No Impact Man

This weekend, I watched No Impact Man.


So many things that Colin Beaven and his wife Michelle said in this documentary were articulated in such a way that they penetrated my head and heart differently than ever before. I started to care more about the environment in a new way, I guess.

It's as if Colin took my thoughts and recycled them, making the end product something more meaningful than the small seeds that were planted within me before.

And that was the point.

The point wasn't to be some crazy fringe extremist, a man bent on doing something fanatical to get attention for a book. The point was simply to get people to think. And isn't that what we're supposed to do? We're here to live in such a way that our one-person impact inspires positive change in the lives of other people. The people we're all connected to in one way or another.

We live in rural Minnesota. This will probably come as no surprise to you, but our family's consideration for the environment, for God's great green and blue world, puts us on the fringe out here. We're seen as a bit... nutty. Let's just say that we're definitely in the minority when it comes to approaching green living in this particular part of the country.

I can be seen digging cans and bottles out of the garbage in public places, moving them to my car, bringing them home to recycle them. We are the hippie types in the very limited organic section of very few grocery stores in our town. And on the days that I walk the many many blocks to the grocery store and push a bike trailer with small people in it around the frozen foods section, I get a whole lot of stares, people wondering what I'm doing with that thing in a store. We talk to our kids about water conservation and we take them to the recycling center for fun. All of this to say, people think we're a bit nutty.

This is where I say oh well. Because we're going to be seen as even more liberal and crunchy after experiencing this movie. Watching this family give up so much for one entire year was so intriguing and inspiring to us. We loved it. We respect it. We love what the Beavens came to learn about themselves and what they left behind in the end, so many many things that were wasteful and so unimportant.

No, I don't think our family can swear off toilet paper, but like Colin says in this film, that's not the point. The experiment their family did was a chance to experience it all, every possible way of reducing their impact on the environment. And for them that did mean swearing off TP, television, coffee, eating out, electricity, packaging, buying anything new, cars, planes, etc. for one year.

What this family learned was that taking so many common practices out of their lives did not steal anything from their overall happiness and maybe even added to it.

When people are critical of something like this I think it's because they don't want to be challenged in this way. There's no denying we're a me-first, throw-away, over-consuming society. And we like it that way. We feel we're entitled to our over-indulgence and we don't allow those niggling thoughts that tell us our behavior can be pretty disgusting.

This isn't a guilt trip. I hope not, anyway. These are simply my thoughts and feelings about something that has mattered to me for a long time and now matters even more. This isn't about a trend or trying to be hip by being environmentally conscious. For me, it's about this really lovely Earth-place we call home and it's aobut my children and their children. And then mostly, it's about respect for what I believe was created for us all as a beautiful gift, a gift we seem to have no problem trashing, literally. (Okay, maybe that last sentence was a bit of a guilt trip, but I guess I'm just trying out saying it like it is.)

So Colin, be assured. You are making a difference. Just one person can make a difference. Thank you for following your moral compass despite the critical response. Sometimes that's all we can do. (Also, you guys are really funny.)

The End.


I think the comments may possibly still be broken, they're only working if you see them at the end of this post. I apologize. Feel free to email me --heatheroftheeo(at)gmail(dot)com-- if you'd like to respond. Or send a carrier pigeon. I like carrier pigeons.
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