One of the people to blame for me doing this project is Colin Beavan, writer of the book No Impact Man, and movie of the same name http://noimpactproject.org/movie/. A writer in New York City, Colin drags his wife Michelle and baby girl along as he attempts to change their lifestyles to be as 'no impact' as possible for one year.
For one year, they don't buy anything new except food, eliminate trash as much as possible by composting and shopping at farmer's markets, get around only by bicycle and scooter, eat locally, turn off their electricity (including heat and refrigeration) and try to find ways to improve their environment both environmentally and socially.
Sound familiar? Yeah, I saw the movie last summer when brainstorming ideas for my thesis project and was immediately brainwashed. There are some really beautiful moments of their family becoming closer and learning about what they really need while doing the experiment that are captured in the movie. What could be looked at as drudgery and sacrifice they find ways to use their situation to their advantage, kicking a TV habit, losing weight, spending more time together, and reducing their desire for material things.
Although I got a lot of my ideas of how to frame my project from watching the Beavan's experience, I thought it would be more relevant to give the project a scenario that would give me clear 'criteria' or 'rules'. Although I focused initially on '100 days without oil', it has morphed into more of '100 days living within an energy, food and water balance'.
YES! Magazine has asked me to participate in (and blog about) doing Colin's one-week No Impact Man Experiment http://noimpactproject.org/experiment/. This is basically a one-week trial of what his family did for a year. Each day is a focus on a new aspect of the project. Hundreds of people across the country and world sign up to try the experiment which is held a couple times a year, and write about their experiences.
While I have some criticisms No Impact Man after doing my own version, it will be interesting to compare our methods. No Impact Man is an expereiment admittedly driven by guilt. The subtitle of his book is: Adventures of a Guilty Liberal who attempts to Save the Plant and the Discoveries he makes about our Way of Life in the process. While guilt is certainly a motivator for people, it isn't really a sustainable motivator. I outlined the motivation for my experiment to be one of understanding how to survive in a post-cheap oil world. By eliminating the 'guilt' or 'choice' factor, I am allowed to focus more on how we will make these changes, but have realized at the end of this project that it does all come down to our choices, and addressing that is extermely important.
Colin's experiment seems to more vaguely define what 'no impact' is, allowing himself to pick and choose what aspects of his life me would like to change. At the same time, they radically change some aspects of their life by not using any electricity. Because we will never have NO energy, I feel that it is more relevant to play out a scenario of what may be happening in our futures. Our projects are similar in that, neither one of us is trying to say that we WILL live this way at some point or even SHOULD live this way. It is more of a test of our dependencies on systems that we were born into and didn't necessarily choose. By taking many of the luxuries we have (because of energy resources of oil and coal) away for a while, we are allowed to see our attachment to them.
While his family goes back to their 'old' habits of living in some ways at the end of the project, they keep many of the changes and promote their experiment through their testimonials that their experience made them happier and healthier, gave them more time and saved them money.
Needless to say, I haven't necessarily come to all the same conclusions.
Starting Jan 3rd, however, I'll give No Impact Man a chance, for anyone who wants to join along, here is a link to the experiment: http://noimpactproject.org/experiment/