September 15, 2009
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Last Friday, the “No Impact Man” movie opened at the Angelika Film Center. This documentary, in limited release, follows the life of Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, as he and his family embark on a year-long experiment trying to live off the grid self-sufficiently. Throughout 2007, I followed the blog religiously (See “No Impact Man Has Quite an Impact On Me,” my Soapbox in the 05.15.07 issue of e-Oculus). It made me reconsider my lifestyle, and since then I have made some life changes to live more sustainably. I go to farmers markets and eat locally more frequently, walk part of the way to work in mornings, and I have increased my awareness of the waste I produce on a daily basis, among other measures. Naturally, when I heard of the movie release, I gathered some co-workers and saw the film on opening day.

While the No Impact Man blog chronicles Beavan’s personal journey in detail, the film focuses more on his wife, Michelle Conlin, a self-proclaimed mass consumer and reality show addict. While she forcibly agrees to humor Beavan’s extreme project, she faces jeers at work, is subject to a family “vacation” on an upstate New York farm, and experiences massive withdrawal from Starbucks coffee. While Beavan elaborates on the necessity of making major life changes to save the world, Conlin shows the effects of adjusting to living without.

The family is constantly faced with criticism by environmentalists and anti-environmentalists alike (the best scene is when Mayor Vishner, local farmer at Laguardia Corner Gardens and ex-hippie, points out the irony in Beavan considering his effect on global environmentalism while he sits in his Fifth Avenue co-op). However, as Beavan says in the film, the experiment is to try to live without for a year in an effort to scale back in the long-run. The goal is to live a simpler, yet happier life. He may not have the answer to the world’s problems, but I think this movie is well worth seeing; the least it will do is make you reconsider your personal way of life and give you some ideas about how to live more sustainably.

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