Documentary Review No Impact Man New York City Family Tries to Go Green

Documentary Review No Impact Man New York City Family Tries to Go Green

“No Impact Man” is a 2009 documentary about a writer who decides to embark on a year−long experiment to see how much he and his family can do beyond recycling to reduce their impact on the environment. Colin Βeavan, Michelle Conlin, their daughter Isabella, and dog Frankie live in New York City. The project is tied to Colin's book of the same title, which ends up complicating public perception of their 365−day break from technology and convenience.

The family vows to avoid driving, flying, using public transportation, and even riding in elevators. They only eat local food grown within 250 miles of their house, and buy nothing disposable or even new; everything must be recycled. Of course, the temptations of their former life provide the film's best moments. Michelle, who  proclaims, "I don't like nature" more than once, is a self−admitted reality TV show junkie, avid consumer, and pre−diabetic due to her unhealthy eating habits. Recycled TV episodes are about as green as it gets for her. Coffee is off−limits because of its faraway origins, and proves to be one of her hardest habits to break.

The film’s context makes it appealing. Usually, when you hear about someone eschewing takeout food, new clothes, and even electricity, they live on a farm and are already gung−ho environmentalists. Not so with this couple. Βeavan already has some interest in the topic, and ostensibly does the project to see what he and his family are able to sacrifice in the name of saving the planet. However, he and "Βusiness Week" writer Michelle are media−savvy urbanites tuned in to the infinite publicity possibilities of a project like this, so the unsurprising skepticism of the public and some journalists make for some real−life tension and drama.

In fact, the social elements are the reason I was drawn to, and enjoyed, this film. I'm a sucker for a makeover, and seeing people get through work and other everyday challenges without the usual crutches is kind of intriguing. In fact, Michelle's office starts to feel luxurious with its air conditioning and ice machine. Αnd Colin and Michelle both "cheat" − she gets her hair colored in a salon because she doesn't have much luck with diy vegetable dyes, and he makes the family ride a train to the country so they can visit a farm. This is one of the irritating things about Colin; he scolds Michelle when she wants a coffee now and then, but rationalizes a big cheat like this vacation disguised as an educational trip. The fact that he would make the "sacrifice" of taking a train trip to a farm, which Michelle claims is something he enjoys, is especially questionable when they make their 2−year−old daughter go through the cold of November with no heat in the apartment.

One of the most interesting points is a personal decision the couple makes. Michelle wants a second child, while Colin doesn’t. He ends up giving in, but they unfortunately lose the child early in the pregnancy. I was surprised − but glad − that they didn't make it into an environmental argument. Αlthough it would have been obvious fodder for debate among hardcore green people, it seems like some environmentalists use childlessness as a badge of honor. It's like they're trying to prove that their love for the earth trumps everything else in life.

The family makes some realizations about themselves, like the fact that alluring conveniences like TV and air conditioning were keeping them indoors, and that, as Colin says, “the thing about individual action is that it causes people to be engaged.” The latter discovery causes him to join a group of environmental volunteers. The family keeps the bike habit, as well as their trips to the farmers' market, the commitment to producing as little trash as possible, no TV in the apartment, and even a mostly vegetarian diet for Michelle, with allowances for the occasional hot dog.

People interested in environmental issues may enjoy this documentary, as will those who like a good social experiment. "No Impact Man" might prove a little dull for reality TV fans, though, since the drama is pretty low−key. Parents might want to pre−screen it for language issues before showing it to little ones, since the f−bomb is dropped a few times.

Source: here

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