Imagine living without using any electricity, making any trash, eating food from restaurants, or riding in cars, busses, or elevators. Author Colin Beavan, his wife Michelle and two-year-old daughter Isabella attempt to spend one year without having any negative impacts on the environment in the doc film “No Impact Man.” What’s really impressive about Beavan is how far he’s willing to take his project. Sure, a lot of people just saw their eco-friendliness as a gimmick for his next book, but who cares? Colin and Michelle did so much more than even the better-than-average person would even consider. Toilet paper. They didn’t use it. It’s bad for the environment. If that’s not worth some book revenue, what is?
It’s nearly impossible in this day and age to grasp just how much is bad for the planet. One of the most interesting segments shows Colin reading off a list of things he and his family are giving up. Along with toilet paper, there are dozens and dozens of guidelines, rules, banned items, and substitutions for basic everyday products and activities (such as a Nigerian refrigeration system called a pot-in-a-pot and a worm farm used to make compost).
Laura Gabbert graduated from UCLA with her MFA and has since directed award-winning documentaries like “Healers of 400 Parnassus” (1997) and “Sunset Story” (2003). Her co-director, Justin Schein went to Stanford. Impressive? Yeah, but not as impressive as shooting over fifty documentaries in the years following his graduation. With subject matter this interesting it becomes difficult to critique the film and not the people being filmed. That being said, Gabbert and Schein have done an impressive job at documenting the No Impact project.
They’ve edited down a years worth of footage into a concise 90-minute package. Deciding what to keep and what to cut must have been a hair-graying process. Somehow, the project gets described in detail, the family’s reactions to their new life are covered, and an important message about the environment is presented. They’re all interwoven together seamlessly and equally represented. It’s hard to ignore the information “No Impact Man” offers. It’s hard not to make a mental checklist of ways you can help the planet. The hardest part, however, of watching the film, is sticking to the goals you make once the movie’s over. To sum up Beavan’s message, he’s not saying you should give up toilet paper. But you should give up what you can. Help any way you can. Do all you can. As for myself, my 365 Days Without Plutonium project is turning out to be much easier than I thought it would.