There were a lot of surprising things about No Impact Man, the whole project itself being one of them. The thought of going an entire year without electricity (without TV, without internet, without a fridge), without creating wastes (without toilet paper, without plastic containers, without cars) and without buying anything new that wasn’t easily and naturally disposable seems pretty much impossible in modern New York City. Doing this alone would be tough, but doing it as a family would create a lot of argument on top of everything else.
I found the project to be very ambitious, to say the least. There was a part in the documentary where Colin was talking with an older man and fellow environmentalist (whose name I can’t remember); while Colin was visiting this man, the man said something that I really agreed with. He pointed out how extreme Colin’s project was, and how the greater public will find it more difficult to empathize with the project and its message because they will be too focused on how over the top it is. No family is going to watch the documentary and think that they should attempt this lifestyle as well. I felt that a lot of the precautions they were taking were unnecessary and impractical for most American families.
However, I think the project does put a new perspective on how humans exist as consumers. The fact that the shift in their lifestyle was so extreme was actually pretty surprising. I didn’t think they would go to the depths that they did in order to keep their impact on the environment to a minimum, but with each new phase, I was more and more impressed with their ability to simplify their life to the barest necessities. Eliminating toilet paper and diapers from their grocery list was something I’d never even considered. I absolutely would not want to live in a world without toilet paper, but it wasn’t something I ever really stopped to think about as a luxury. Same goes for their decision to get rid of their refrigerator. A fridge is such a commonplace household appliance that I don’t even think about its existence. But again, the thought of living without one seems next to impossible. But Colin and Michelle proved that, while it’s awfully inconvenient, it is doable. I really makes you stop to think about what’s necessary and what isn’t.
So in that sense, I think the documentary was a success. It showed people that the extreme end of conserving energy is a possible course of action, even for a family in New York. So the small things, like recycling and using less plastic and taking public transportation or walking or biking — this are all possible things for us to do in our daily lives, and it’s really not as inconvenient as we might think.