Monday, February 28, 2011

Before you judge...

If you've been reading the blog for a while (or at least at the beginning of the year), you know that I spent he first week of 2011 attempting to reduce my impact on the environment.

No Impact Week was inspired by No Impact Man, who kept a blog, wrote a book, and made a documentary about the one year he and his family lived a no-impact life. It was a gradual process. The cut things out weekly/monthly in order to see if it's possible to have a good life without wasting so much stuff. Which... if we have to admit, as Americans, we waste A LOT.

The family had no TV, no electricity. They ate only local foods and ate vegetarian. The rode bicycles are scooters everywhere. They used no toilet paper and cloth diapers for their young daughter (who, as a side note, was super cute!).

When I heard the no toilet paper thing at the beginning of the year, I was like, "uh... do I have to do that?" I found him just a little bit crazy and over-the-top and I had no desire to follow in his footsteps. In fact, hearing how extreme he was made me hesitant to even sign up and DO the project, period.

But, do the project I did. And I really enjoyed the week and it made me take a step back and re-evaluate my consumption and my impact on the planet. We're killing it slowly based on our choices. And I'd say Westerners (and dare I say especially Americans) are probably the biggest culprits.

Well, I decided to rent the documentary "No Impact Man" from the library... and although it's costing me $5 in late fees (I forgot to renew it, and then learned someone else has requested it so I can't renew it). And I'd say that anyone who's had a bad thing to say about Colin Breavan and his family should watch the documentary before they judge.


Yes, the experiment was extreme. And sure, maybe it was bit crazy. Even his wife thought so for the first 6-8 months of the project. But as the year went on, she had to admit, "Now, I think what he's doing is so cool. I just get a big kick out of it." Ultimately, this project wasn't really meant to be practical. There are some things that are SUPER hard to do without (they had a failed experiment with pots as a refrigerator. Apparently they got the idea from Nigeria. Hmm... he should have also learned to wash clothes from Nigerians; stepping on them in the tub doesn't exactly do the trick.). Instead this project was meant to be philosophical--can he make no impact? And will it make his life better? Will it make him happier?

And in some ways, I think the answer is a resounding yes. They spent more time as a family. They had REAL conversations about life, what they thought, what they felt. They saved some money. And they started a movement that's caused other people to take a step back and say, "How can I make a difference?"
"It's not about using as little as we can use, but finding a way we can use what we need to use in a sustainable way"-- Colin Beavan
The one thing that really got me during the documentary was to see Colin and his wife talk about the negative responses they were getting from people--even their friends. One man said his wife didn't want him shaking hands with them because they were unhygienic. Other people just called them a lot of really bad names and one person even suggested shooting them down with an Uzi. Now who's being extreme?

The project sounds pretentious and a way to get publicity and become famous... and sure, there was some ulterior motives. But this was something he wanted to do. And who are we to judge him? He wasn't judging any of us. He was just sharing what he and his family were doing to change. And if they changed, maybe it'd inspire other people to change. He's not forcing you to change, or telling you you're evil for not wanting to go without toilet paper for a year. He's just offered you a look into his life for a year. A year that changed him and his family.

I think people got really upset and had such hateful things to say because they kind of felt convicted about their choices. You're usually a skeptic and feel resentful to people who say things against your lifestyle choices when you know your choices are wrong--or at least not the best choices you can make. It's funny how we can get so up-in-arms simply because someone suggests that their might be a different way of doing things, a different way of looking at things. We're so quick to cast judgement without knowing and exploring the whole story.

And we call  ourselves an open-minded and tolerant country? Psh!

I already had quite a bit of respect for Colin and his family after doing the No Impact Week. It was hard, so I can only imagine going as far as they did for a whole year! I gained even more respect for them when I watched the documentary. They admitted it was hard. His wife might as well have been me for how resistant she was... haha. They took note of the failures, and embraced the successes.

His goal was to inspire people. I was inspired.

And now that I've been enlightened a bit more, it's time to take this DVD back before I'm charged $6 for it!

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