Reducing Our Impact

Yesterday I watched OWN’s Super Soul Sunday which showed a documentary,  “No Impact Man,”  about New York City residents Colin Beavan, his wife, and daughter who spent a year working to decrease their impact on the environment.

This included no television, no automated transportation, and no toilet paper. They switched from eating out to buying their food from the farmers’ market, and from disposable to cloth diapers. At the six month mark they turned off all electricity. Colin, who is a writer, also got involved with a garden plot and learned how to hook up a solar panel.

A lot of people would see this and might say it’s crazy what they are doing. Or “I’m not going without electricity.” There were a lot of things I wouldn’t want to give up. However, the point of the film was not for everyone to do what this family did for a year. It was to get us to think about what steps we could incorporate in our life that would cut down our footprint.

This film brought to mind my brother Johnny who “lived off the land.” That was before anyone talked about the carbon footprint or global warming.

Johnny lived in the one-room cabin he built on several acres in a rural area near Bloomington, Indiana. Until he got sick, he didn’t have running water. He used rainwater from his roof to shower and cook with. He had an outhouse. He heated his one room with a big wood stove.

John in front of his cabin
Johnny in front of his cabin

He had a huge garden and worked on cars and bartered to support his lean lifestyle. He rode his bicycle alot, but he did drive an old pickup truck. And he read a lot! Oh, that rocker on his front porch is now on our front porch.

I loved receiving his homemade presents. One year he gave me earrings made out of dimes. Another year, it was candle holders made out of telephone insulators. One year he gave me this Humpty Dumpty bean bag.

My Humpty Dumpty
My Humpty Dumpty

I’m sure he didn’t make it. He probably just found it somewhere and thought I’d like it. I’ve had it near me since he gave it to me probably in the late 70s.

Back then, he was thought of as kind of a weirdo or eccentric. I called him my big bad brother (Big Bad John). What Colin and his family did in 2006, Johnny did for many years.

I don’t want to live like John did but as with this film, I can take some of his actions and incorporate them into our lives.

We try to do as much as we can to cut down waste, recycle, and reuse. A little from each of us can’t hurt, and hopefully would help.

Here are some ideas and things we do:

  • Use cloth napkins. What an easy way to use less trees. I used to save them for company. Now we use them everyday. Usually they can be used for several meals and then thrown in the wash with other items.
  • Compost. We compost almost everything. We don’t use our local trash service choosing to take our trash to the recycling center. The only things we can’t recycle or compost is kitty litter and some packaging.
  • Make extra meals while you’re cooking. Dave always makes double servings so we eat the same thing for two meals. We also tend to have a lot of leftovers for the freezer.
  • Try to eat local. For us it’s not real difficult since Dave grows so much, but if we need an onion or something we don’t have, we try to buy local and in season. Of course, there are some things we can’t buy local including chocolate, coffee, rice and bananas.
  • Ask for a mug instead of paper – When I go to Starbucks (not too often, but sometimes with a friend) since we are planning to stay there I ask for a mug. That’s one less cup to toss.
  • Use those recycled grocery bags when shopping. It sure does cut down having to recycle those plastic ones.
  • Recycle. We are fortunate that we do have a recycling center not far from us.
  • Buy in bulk. For grains that we buy, we buy them in bulk. We recycle the bag by using it the next time we shop there.

Those are just a few things that come to mind.  I still buy stuff – mostly craft related. I sometimes leave a light on when I’m not in a room or leave the water running when I’m brushing my teeth, but I’m becoming more aware. I don’t want to waste our precious resources.

This film really struck a chord with me. It reminded me of Johnny, (although he didn’t struggle with his lifestyle) and our time together. He’d be so happy with what we are doing (and he’d love Dave). The film also made me realize how much I miss my big bad brother. Johnny died in 1990 at the age of 46, just a couple months after that picture was taken.

I’d love to hear any suggestions from you on what you’re doing to to help reduce your impact.