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.
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.
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.
Oh Lynda, I never knew you had a brother and that he died so young. I am so sorry he is not here sharing life with you now. :=( He sounds like he would have been fun to know. Great tips you wrote about how to cut back and be more conservative with the disposable stuff.
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I paint used dryer sheets….
kathy recently posted..More ACEO’s With Wax
Kathy, Thanks for your comments. I’ve quit using dryer sheets but that’s another post!
Here are a couple emails from readers that I wanted to share.
Jewell said – I mend clothing….lots of blue jeans (family does heavy construction). When the patches are what is left of the jeans, they go to recycling and we make quilts with them.
Imagine my surprise when I read, that for every pair of repair/mended jeans (instead of
purchasing new) the carbon imprint is the equvilent of 310 miles driven.
Anne said –
1. We recycle cardboard, plastic, newspapers, magazines.
2. We drive only one car.
3. We turn off lights when we don’t need them in a room.
4. We are replacing lightbulbs one at a time with led lights
5. When we redid our bathroom recently, we put in high efficiency fixtures: commode, sink, shower.
6. I cook enough to always have at least two meals out of my use of gas (used to cook with).
We try to look everyday for something we can conserve on.
It is not much, but if everyone did it, it would add up.
Great post Lynda, thank you for the tips! I’m very sorry about your brother.
We’re on this continous journey too, one step at a time but at the end of it it will make a difference. We’ve just set up a vermicomposter in our apartment, started using cloth napkins etc. What annoys me in daily life is the waste at my office…like those paper cups (hundreds of them every day) and paper bags instead of plates. But I’m pushing my boss towards creating a project group to make our office greener 😉
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Kristina, Thanks. It is a continuous journey for sure. Glad you’re pushing your boss to make greener steps at the office.
Great post! Love all you are doing to reduce your impact. If all of us just adopted even one of your ideas it would create a snowball effect. Wonderful!!
Halle, Thanks for commenting. Yes, it we just adopt one. Using cloth napkins has freed us from the paper napkins. Easy peasy.
Lynda, I am so sorry to hear your lost your brother.
We also watched that documentary recently and found it interesting. We only go out to eat a few times a year but when we do go out I try to remember to take our own containers with us for left overs.
Also, at some point I realized I could be composting fabric and thread, what a wonderful ‘aha’ moment! Now, when our clothes are past being patched they go to the compost bin.
I really like the idea that you have cancelled your trash pickup; I can see where that would make you very mindful of exactly what you are disposing of.
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