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No Impact Man: The Documentary
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26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

impact-ful

10/10
Author: razmatazern from Austin, TX
21 June 2010

It was nice seeing how a family could completely change their lifestyle for a year and watching the progress of their journey seemed heartfelt and honest. The whole process was not just a straight up breeze in the park. It took effort and lots of adaptation. Colin and Michelle seemed real and maybe even relatable. I loved Colin's determination and will-power to do as much as he could to leave no impact. Michelle seemed to try so hard to support Colin and follow along with his intense eco-friendly ways.

Some of the eco-friendly mechanisms that they used seemed crazy for any normal consumer, but it was interesting to see their quest and attempt at conquering their goal to not leave an impact. I felt that throughout the movie, there were some really insightful perspectives regarding the experiment and techniques.

After watching the movie, I was about to eat dinner and started feeling really bad about cooking the noodles wrapped in plastic and using that paper napkin that I would soon throw in the trash can without a second thought. The movie definitely had an impact on me and left me thinking about my actions way after I finished watching the documentary.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

No Impact or Positive Impact?

8/10
Author: Matthew West (thewestzone@yahoo.co.uk) from London, England
8 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What would life be like without coffee? How would we cope without buying something new? What difference can be made by relying on local produce and can waste be reduced to virtually zero? Can life go on without electrical appliances? Is it possible, practical, and enjoyable to live this way? Such issues are at the heart of No Impact Man (2009) a docufilm recording 12 months in which New Yorker Colin Beavan and his family attempt to live without making an impact on the environment.

Implementing a strategy of radical reduction over several phases, Beavan strips life back to essentials in an attempt to live in line with his values. First to go are carbon-producing modes of transport, the use of elevators (which in itself is a challenge given the infrastructure of a city like New York) and the television. Adopting a strategy of 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' he commits to buying only locally sourced food (within a 250 mile radius), purchasing as much as possible from the Farmer's Market, where produce is generally sold without packaging, thus reducing unnecessary waste. Food scraps are composted by worms. Determined to ditch goods that can't be recycled, domestic cleaning products are jettisoned in favor of sustainable methods that include home-made soaps, surface cleaners, and washing detergent using substances like white vinegar, baking soda, and borax. Even toilet paper becomes an unsustainable luxury. The final stage doesn't take place until six months have elapsed when power is switched off, rendering appliances such as the fridge and electrical lighting redundant.

The transition from consumerholic to No Impact Man is not without hitches. Beavan's partner, Michelle Conlin, is a high-flier in the media business, working for a major business publication. Initially she struggles to conform to the strict regime, citing caffeine withdrawal as a major hindrance to work efficiency. She also encounters hostile reactions in relation to personal hygiene. The experiment is, after all, an exercise in raising awareness and therefore attracts a good deal of media attention. Some people aren't so keen to shake your hand knowing that you probably wiped your bum with your fingers. At times she is understandably rebellious, sneaking out for coffee and refusing to let appearances slide to the extent of not applying peroxide at the hairdressers. When the electricity is finally turned off, Beavan himself questions the sense of his undertaking, appearing miserable and uncommunicative in a room barely lit by candles. There are problems keeping the couple's daughter Isabelle's milk cold using the Nigerian 'pot-in-pot' method of refrigeration, and the composting box becomes an ideal breeding ground for flies. The gulf between idealism and realism becomes apparent.

There are, however, many positive outcomes. Without TV, social interaction increases, and some of the new methods of domesticity like walking up and down on the laundry in the bathtub seem enjoyable to the family as a whole. Less time is spent in the apartment due to a lack of entertainment options, leading to fresh discoveries of activities available in the great outdoors. Overall, quality of life appears to go up rather than spiral to depths of despondency.

Is the No Impact Man experiment a success though? Does Beavan manage to make no impact over the course of a year? In addition to Conlin's moments of rebellion, there are several other instances of rule-bending that we see on camera (not to mention what is concealed). The oven is used for making dinner, mobile phones don't disappear, Beavan 'borrows' a solar panel to power his laptop which is also used to run an electric light in the kitchen, the family take a train to visit a farm where some of their produce is sourced, and a neighbor supplies ice for a cool-box when the refrigeration alternative goes awry.

Questions need to be asked about the sustainability of practices like lighting through candles. Whilst it proves that it's possible to manage without power once the sun sets, what impact would this have on the environment if we were all doing it? Cynics may also question the impact resulting from the media circus, both during filming and once the experiment was over. Beavan later publishes a book based on his experience and one can only imagine the carbon footprint generated by production and transportation costs, not to mention the publicity drive that accompanies such a venture. Then there's Conlin's desire for more children. Surely this desire alone, if achieved, would lead to an exponential rise in consumption? As an exercise in what is possible to cut from our lives, and as means of raising awareness of green initiatives, No Impact Man leaves a positive impression. Beavan concludes that rather than 'doing without' in an effort to reduce environmental impact, perhaps the way forward is to find a sustainable way of getting what we need. Such a conclusion seems common sense.

Given the serious subject matter, No Impact Man works well on screen. The cast are believable, there's a good balance of humor and audience members laughed aloud at Conlin's reactions to having her life turned upside down. The star of the film, however, had to be Isabelle, who was genuinely entertaining as toddlers can be. She seemed to thrive on the changes imposed upon her and was acquiescent of the altered lifestyle. In this case, ignorance is bliss, but perhaps her reaction also illustrates that we really can adapt if we want to change the way we live.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

So glad this film was made

8/10
Author: AlmaCuerpocaliente from United States
21 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No project is ever perfect, and there are better ways to live no impact than exhibited in this documentary. BUT, trying and learning are all a part of improving the way we live. And I think that this family and film are commendable for the effort. I love how they share their experiences their trepidation of change and the actual outcome. Reducing garbage, reducing consumption, spending more time together and outside as a consequence of their decisions, becoming more involved with the community...all wonderful in and of themselves, made the family happier. I believe that we try to cram so much into our lives (shopping, errands, TV, eating out, exercise, work) that we lose enjoyment for each element of our lives. By shopping at the farmers market, shopping is no longer a chore but exercise and a community building, happy event. Summed up nicely at the end. This film doesn't aim to be perfect, doesn't aim to offer the best solutions or to have all the current research. What it does do is document a trial & error process, and demonstrate the positive impact that living sustainably can have on individuals' lives over and above helping the environment.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Self-actualization through Selflessness

10/10
Author: acottom-107-196189 from United States
17 July 2011

First of all the review that was posted on December 8th, 2010 titled "Pseudo-Lifestyles of the Rich and Pretentious" needs to be deleted. The person critiquing the film begins by stating he/she watched maybe 5-10 minutes of the film. That alone causes the review to be negated. Second, the reviewer would have gained invaluable tips, which is what he/she was wanting, if the documentary was given a chance.

Something I admire and value greatly in this film is the mindful epiphanies that crop up (that sometimes had nothing to do with what the project was about--unexpected revelations). You'll have to see for yourself, although I will share one ;-). Many complain of not having enough time in the day for anything, or that time moves too fast. This documentary has answers…a big eye-opener.

This is by far the most selfless documentary I have seen. It awakens many priceless life lessons that so many miss. I am truly grateful that despise the criticism given (which was actually taken back later in the film by the very people who gave it upon getting to know the family), that the project was seen from start to finish and gone back to be interpreted on many levels (so much self-actualizing going on in this film). This should be watched in as big of a group as you can get together, and it should be exposed to the corporate world. Many people don't quite know the impacts eating meat does to the very animals that are killed for food and on a much larger scale, to the earth. Education and understanding is key.

I LOVE and am so inspired by the call to local and global action and community. This documentary offers the best advice anyone can give to promote action and understanding. Of course it helps to practice good choices yourself but to get involved, involve others, and continue education and understanding, a difference will result and on a much larger scale.

A big thanks to everyone who made this film possible.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Michelle is clearly a horrible person

5/10
Author: from Canada
22 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

honestly, i mostly enjoyed this movie. but i really did not appreciate the way that Michelle was villainized throughout. HORROR OF HORRORS, she works for a financial magazine and wants a second child???? listen - the woman happily discarded most of her worldly possessions & comforts (including cosmetics and TOILET PAPER, COME ON) to help her husband on this (arguably ridiculous) quest and some fat hippie (who, i'm sorry, did not get to look like that by eating organic vegetables all day long) has the audacity to suggest that everything she is doing is negated by her day job. WOW. wow. OK. cool.

also - my boyfriend and i wanted to know how exactly they cleaned their diapers and toilet... cloths. because that was not addressed and i'm pretty sure that they didn't stomp on them in the bath tub.

eta: i am curious as to why they did not address menstruation at all (maybe they did and i missed it?). traditional solutions (pads, tampons) generate a LOT of waste and the packaging is terrible. i know that there are other options, but the average viewer may not have. wonder why it was left out?

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4 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Honest manipulation?

Author: jdesando from United States
19 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am so proud of myself for moving to the city and reducing the environmental impact of my car to negligible, yet after seeing No Impact Man, I am chastened by how little I have done to make life sustainable on this planet. Colin , Michelle, and their baby Isabella spend a year in New York City living with worms that make compost, no electricity, no toilet paper, and no Starbucks, just to name a few of the daily items I could not live without.

This green documentary is the most honest story you could see about people trying to be environmentally responsible and partner-parent responsible at the same time. The former seems easy compared with the challenges of finding common ground between a partner whose dream is the ascetic year (Colin, a blogger and activist)) and a partner, Michelle, a journalist for Business Week (her colleagues call her and Colin "bourgeois f____s"), who has been a retail and Starbucks addict. They've decided to live in Manhattan for a year making no environmental impact.

Lest you find great sympathy for the sufferers, remember Colin is aiming toward a book at the end of the experiment, and Michelle may be getting more satisfaction in converting to the spare life than Colin does in living his dream.

She is the part of the documentary I find most worth watching as she grows from a plain-looking, nerdy writer to a more attractive advocate for the green life, not without kicking and screaming early on. Her transformation is worthy of a round character in a short story, but then she and Colin are co-producers and thereby not above suspicion for manipulating the production.

The couple's relationship nicely parallels the project itself, going from initial skepticism, struggle to accept, and ultimate adjustment to the realities of the state in which little has been compromised but much gained in personal growth. Without the intrusively annoying presence of a Michael Moore, No Impact Man is a seemingly honest depiction of the joys and hardships we all experience on the journey to a sustainable, non-impact life.

Whether or not the drama is contrived, the message that we all need to be involved is true enough.

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5 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

What is environmental good?

9/10
Author: jhuni_x from United States
20 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What is environmental good? I would start out the movie with talking about this question. The Earth and the environment do not have interests and they do not care, as such we should define some sort of criteria so that we are not going at these things arbitrarily.

The movie itself focuses on the life of Colin Beavan - the "no impact man" and to a lesser extent his wife Michelle Conlin. They embark on a year-long adventure to try and adopt a lifestyle that has no "negative impact" on the environment which brings me back to the question - how do you determine if your environmental impact is good/bad?

One of the first things they do in their adventure is they change their eating habits and they become lacto-ovo vegetarians (they keep eggs & diary). Environmentally speaking, if the cows/chickens are going to be there anyways to produce eggs/diary how does not eating their meat produce some sort of "environmental good"?

The animals are going to be there, burning 90% of their energy as body heat, producing large amounts of excrement that ultimately gets into our rivers, and consuming huge amounts of water. In addition, raw milk has been deemed unsafe so they were probably consuming diary in this movie that was cooked which wastes electricity. I think by merely being vegan without cutting out many of your other habits, it wouldn't be too hard to have a negative impact that matches that of this family.

Eventually they spend energy to transport themselves to a distant diary farm. It is funny though because the diary farmer seems to imply that he cares about his cows and he "doesn't want them to die" yet he keeps them in tiny stalls, he undoubtedly drugs them to make them think they are pregnant, and he steals their milk which naturally is meant to go to baby cows. The natural way to go is if the mother, Michelle Conlin, produced her own breast milk and fed that to her children.

Moving on, at around six months they start cutting out electricity except for perhaps the cameras that were filming this movie. They end up using lots and lots of candles for light - producing that many candles most certainly takes a toll on the environment anyways, so I don't see what exactly they were trying to get at here. Besides this, there are solar-powered flashlights available for as cheap as 50$ that can last up to 20 years, such a flashlight would be a superior option for the environment.

I wouldn't tell anyone to give up electricity and to entirely give up using a computer and other modern technological luxuries, and they don't even give it up in this movie they just employ a "bourgeoisie solution." I call it a bourgeoisie solution because alternative energy like solar panels are only financially available to governments, corporations, and rich people. They end off the movie in a potentially insulting manner, implying that people are too shallow and self-interested to change their consumption patterns. If people could afford to purchase solar panels and other luxuries I am sure they would and I honestly think most people care about the environment they are just left powerless by the system.

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