I wrote last week about the movie “No Impact Man” and the week-long mini project we’d be undertaking. I haven’t updated this blog since then, mostly due to laziness and time constraints, but Angie has had regular updates on her blog, so if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, see Hippie in Training. What follows here is more like an executive summary, with the additional comments of a less-enthusiastic participant.
I say “less-enthusiastic” because it was Angie’s idea to participate in this, and her passion that got us here in the first place. It’s not fair to say that she dragged me into this, but I’ll admit that I participated more to be a supportive husband than for any other reason. That’s not to say that I don’t try to be environmentally conscious, it is just isn’t the ideal that I get most worked up about (it may come as no surprise that I get most worked up about freedom – especially as pertains to speech and software).
Despite my hesitance, I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it sincerely. At work, I took the stairs to my 9th floor office every day, I got water out of the tap instead of the water cooler, and I rode the bus all 5 days (normally I do this 3-4 days a week). I even brought my coffee grounds (yeah, I guess if I was perfect, I wouldn’t have had coffee at all) home to compost instead of throwing them away. Other than that, my work life didn’t change.
At home is where the big changes happened. At first, I was pretty ambivalent. We already recycle and compost most of what we use, we unplug unused appliances, and we generally don’t leave lights on when we don’t need them. The big change initially was to eat vegetarian (since we weren’t quite equipped for local-only eating, we decided this was a reasonable modification). Although we’ve tried to have a meatless dinner once a week, I haven’t gone a week without eating meat since I began eating solid foods. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I handled the change (at least until about Thursday, when someone described a burger in detail and I couldn’t stand it anymore). I’ve now gone nearly 9 days without eating meat, and I tell you — that chicken on the grill can’t cook fast enough!
Toward the end of the week, we had to nearly stop our electricity use as well. I took the rare step of turning my computer off (except for when we did our OSMacTalk broadcast, which we did by candlelight). Being both professionally and recreationally a computer nerd, I found it a little difficult being away from e-mail, RSS, and Twitter. Instead, we had lengthy discussions and played board games by the light of our candles. That was enjoyable, and we plan to make that a regular event (though perhaps with a bit more electrical lighting, at least once it gets really dark).
Where it all fell apart was on Saturday. The day held the lure of tornadoes as near as southern Illinois, and it had been a long year since my last attempt at chasing. Storm chasing is about as no-impact of a hobby as rain forest burning or oceanic oil dumping. I justified it to myself by arguing that the theme of Saturday was supposed to be volunteering, and if spending my own time and money to potentially save the lives of strangers 200 miles away isn’t volunteering, I don’t know what is. Angie was leary, but she figured since I’ve been so supportive, she should return the favor. 12 hours and 500 miles later, all we had to show was a few lackluster pictures of nothing particular. We tried to be as low impact as we can, by which I mean we ate vegetarian meals.
On Sunday, we tried to make up for it by doing absolutely nothing. Apart from a walk to the store, we mostly sat around and enjoyed the day. Much of the conversation revolved around the week and what we planned to do for the future. Having recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Angie has decided that the food industry is not something to be admired and wants us to become locavores. Admittedly, I find the idea of giving up some of my fast food and out-of-season loves uncomfortable. The agreement we arrived at as that we’d eat locally when possible, but not exclusively. I can live with that. We also want to make Sunday evenings “eco evenings” which means no TV, radio, or computers.
Some of the efforts we made last week we’re dropping (for example, I turned the space heater on in the bathroom this morning before my shower). Others we’re keeping (the stairs aren’t so bad). The point of the week wasn’t to give up everything forever, but to show us what we can do. I’d like to think I’ve learned some stuff about myself, my wife, and my marriage. I’d also like that grilled chicken, so if you’ll excuse me…
Actually, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” merely highlighted the benefits of local eating. Health, economy, environment, etc. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, by Michael Pollan, went into the details of the industrial food chain and pissed me off enough that I don’t want to be a part of it.
I point this out merely for accuracy. 🙂
@Angie: I stand corrected.