No Impact

Monday, September 12, 2011

I picked up this book at Borders the other night during their going-out-of-business sale. I thought it would be interesting & challenging.

Let me begin by saying that I really do try to live an eco-conscious life. I use -- mostly -- cloth napkins & cloth toilet paper. I recycle like crazy & I don't use plastic shopping bags. We compost our food scraps & I take my own to-go containers when we go to restaurants. I walk to work. Ok, that one's supposed to be funny, people. :)

But sometimes I get discouraged because I have so far to go. When I look in my trash can, I'm dismayed at the amount of plastic packaging in it. I'd venture to say that plastic packaging makes up at least half -- maybe more -- of all the garbage Wes and I produce. Most of it is food packaging. At some point in this eco-conscious life I try to lead, I need to focus not so much on recycling the waste I'm used to producing and instead focus on producing less waste in general. Not buying food -- or other items, for that matter -- that are over packaged (and/or over processed... or unhealthy... or unnecessary). A true lifestyle change, not just a bandaid for a big problem that I'm often convinced Wes and I -- two people in a big world -- can't change. But you're supposed to be the change you wish to see in the world -- right? These are all things I've been thinking about.

This book has surprised me. It's been really good. Not that I didn't expect it to be -- but it's been different than I thought it would be. And I think that's indicative of how the no-impact project turned out for Colin (the author) and his family -- different than what they thought. I'm not finished yet, but so far he's talked a lot about how the project changed him, not just what he bought or didn't buy, consumed or didn't consume. How it made him a more thoughtful person, how it forced him to step outside the crazy speed of "normal" life & think about his choices, his lifestyle, his family, his time -- and the result of how all of those things blended together to create a worthwhile life. Learning to live -- and surprised to really enjoy -- a new normal, together with his family.

So the book hasn't necessarily focused on the things we shouldn't (or he didn't) do, which is what I expected -- and almost what I was looking for. It's gone deeper than that. Not focusing on denial, but on filling those empty spaces with things we never knew to look for.

I would have to find, Colin writes, over the coming year, some sort of middle path that involved neither the self-indulgence of the unconscious consumer nor the self-denial of the ascetic. ... I wanted to figure out, with my family, what the world could productively offer us rather than considering only what we wanted. Deprivation was not the order of the day. I simply wanted to see if we could learn to behave like good guests while enjoying a good life {on the planet}.

So instead of focusing on how far I have to go, I want to focus on one thing at a time. Maybe you could do that, too. For instance, even just in the past week, I've noticed how many paper products I use. I don't necessarily use them at home, but I do when I'm out & about. I make excuses about how I can't control those environments: I can't make restrooms have air dryers that actually work, and I can't make fast-food restaurants offer cloth napkins. {I can stop going to fast-food restaurants, but I suspect that's a different goal altogether!} But what I can do is keep a cloth napkin or two in my purse for when those situations arise. In fact, I have white cloth napkins that I'm hesitant to use at home for fear of never getting them clean again. They'd make perfect hand-drying cloths for public restrooms that don't offer xlerataors {one of the only hand dryers, in my humble opinion, that actually work!}.

That's what I'm going to do. Publish this blog post & go stick a few white napkins in my purse before I forget. What are you going to do? It's worth thinking about!

Maybe I'll write more when I'm done with the book... maybe not. But you should definitely pick it up. It may very well be different than what you anticipate... it may challenge you in ways you don't expect. But that's what the best books {and ideas} do, I think. You can certainly borrow my copy!


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