No Impact Man

Written by Andrew Morrison

Child Planting a TreeIf you have not already heard about Colin Beavan’s blog and lifestyle dubbed “No Impact Man” then I strongly suggest you check it out. He and his wife and young child are living a life that has as close to zero impact on the planet as possible. It’s pretty fascinating stuff. I imagine all of us have considered walking instead of driving, or using cloth grocery bags instead of plastic or paper, but how many of us have taken it to the next level? Not many.

There was a great documentary about the Beavans on PBS a few months ago and I really enjoyed watching it. I was amazed at how many people actually got mad at them and pointed what seemed like hatred in their direction. Why? Because they are living a life with no impact (or really close) on our planet? It’s weird how the human mind can find a way to get angry when someone else does something that in truth has no direct bearing on them personally.

I mean, when a guy decides to use cloth instead of toilet paper, does that affect any of us in a way that we need to get mad at him? I don’t think so. Any way, I think his story is fascinating and I hope you’ll check him out and find inspiration to green up even a little more from where you are today.

Last month I challenged myself as a result of watching the documentary. Nothing huge, just something I can actually do. If I find myself at the grocery store without my reusable bags and I can’t carry out the goods without the use of a bag, I will buy a new reusable bag and skip the paper or plastic. Then, when I’m next at the store with my new bag and my old bags, I will donate my new bag to someone who is about to use paper for their purchase.

I hope it will inspire others to stop using thrown away bags. I’ve already had to buy and donate two bags, so either my level of inspiration will stay the same or get higher, or my memory will improve and I’ll start bringing my bags EVERY time I go shopping!

Here’s another thing I am planning to bring to my local grocery stores. Charge for every bag that a customer uses. I was just in Ontario, Canada and while there I noticed that people at the supermarket were charged $.05 for every paper or plastic bag they used. I like that. Here in my part of Oregon, you can save $.05 when you use your own bag.

The problem is that people in this country seem to respond better when they are charged for it. I believe that if people knew they were going to be charged $1.00 for the 20 bags they use on a large shop, they might actually start buying the reusable bags and start saving that dollar. After all, if they clip coupons, they understand what it means to save, a little at a time.

10 Responses

  1. Nice one Andrew.

    The shopping bag dilemma always attracts a lot of discussion but is it really where we should be spending all our energy in sustainability?
    – Standard biodegradable shopping bags are often reused as trash bags or in other ways saving people buying more toxic refuse bags etc.
    – Reusable bags are great although what happens at the end of their generally short life? They create a higher volume non degradable waste. Why not reuse standard bags or get used boxes or cloth bags.
    – Charging for bags is fine but it just makes that fat cats fatter. would be great to see that money going to local charities etc.

    From all that I have read on making a green impact; the easiest thing to do is reduce the amount of meat we eat i.e. to once or twice a week. You end up being healthier, more aware of the produce you eat and massively reduce the impact on the environment.

    Just my tuppence worth.

    Have a great time in Australia!

  2. Yeah. I hear you on all fronts. I agree that shopping bags is not where our focus should be and that’s not what I meant to create. It was more a point in a larger discussion that I happened to connect with recently. A place where we can all make a change. I will say that I have canvas shopping bags that I bought back in college in 1991 that I still use. That’s a pretty good life span and they look like they have another 10-20 years in them!

  3. Thanks for the info, Andrew. I may be wrong, but having gotten the same anger/hatred from people who I thought were genuinely asking for information about, say, being vegetarian or whatever – I’ve come to believe that it’s rooted in defense mechanisms that are pretty basic for some folks. I become a target because they aren’t changing in the ways I am and they don’t want to target themselves or make any changes. Hard to describe, but it is unfortunately a common response, although it’s also a tip-off that those folks are the ones least likely to ever make those changes.

  4. Tsk-tsk; I’m afraid you reveal that you’re not shopping at the Ashland Co-op?

    I’m in Czech Republic, but believe I’m right in saying that they started charging a rather high amount for each paper/plastic bag (25 cent? Don’t know exactly), however the money isn’t profit, it simply goes towards lowering the price of reusable bags which they also sell…

    Clever, eh?

    Max, (former waiter at Jacksonville Inn and NBN board member)

  5. If those cloth shopping bags are made in China or India, they’re not saving anything. At least that paper bag is LOCAL(in most cases) SUSTAINABLE(we need small diameter utilization logging) and BIODEGRADABLE. People need to really look at the whole issue and not overcomplicate it. Paper bags create jobs and can be sustainable, and don’t forget, they are mostly recycled, and have less embodied energy than strawbales do. In fact those paper bags could be made partly from straw as well, could be some future markets possibilities for straw! The Oregon economy cannot succeed without forest utilization of some kind, I only hope it will be sustainable, unlike in the past…..

  6. Definitely an interesting comment Matthew. I don’t know that the bags in my town are so good (and I live in a groovy, progressive town). I do know that the bags I have are made in the USA and, like I have said earlier, I have used since the early 1990’s. To me, that is a good use of a local product. I believe there is a large potential for work in Green industries and that we don’t have to continue to find work in logging and paper products because it currently provides jobs. Yes, that is great and we need the work for Oregonians and other people alike, but I would like to see us start looking outside the current box and find jobs that support us moving forward in the long term. Maybe it’s growing Hemp and making grocery bags locally from that material, who knows?

    I certainly don’t claim to have the “right” answer here, just a perspective.

  7. Hi Max. I don’t know about them charging that much per bag. It’s true, I don’t shop there much. I am walking distance from the store I use and so choose that one. Also, the Co-Op is pretty pricey on much of their stuff. It goes to a good place, but my store is also locally owned and operated, they treat their employees really well, and they have good prices on healthy choices. Seems like a good choice for me. 🙂

  8. Hi. Do people ever extend rooflines on pre-existing homes and then tear off aluminum siding and replace their existing walls with straw bale? I’m wanting to do that. Never saw anything about doing that. I live in Upstate NY.

  9. Hi Lisa. Yes. That does happen quite often. You can search this blog for “retrofitting with bales” and you should find some articles. I’m hoping to do a video production on this exact topic later this year too. Stay tuned for more on that!

  10. “Then, when I’m next at the store with my new bag and my old bags, I will donate my new bag to someone who is about to use paper for their purchase. I hope it will inspire others to stop using thrown away bags.”

    Reminds me of the movie Pay it Forward. Not necessarily for the humans but for the world!!!

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