Malcolm McDowell Woods

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By - Sep 1st, 2009 12:01 am
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The Milwaukee Film Festival will be up and running from Sept. 24 to Oct. 4 this year at Landmark Theatres’ Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, and Marcus Theatres’ North Shore Cinema in Mequon.

The festival will celebrate various international films, as well as one screenplay, Ward Three, notably written by a Wauwatosa West High School student.

It's a book, it's a blog, it's a movie. 'No Impact Man' tells the tale of a man (and his wife and daughter, thank you) who tried to live one year with a near-zero carbon footprint.

It’s a book, it’s a blog, it’s a movie. ‘No Impact Man’ tells the tale of a man (and his wife and daughter, thank you) who tried to live one year with a near-zero carbon footprint.

One film from the festival that is sure to have an impact is No Impact Man, a documentary about blogger and author Colin Beavan who attempted to live one year with no environmental impact, reducing his and his family’s carbon footprint to near-zero. Equipped with his consumerist, caffeine-guzzling wife, Michelle, and their little girl, Isabella, the Beavan family set out to not only “talk the talk” on green living, but to “walk the walk,” too. The crazy part about this documentary is that while this experiment would seem easy for a family that was living in a rural shack somewhere in Kansas, the Beavans were far from a natural setting; they conducted this experiment while residing in an 11th-floor apartment in the center of New York City.

For one year, a film crew followed the Beavan family as they went through their daily rituals without basic needs such as electricity, transportation, waste disposal, and even toilet paper. Yes, they didn’t use toilet paper. While reducing the negative impact they have on the world through CO2 emissions (the cause of global climate change), the Beavans made other contributions by volunteering to clean up the Hudson River, donating money to charities, and supporting the survival of community wildlife like sea birds.

When questioned about his motivation behind going green to the extreme, and making this documentary, Beavan made this statement on his blog:
“The way I see it, waiting for the senators and the CEO’s to change the way we treat the world is taking too long. Polar bears are drowning because the polar ice cap is melting. I can’t stand my so-called liberal self, sitting around not doing anything about it anymore.”

Right now, the average American emits 20 tons of CO2 per year through daily electricity usage, transportation, and waste disposal, etc. That is more than six times the global average, which weighs in at a mere 3.1 tons.

By washing clothes and dishes by hand, reading by candlelight, and walking their child to daycare after making a stop at the city farmers market, the Beavans learned to live free of “stuff” that American consumers can’t seem to live without. Not only did they reduce bills for electricity, cable, and water, they became better connected as a family. With no television to distract them from each other, they found refuge in playing charades and card games. With no high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine to sip from a plastic cup from Starbucks, they reversed health problems like pre-diabetic disorder. With no dependence on taxis or the subway, they walked and rode bicycles, together.

What can the average person do to incorporate the “no impact” creed? According to Beavan, there are plenty of ways to reduce your carbon footprint that don’t require you to live as though you are on the frontier in the 1800’s. One simple step is to stop buying bottled water.

At a price of $10 per gallon, bottled water costs more than gasoline in the United States.
The 1.5 million barrels of crude oil used annually in the manufacturing of plastic bottles is enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Some 86% of the plastic bottles used in the U.S. aren’t recycled, ending up in a landfill for 450 to 1,000 years until they finally decompose. According to the EPA, 40% of all bottled water is tap water anyway, and there haven’t been any conclusive studies on the affects of drinking from plastic on one’s health.

Beavan and his family are making an important point: small steps lead to big changes. If you waant some inspiration while you wait for the documentary to be aired at the Milwaukee film festival, you can turn to blog and book:

Colin Beavan’s blog, “No Impact Man,” can be found at and the book is titled: No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.

Other films being shown during the film festival include:
• The Horse Boy (Documentary) – A family travels through Mongolia to make sense of their son’s autism through healing and personal journey.
•The Lemon Tree (Drama) – Palestinian and Israeli perspectives collide over a lemon tree that is a family legacy, and a security threat all at once.
• The Yes Men Fix the World (Documentary) – A duo exposes the people behind natural disasters (like Hurricane Katrina) who are making a profit from the event.
• Afghan Star (Documentary) – Afghani people risk their lives to appear on the popular television show “Pop Idol.”
• Munyurangabo (Drama) – An orphan of the Rwandan genocide makes a quest for justice.
• Crude (Documentary) – A 13-year old battle between communities, corporations, developments, U.S. lawyers and Ecuadorian lawmakers over oil drilling.

–Jamie Galstad

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