No Impact Man

Wow. In this age of consumerism where driving a mile is the norm, credit card debt is at an all time high, and buying cheap (quantity vs. quality) is the way to go, Colin Beavan stands to the fore with a fresh new perspective. I read an article this morning posted on one of my groups and I didn't know what to say. I'm definitely rooting for them. This is such an awesome, huge, undertaking. On the other hand; how? Is this really that possible live without everything that has come to be held so dear?

For anyone that knows me, I've been on this path myself lately although I have never even dreamed of going so hard core. For a packrat, my new path is really scary and really hard. I finally found it within myself to admit that I had a needless attachment to 50% of my stuff. On a daily basis now I see pretty things going out the front door to a new home. Too much clothing, too many toys, and all that crap. I have a need, a thirst if you will, inside to provide a calmer and more natural lifestyle to my family. I have been attracted to the idea of sustainability for some time although I have felt limited as to my choices. After learning about Colin and his family, no more. If they have the energy, the want (and the need) to do this in an apartment in the middle of New York City, who am I to say it's impossible in a small townhouse with a postage stamp lawn? Here is the original article in the New York Times "The Year Without Toilet Paper" and here is Colin Beavan's blog, No Impact Man.

Reading the article, I was reminded of a quiz that I took some time ago, My Ecological Footprint.

Here are my original results:

Food: 3.2 acres
Mobility: 0 acres
Shelter: 2.7 acres
Goods: 2.5 acres
Total Footprint: 8 acres

In comparison, the average ecological footprint in my country is 24 acres per person. Worldwide, there exists 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. I am among the 80% of the world population with an Ecological Footprint smaller than 10 acres. If everyone lived like me, we would need 1.9 planets.

Since then, I have changed my lifestyle quite a bit (in this time of rising gas prices, it's a must) and here are my new results:

Food: 2.7 acres
Mobility: 0 acres
Shelter: 1.7 acres
Goods: 1.2 acres
Total Footprint: 6 acres

Well, not as much as I was hoping for, but still a difference. So now, if everyone lived like me, we would need only 1.3 planets. I am doing a lot, but there is a lot more that I know we can be doing but to do so, it would take a lot of work. (And cooperation on Carey's part.)

My family is already riding our bikes and/or walking most places. I'm thankful that Moscow is laid out in such a way that it promotes biking and walking. It's only a 10-15 minute ride to any of the grocers that we frequent, and it's about the same for our Church. I have been averaging 4+ miles a week walking or biking, although that's about to take a sharp increase. I got a look at gas prices the other day and I'm now cutting off all needless excursions in the car. We still need a car. There are just some things that can not be done with four small children and no car (namely going to the doctors office that's in another town over 11 miles away.). Then again, I suppose that it is doable, since there's a great bike trail connecting us with Pullman. I would just have to really plan well for it and expect it to be all that's done that day. In fact, if I thought we could get away with it, I'd ditch one of the cars all together. But Carey put his foot down on that one. I was very proud of Carey the other day. He rode over seven miles on his bike, as well as walked a lot. I think, by the end of this summer if we aren't in great shape there's something wrong with us.

I also have several other items on my list of sustainability:

  1. Make my own laundry soap.
  2. Make my own brown sugar.
  3. Grind my own herbs and spices in a mortar and pestle. (The kids love helping with that one)
  4. Dry as much laundry outside as possible
  5. Make my own bread. Again, something else the kids love to help with.
  6. A small vegg container garden.
  7. Using the least amount of paper possible.
  8. Make our own peanut butter. Yes, this is possible, and in fact we did so the other night. Stay tuned for pics about that.
  9. Recycled stuffing for toys (Dryer Lint!)
  10. I use our own cloth shopping bags.
  11. Kitty is in cloth diapers. This includes cloth wipes as well.
  12. Eat less meat.
  13. Wash clothing in cold water. (And no, you don't need that special cold water detergant either.) The only exception to this is Kitty's diapers.
  14. Use the least amount of energy when cooking. This includes cooking on a lower setting (low medium for us) as well as using lids.
  15. LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS (We're already living on less than $500 a month and I aim to get this even lower!)


  1. Getting rid of all needless items (moving is a great time for this)
  2. Buying little to no prepackaged foods. (Bulk, baby)
  3. No more paper towels (I'll have to set aside a good supply of rags)
  4. Get back into making my own soaps and salves
  5. Making a lot of clothing for the kids (sewing and knitting)
  6. No more paper napkins. I'll have to start hitting the clearance and remnant bins to make some out of cloth.
  7. No more wrapping paper. Again, I'll have to hit the remnants and make reusable cloth bags in several assorted sizes.
  8. Eating as much locally grown food as possible. This won't work for everything. I still like my herbs and spices, and some exotic fruits won't grow in Moscow no matter how much I plead with them.
  9. Doing away with all disposable diapers. (This one will be very hard. Not for Kitty, but for the boys that think it's cool to pee over the side of their bed. I have no option but to put them in diapers during the night and they're big enough that it's quite easy for them to pull it off.)
  10. Make my own cheeses and yogurt.
  11. Little to no plastic where it's not needed. For instance, a computer is needed whereas a plastic bowl is not. I have already replaced most cooking utensils with wood and metal. Now, I'm working on eating utensils. I can't, however, ditch plastic cups just yet. The kids break the glass ones too easily, and the metal ones are expensive right now.
  12. What I'd really love to do is do my own compost, but that would be rather difficult. I would have to get a barrel specifically made for very small areas. And even then, the University might prevent me from doing this.

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