'No Impact Man' charts US couple's climate fight

Colin Beavan prepares breakfast on the gas range in their New York apartment. In the background is wife Michelle Conlin and their two-year-old daughter. NYT

Beavan and his reluctant wife, Michelle Conlin, drastically changed their lifestyle, doing their best not to create trash, cause carbon dioxide emissions or pour toxins into the water supply and by buying only local produce.
The New Yorkers rode bikes to get places, walked up and down the nine flights of stairs to their apartment and cooked meals with food from a local farmers market. They also got rid of their television and bought no new clothes for themselves or their 18-month-old daughter Isabella.

Six months into the year, came the most dramatic step — they switched off the electricity. “It wasn’t about being an environmentalist and then doing it. It was about just being a concerned citizen and stumbling forward,” Beavan, author of two history books, said. “We jumped in without knowing what we were doing,” added Conlin, a writer for Business Week.

Beavan has described his experiences in a book, “No Impact Man.” A documentary of the same name, directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, will be released in the United States this month. “Just doing a little bit is not actually enough,” said Beavan, who also blogged about his year-long experiment. “If we are essentially going to change the planet ... we have to consider changing our way of life.”
Beavan and Conlin began their experiment in late 2006 and soon attracted media interest. But along with the attention came criticism that the project was just a stunt. “It can be perceived as a stunt, but truthfully in some ways that’s part of the communications strategy to get people interested (in the issue of climate change),” Beavan said.

The couple said the year was hard because US culture is not equipped to support sustainable living. But the project produced “hidden joys.” While Conlin at first resented her husband for not letting her use the dishwasher, she grew to love spending time with her daughter doing the dishes.

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