Josh Hylton, Staff Writer

“Is it possible to have a good life without wasting too much?” This is the question filmmaker Colin Beavan poses in his new documentary No Impact Man.

The film probes the neglectfulness of America and the ignorance to the harm caused through the millions of carbon footprints produced each day.

For the film, Beavan, his wife Michelle and daughter Isabella, set out on an environmental experiment.

Their goal is to see if it is possible to live a sustainable life in New York City without causing any negative impact on the environment.

Though very few of us could survive without television, computers or video games, the Beavans went a year without toilet paper, incandescent light bulbs, magazines, newspapers, elevators, plastic bags or any form of motorized transportation.

Is it all a tad extreme? Absolutely. Is it a little naïve to think their actions could influence an entire city, or the world, into significantly cutting back their carbon emissions? Perhaps.

But it is also brave and noble, shunning the things they have become accustomed to and trying to lessen their impact on the environment while also providing a habitable home for themselves.

What No Impact Man does so successfully is condense a year’s worth of character growth into a short 90 minutes, showing the progression of Colin and Michelle’s personal thoughts and beliefs in that time.

Initially, and understandably, Michelle is reluctant to undertake this venture.

She quickly finds herself missing the jolts from her coffee and going through fast food withdrawals, while Colin finds the whole affair easy.

But as time goes on, their roles flip. After getting numerous letters from other environmentalists, heartlessly declaring that crazy people like him give them a bad name, Colin begins to doubt his actions.

He begins questioning if what he is doing is relevant. Ultimately, it is Michelle who puts life back into perspective for him.

Though the film doesn’t explain what positive effects, if any, the experiment had on the environment, the film successfully shows the more conventional benefits of living this way.

After a scathing New York Times article titled “The Year Without Toilet Paper” is published, undermining the point of the project, Colin confides in the camera, “Why not call it ‘The Year We Didn’t Watch TV and We Became Much Better Parents as a Result’ or ‘The Year We Ate Locally and Seasonally and It Ended Up Reversing My Wife’s Pre-Diabetic Condition’?”

Colin admits his experiment is, “not meant to be scientific,” as it is far from it, but the end results say more than any scientific data.

Over the course of the year, Colin and Michelle appeared to become better parents to young Isabella.  They found they could spend more time with her and partake in activities outside.

They all become healthier, quitting their bad dietary habits and getting more exercise, using bicycles as their means of transportation.

They save more money by buying only food and necessary equipment. The impact on the environment may be strangely absent in the film, but the impact in the home is ever-present.

In the end, Colin realizes that being a good environmentalist is not about reducing carbon footprints to zero, but rather managing them in sustainable ways.

This revelation is a test for the viewer, challenging us to look at the negative effects we are having on the environment through things that are not vital to our well being.

Is No Impact Man really going to change how we live? No, of course not. But it will make you think twice the next time you step on that elevator..