No Impact Man Documentary

As part of my thesis research, I am both reading about and interviewing people who live ‘off grid.’ Off Grid is implies not being connected to a grid, usually the national electrical grid, but often also refers to living in a fully self-sufficient manner without reliance on any public utilities. While some off grid homesteaders have graciously been in touch with me, I also recently watched the great documentary ‘No Impact Man’ about a New York City family who goes off grid in the city for a year.

As the trailer indicates, the documentary has a bit of a classic American reality show feel to it, but still provided me with some interesting research insights around the concept of sacrificing. Later in the documentary, Colin, the protagonist, says, “It’s not about using as little as possible, but getting what I need in a sustainable way.” I found this particularly interesting because most people associate living sustainably with sacrificing certain needs or desires. In contrast, after talking with off grid homesteaders, its apparent that with enough time and energy (pun intended!), it is in fact possible to maintain a high standard of living. Though, closer to the end of the documentary, a friend of the lead characters, calls them out for other ‘unethical’ activities (highly subjective). This raises the question of making present or future sustainable choices now to compensate for negative environmental impacts in the past. Naively, most people don’t realize that even if all human CO2 emissions were to seize today, the impacts of climate change would still be felt for centuries. Needlesstosay, I was very pleased to see a bit of the hidden hypocrisy called out. Don’t get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed and gratefully appreciate the message of the documentary!

For further curiosity, you can also read my initial brief.