My wife Michelle and I decided, before jumping in at the deep end of this year-long project, to try no impact living as an experiment for a week. No garbage. No greenhouse gasses. No toxins. No water pollution. No air pollution. No electricity. No produce shipped from distant lands. No impact. Or so we naively hoped.
We started one Thursday night at 10:00 PM in the middle of the August, 2006 heat wave. Our sweat-soaked tempers frayed immediately. We argued about who would take our 18-month-old daughter, Isabella, to the babysitter since both our schedules now had to accommodate a lot of walking. We had tense discussions about who would be in charge of picking up Isabella’s milk from the only New York dairy farmer who uses reusable glass bottles. We both pretended not to notice the mounting pile of dirty dishes resulting from the dishwasher being out of bounds.
But then Michelle surprised herself by loving her walk to and from the office. It gave her back something she missed since becoming a mom: time alone. With no TV, we found ourselves playing with Isabella more, reading more, talking more and—hurray!—having more, well, you know. Having perennially struggled with finding time for the gym to wrestle off our middle-aged midriffs, a couple of pounds immediately dropped off us both. Who needs a gym when you’re riding bikes and refusing lifts in elevators and walking everywhere?
In that one week, we discovered that, without transportation to rush us around and junk-food media to steal our time, there is a different, calmer life to be had right here in Manhattan. No TV to oppress you with news of Britney’s failure as a mother. No concerns that charging another pair of Diesel jeans might be declined by Amex. No worrying that the bad cooking oil from the Chinese takeout is clogging your coronary artery. We developed a consciousness of our actions that that felt suspiciously akin to the living in the moment that the Dalai Lama keeps coming to New York to tell us about.
We got the glimpse of a life with an entirely different rhythm. We began to think that, by depriving us of our Madison Avenue addictions, the no impact experiment might actually make us happier. It was only a seven-day experiment, but it convinced us that living no impact can be done, it can be done pleasantly, and that we could conceivably end up happier rather than sadder–which is why, God help us, we’re in it for a year.