Not writing, not bad

It’s been an interesting few months. It’s not about the writing. It’s about something bigger. A few months back, my wife Gail was asked to sit on a panel discussion after a showing of the movie No Impact Man. She works for the Timberland Corporation and has been involved in trying to raise the awareness of “greener” practices. So, off we went to a nice little theater in Concord, NH. I have to admit that although I like spending time with Gail, I sort of wasn’t feeling too excited about having to sit through a film about “saving the planet.” I thought it would be self-righteous and preachy and worst of all, boring. Of course, this was all a preconception, based on nothing. And what did I need to know about living greener? Wasn’t I already trying to do my part? I threw my cans in the recycling bucket, right? I rode my bike to work. And… and… what? Isn’t that enough? So, anyway, back to the movie and panel.

The film was nothing like what I imagined–funny, intelligent, disturbing. The subjects of the film, the writer Colin Beavan and his family, tried their best to live for a year without impacting the environment. It was an insane experiment and not something that Beavan suggested as a “model” for living green. The word extreme is used too much these days (Extreme Basmati!!) but this experiment was extreme in all the best connotations of the word. I highly recommend both the film, and the book of the same man.

After the film, Gail took part in a panel discussion with three other green-minded folks, one of whom was Joshua Trought, the executive director of D Acres–an organic farm and educational homestead (, who talked a bit about eating locally and seasonally. One of the panelists was from Stoneyfield Farms, a large yogurt company that buys its milk locally. Gail talked a bit about what Timberland was doing in their day to day business, but also talked about the things we were doing around the house. I was surprised to hear that we were doing so much (mostly through her prompting, I might add): composting nearly all our vegetable refuse; eliminating all paper cups (no more coffee’s from Starbucks, et al); no canned sodas or juices; all paper recycled, including packaging; riding bikes to work and to the store; trying to be vigilant about turning off lights and unplugging appliances that sucked electricity even when off (do all of our appliances really need digital clocks on them?); keeping the heat low; using the dryer only when absolutely necessary (we hardly ever dry our pants and shirts and underwear); combining errands so that we can get everything done on one car trip; walking to friends houses; getting rid of the snow blower because shoveling snow is damn good exercise and doesn’t pollute; trying to eat less packaged food and less processed food (indeed, there are pretty much whole aisles of the supermarket that I don’t need to venture down much these days)–but listing the things isn’t what is important. Doing these things didn’t take make my (our) life any harder. In fact, I think it’s made things easier. By riding to work (it’s not a super long ride, 11.5 miles each way, and now in NH, during winter, I can’t keep it up) I lowered my cholesterol levels and lost weight. We’ve reduced our non-recylced garbage to a couple of bags a week. We use less gasoline. We return nutrients to the soil. We use less water. We eat healthier. We spend more time together.

What’s shaking me up now is the fact that if I can do some of those simple things and improve my life, then why not do more? It’s not subtraction, it’s addition. By changing the way I live, my life gets better. So, that’s the seismic shift. I’m not writing, not really, but it’s not bad. Is writing another novel for the express audience of me going to leave the world a better place? Or is my time better spent thinking of a way that I might conceivably leave my daughter a nicer planet than the one she’s in right now?

Tonight, I watched Food, Inc. A devastating look at the gross and unpalatable “corporate” food industry. It is a sickening and important film. Next up, buying local. Stay tuned.