Top | Our Table

Impact man

(article, Kim Carlson)

primary-image, l

Despite his name, No Impact Man is having an impact. Time will tell how much of one.

Ever since the New York Times published the story of Colin Beavan and his family a couple of weeks ago (available to see only with a fee), his tale has been popping up around the web. From Beavan's blog:

bq(blue). No Impact Man, if you’re just joining us, is my experiment in trying to adopt as low an environmental impact as possible for my family while living in New York City. 

As I understand it, Beavan isn't trying for zero negative impact, he's trying for zero net negative impact; he still uses resources, but he's offsetting that usage by helping to plant trees and volunteering with the Nature Conservancy.

For a whole year, Beavan's family will enjoy no TV, no cars (or subways, or buses), and only second-hand goods. It means no throwaway containers — no trash of any sort. It means no dishwasher, no washing machine, no air conditioning.  

What the family eats has also been modified. The second phase of the experiment was 

bq(blue). figuring out how to cause the least environmental impact with our food choices. 

Beavan is not taking small steps. While he's been vegetarian for awhile, his wife, Michelle, has now joined him. They compost, make their own yogurt, bread, and fruit-scrap vinegar, and go out of their way to eat locally grown food. Beavan is also helping to grow an urban garden. 

There are those who argue that this is just one giant publicity stunt (and fodder for the book and movie that will come later), and I'll admit that at first I was skeptical. No toilet paper? But the whole idea has grown on me. I especially appreciate Michelle's words about the experiment:

bq(blue). What we’re really doing is taking apart our whole life. Instead of just living the way of life we’ve inherited and been told to lead, we’re taking it all apart and seeing how we want to put it back together.

I, for one, look forward to Beavan's future book, which promises to offer sound guidelines for living with less impact. There's plenty to learn. 

One thing we're trying to do at Culinate is increase our own awareness about food (and about nutrition, how growing food affects the environment, and the politics surrounding food). At the same time, we want to celebrate a simple and sustaining pleasure in cooking and eating.

A month or two ago, Colin Beavan and his wife hosted a potluck brunch, for which they invited guests to participate in the no-impact experience by bringing food that was grown within 250 miles of New York City. On his blog, he wrote:

bq(blue). I didn't realize, because I am an only recently converted take-out king, but cooking for each other is really a romantic and lovely way of coming together. Everybody had a story about why they chose, say, local honey for their pie instead of further-away maple syrup or how happy they were to find pears instead of apples. Bear in mind, that eating local right now is hard — it's winter. But the challenge made for conversation and it was a blast.

Colin Beavan isn't wasting anything these days — least of all, his efforts. For some of us they might be the catalyst to take our own steps, however small or large, toward easing our own burdens on the planet.

h3. Cilantro 

Where do you fall on the love it/hate it scale? I live in a family of cilantro lovers and everyone is always happy when the bright green leaves are added to tacos, blended into Indian curries, or even made into a garlicky topping for grilled chicken. 

But I know lots of others don't like cilantro one bit, can't stand the stuff, hate it, hate it, hate it, etc. This week's cilantro article, by Sona Pai, explores the science and the culture behind this dichotomy.

[%image cricket float=right size=medium caption="Cricket is in for a treat."

h3. Dog treats

I know our office watchdog, a miniature Australian shepherd named Cricket who lives at our house when she's not warming the sofa here, will approve of Jim Dixon's dog-food recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds, well, delicious. Read Jim's account of learning to cook for his dogs, and then let us know if you try his recipe, and what your dog thinks.

h3. People treats

We're sweetening the pot. Nueske's Meats is providing a three-pound gift pack of their applewood-smoked bacon (thick-sliced, thin-sliced, and pepper) to the winner of our Potluck contest this month. Nueske's, you may recall, is the bacon Matthew Amster-Burton prefers for his pizza. 

If the winner doesn't eat meat (which is entirely possible given the range of short essays that might be written on the topic "meat"), the prize will go to the second-place winner. If he or she doesn't eat meat, it will go to the third-place winner. And if that person also doesn't eat meat, the bacon is going home with me. I still eat meat.

cricket, l

reference-image, l