You know I won’t be buying it—no purchases of anything new allowed for the No Impact family—but that doesn’t mean you can’t. As for me, I can borrow it from the library. Or persuade my friends who still buy things to get it. Or go to the book store with Michelle and hang out in the food section and talk loudly about how we just looooooove this book called Plenty by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon.
Ok, I admit it’s an ethical dilemma for me who buys nothing new this year, but can you begrudge my wanting people who helped me in my No Impact struggles to have a whopping great best-seller success?!
Here’s the background. As you know, No Impact Man works in stages: no trash, no carbon-powered transportation, locally-grown seasonal food, sustainable consumption, etc. Well, back in the middle of winter, no less, when we entered the local food stage (an environmentally sound practice for a whole bunch of reasons), we were faced with a lot of cabbage and apples. I mean a lot.
So many in fact that I met with the famous food writer Marion Nestle and asked
her if our nutrition was okay. Would I die of toomanyappleitus or something?
People have been eating locally and seasonally for thousands of years,
Worried I had no idea what I was doing (because I had no idea what I was doing), I also Googled “local food” and found Alisa and James and their year on the 100-mile-diet before their book was even a smudge on their publisher’s printing press. Please help! I wrote to Alisa. A couple of emails and a couple of phone calls later and Alisa became my official local food mentor—at least as official as it could possibly be considering I never told her she had filled the position.
One time, a couple of months ago, Michelle, Isabella and I got stuck in the freezing cold a long way from our house and we had to get warm so we went into a vegetarian café (we do have our standards, even when we cheat). Plus it was Isabella’s birthday and Michelle wanted to celebrate and I didn’t want to argue. And well—mea culpa—we cocked a snoot, for one meal, at eating local.
In my shame, I rushed home and emailed Alisa, now my confessor as well as my mentor. (By the way, it’s funny how people do that. I went to someone’s house today and she was drinking a Diet Coke in a disposable can and she felt compelled to explain it was an infrequent treat.) Anyway, Alisa emailed me straight back:
“Oh, the perils of a warm cafe on a cold day...Having so many elements [in the No Impact project], I imagine what you're doing is insanely difficult, so if I detected guilt in your message, just move on. I admire what you're doing.”
So understanding. Even now, I still feel like calling her mom. But Alisa also wrote to me: “Only through strictness do you have a conversion.” Mom…I mean Alisa…gave me absolution but she also warned me not to cheat too often. Michelle and I have taken this to heart. If you cheat every time the going gets tough then how can you really experience the experiment? I tell myself that every time the elevator tempts me as I trudge up the stairs with Isabella on my shoulders and a heavy bag of groceries on each arm.
To the point: Alisa and her partner James are the gurus on local eating and their commitment to their 100-mile-diet has inspired many local eaters. Their book Plenty—you can’t stop a gift from coming your way, even when you are No Impact Man—is terrific. You can read about them at their website, read an excerpt , look at a Q&A with them on Grist, or even read a series of articles they wrote on their experience. But most importantly, don’t forget to, um, “pick up” the book (I never outright said buy, did I?).
PS You can also read more about local eating in a recent New York Times article.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.