Saturday, July 19, 2008

a year without oil

another great documentary from the more 4 lineup. filmmaker / father john webster decides to go a year without oil to see how much of a difference one family in finland can make.

their "oil diet" means giving up the car for the bus (including when they're grocery shopping, taking the kids to school, etc), rowing their motor boat across the lake (rather than actually using the motor), and taking trains for holidays rather than flying. but the most challenging rule the father has laid down (without negotiation with his partner -- gasp horror!) is that they are not allowed to buy any new plastic, a heavily oil-based product. that means no food wrapped in plastic, no shampoo (they make their own), no make up, not even toilet paper (the mom rejoices when she finds an industrial supplier selling public-bathroom-sized mega rolls, unwrapped).

fascinating dynamics between the parents and the family as a whole -- the wife who tries to temper her husband's idealism with common sense (she occassionally refers to him as a "dictator"), and the kids who don't particularly care for the home-made toothpaste (no plastic!) but otherwise ambivalently humour their father and his experiment. as much as the family learns about cutting waste in their household, i think there is also the message that idealism -- no matter how well-intended -- never leads to a perfect solution, just a work-in-progress.

i was reading an article recently about innocent drinks -- a smoothie company that prides itself on its "innocent" ingredients and ethical policies. they were researching whether it would be better to supply their small individual smoothies in plastic, or in an alternative, such as highly-recyclable glass. turns out the u.k. market only recycles a tiny amount of glass containers (i think it was something like 25% or less -- there's no deposit charged on bottles so no one bothers recycling them) and so the garbage that would have been produced as well as the extra oil consumed in transport of the heavier bottles would have been more wasteful than using 100% recycled plastic bottles.

maybe a bit of marketing mumbo-jumbo, and world economies and environmental sciences are more complex than i could ever possibly comprehend -- but i do think there are lots of things we can easily do everyday that are far less painful than one would imagine. for example, most of the people i know here don't own a tumble dryer (no space). since moving to london three and a half years ago, i've hung-dry all my laundry out of necessity -- and actually it's not the huge inconvenience i imagined it would be. and i think the family in the documentary comes to a similar conclusion. as the mom says after the oil-diet-year is over, it's like they've inherited another member of the family, one that must not be forgotten and that they must take care of at all times.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Wow - no plastic. It really makes you think about how ubiquitous plastic is on our daily life. I agree that a compromising approach to greener living is the way to go. Extremes often discourage and polarize the general public as many people may not have the means to adopt certain green living practices. For example, my backyard is not big enough to support a clothesline. But that is because I choose to live downtown, don't own a car, cycle to work and walk or use public transport to get most everywhere. As such, even though I have a tumble dryer, my compromise is that I don't emit carbon through burning gas in a car. I take small steps every year and it is starting to add up. And I think more people are doing it in this manner and things will start getting better. Well maybe that is me being too optimistic!