Welcome to 30 Days, the show that takes “average” Americans and throws them into completely a completely different lifestyle for, you guessed it, 30 days. This week the 30 Days challenge places two typical American consumers into an eco-friendly modern-day commune. While America used to be the land of plenty, with a seemingly endless supply of everything, that may be coming to an end. America currently uses six times its share of the world’s resources and we’re starting to see the results. As we start to look into alternative fuel sources and more environmentally friendly living, the question is this: Is it possible for us to change?
30 Days producer, Morgan Spurlock introduces us to our guinea pigs for this week. They both come from the New York/New Jersey area. They are friends and co-workers Johari, a DJ and Vito, a club promoter and self-proclaimed “oil addict.” Spurlock calls them gas-guzzling, power-sucking, rabid American consumers. Neither of these two thinks that we’re ever going to run out of fossil fuel. Ever.
Getting the Energy Blues
Before they officially begin their 30 days, Johari and Vito meet with Jamie Cloud, an environmental consultant with the Global Footprint Network. She will determine their “ecological footprint” by analyzing their oil and electricity usage, their spending habits and the amount of waste they contribute to the world. When all the calculations are complete, they are horrified to learn that, if everyone in the world lived the way they did, it would take 12.5 planets to take care of their needs. Johari is surprised, but still not convinced about this whole environmental footprint business.
Morgan Spurlock shows up to tell Johari and Vito about what they will be doing for the next month. They will be living in an experimental, self-sufficient, community. The rules they will have to follow are:
- No fossil fuel usage at all
- They must work as productive members of the community. This means hard labor.
- They must recycle everything, including their own waste, which is made into something called “hu-manure” (Yeah – that kinda grossed me out too)
We Don’t Need Your Stinking Power Plants!
It’s Day 1 and Johari and Vito are about to enter “environmental rehab.” For the next 30 days, they will be living at Dancing Rabbit, an environmentally friendly community of about 30 people in rural Missouri. Dancing Rabbit lives entirely “off the grid.” This means that they don’t rely on any public energy.
Vito tells us that he’s sure they will all be hippies. Quicker than you can say “Jeri Curl,” up pulls Dancing Rabbit resident Cecil, who has a very impressive white guy afro. After some quick introductions, they’re on their way. Cecil tells them that the car he is driving runs completely on vegetable oil. He says that it kind of smells like French fries. Cecil tells them that the name “Dancing Rabbit” comes from the fact that there are lots of rabbits on the property and that well, they dance. We’ll wait for the video on that one, Cece.
Dancing Rabbit is able to stay off the grid with the help of solar power. The homes in the community are built from straw and mud. They recycle everything and every decision they make is made with the environment in mind. To illustrate that point, we see the “duplex apartment” that Johari and Vito will be living in for their 30 days. It is a converted grain bin. Cecil tells them that there is no electricity in their new home, but that solar panels are on the way. They will help install the solar panels when the time comes.
Even Worse Than the Three Seashells
Next up is the bathroom tour. Going to the bathrooms at Dancing Rabbit is what Spurlock terms “crapping in a bucket.” True enough. It looks to me like an indoor pit toilet. Cecil tells them that, once they are done, they must cover their business with sawdust. They make fertilizer from their waste. As Johari heads into the bathroom, Vito tells her, “Go forth and make hu-manure!” I’m never going to look at going to the bathroom the same way again. Even though we’ve only known Johari for 10 minutes, you can tell this is going to be a toughie for her.
As night falls at Dancing Rabbit, both Johari and Vito are worried about dinner. The community is all vegetarian and some members are even Vegan. Vito turns up his nose at most of the dinner choices, including the soysage (soy sausage, get it?). Vito says that he doesn’t do soy. Hey Vito, at least they didn’t roll out the Tofurkey.
Back at the grain bin, they both lament the lack of electricity as they sit in the candlelight.
Tossin’ the Turds
Johari and Vito wake to their first full day at Dancing Rabbit. Johari complains that she got no sleep because of all the cows. They investigate the shower situation and find that they must light a fire under the water tank in order to take a hot shower. At every turn, these two will act shocked about the work they have to do for things that we generally take for granted. A little work might not be a bad thing for teither of them.
As if dealing with their own poo isn’t horrifying enough for them, Johari and Vito must now help Cecil empty the various buckets all over the community and start the composting process that will result in hu-manure. You know, I’m all for recycling and leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, but I draw the line at hu-manure.
Bio-dee-what? (Day 5)
It’s shower time once again and community member, Tamar comes to inspect Johari’s bathing products. The water from the showers runs off into the nearby wetlands. This means that the water cannot be polluted with all of the usual chemicals contained in soaps and shampoos. Everything they use must be biodegradable. Johari is informed that none of the products she brought with her will be allowed. Vito takes the whole thing in stride. Than again, he’s bald, so what does he know?
Breakfast time brings pancakes again. Vito tell us that, not only is he sick of pancakes, he needs some meat. The Dancing Rabbits have decided on a meat-free life because of the huge strain that meat puts on the environment (i.e. grain to feed the animals, waste created by them and the huge amount of fossil fuels consumed to transport the grain and the animals).
The Dancing Rabbits grow all their own food and say that it is gratifying to eat food that you have grown yourself. After a tour of the garden, Johari is put to work cleaning. She complains about the cleaning products that she must use, wishing she had some chemical-laden Formula 409. She continues the whine about the chores. Later, the whining continues as she tells us that she’s sick of having no electricity. So, no camping for Johari, I’m guessing.
The solar panels have finally arrived and need to be installed. Johari and Vito are supposed to be lending a hand with this, but from what I saw, our man Cecil was pretty much on his own. They are both very happy to have light, which they equate with civilization.
Elmer Fudd Rides Again
Vito, who Johari is now calling “Meat-o,” wants some meat and has decided to go hunt himself up some wabbit. He manages to gun down one of the dancing bunnies in no time and makes a big show of parading his kill around for all to see. I see Vito still hasn’t completed that sensitivity training course.
The Dancing Rabbits have called a community meeting to discuss the impact of their two guests on the group. During this whole scene, the camera cuts back and forth between the meeting and Johari and Vito acting like idiots. The first issue of Vito’s Great White Hunter routine and killing the rabbit in the front yard. Cut to Vito killing bugs with an aerosol can and a lighter. The next issue up is all of the fragrances and the chemicals they are both still using. We see more bugs being fried and both Johari and Vito cackling like idiots.
After the meeting, Tamar takes Johari for a walk to discuss the issue of her perfume. Tamar tells Johari her perfume has become a problem for the community members. Tamar says that she can’t even go into the common room because she is allergic to perfume (she also seems to be allergic to bras) and asks that she give it a rest. Johari acts like she has been asked to shave her head. She’s never heard of someone being allergic to perfume. In a major snarky moment, Johari asks Tamar what she would do if Johari announced that she was allergic to B.O. Tamar responds that she would start wearing deodorant because they try to respect people at the Dancing Rabbit. Touché.
The Dancing Rabbits are having their own 30 Days by having to live with Johari.
Monster Garage: Eco-Style
Is that Jesse James? Nope, it’s Dancing Rabbit resident Tony, showing Johari and Vito how to convert a car from bio diesel (an environmentally friendly fuel made from soybeans) to veggie power. In no time at all, they get the car running on vegetable oil. Vito seems shocked at how easy it was and by the fact that the car actually starts.
With another car running on veggie power, they need more fuel. I start to wonder if they’re just going to the grocery store to buy a boatload of Wesson oil…. but that comes in plastic bottles….. Before I can do any more pondering on that subject, the car pulls up behind a restaurant and the group starts siphoning used oil out of big barrels. This is the oil that is so nasty, it got dumped out of the restaurant’s fryer. No wonder those cars smell like French fries. Back at Dancing Rabbit, they will strain the oil of all the *ick* bits of food to make sure it won’t clog up the engine.
Still on his quest for some protein, Meato gets on the phone and tries to score some meat. Johari, who has the most annoying laugh in the history of the universe, cackles in the background as he fails in his quest. Meato is now in a lack-of-meat rage at Johari and says that, the more she laughs, the more he wants to kill her. I’d buy a ticket to that show, Meaty.
Over the next few days, we see Vito yearning to drive his gas guzzling motorcycle and, in an ode to the I Love Lucy grape-stomping scene, both Vito and Johari mix wall plaster out of dirt and water….. at least I hope that was dirt.
Everybody was Dump-ster Diviiing <---- to the tune of “Kung Foo Fighting”
It’s Day 25 and a whole group of Dancing Rabbits, along with Johari and Vito, head into town to visit the town landfills and dumpsters for a little “reclamation.” Vito is disgusted by the whole thing, saying he feels like a schmuck. Really Vito, you’ve looked like a schmuck through most of this episode, so chill about the dumpster. Johari is less horrified by the dumpster diving when Vito manages to find her a blow drier, still in the packaging. He muses over finding himself some meat in there too and then realizes how nasty that is and changes his mind. Once again, there’s no time to pick up any meat for Vito and he is pissed.
Back at Dancing Rabbit, Vito ignores Johari’s pleas and heads off to kill another rabbit. She tells us that instead of killing rabbits he should eat a carrot.
Johari is starting to feel more at home at Dancing Rabbit. She shares a drink with Cecil out on a porch and they do some bonding. She also receives a very sweet letter from her father, which she reads aloud to Cecil. While Johari is making nice, Vito shows us the puppets that some of the Dancing Rabbits made. They include a little rabbit, Vito holding a gun (and wearing a shirt with the word “Meato” on it) and Johari with lots of hair. Vito puts on a little puppet show for the cameras, having his puppet fight with Johari’s.
Then Come the Meat Sweats
While Johari is starting to enjoy growing her own food, Meato is still getting those beef cravings. He manages to find a company that sells organic meat. He goes into town to pick up his meat and gets a tour of the facilities. Once back at Dancing Rabbit, he starts cooking his steaks. Yes, I said steaks. FOUR of them. While Vito is cooking up his pile-o-meat, Johari is trying her hand at cooking a completely Vegan meal for everyone. She’s really pleased with herself and the meal is a success…. until Meato shows up with his barely cooked and bloody steak and sits down at the table. Johari tells us that she was completely appalled. From the looks on the faces of the Dancing Rabbits, she wasn’t the only one.
By day 28, even Vito is feeling more comfortable at Dancing Rabbit. He takes a jog through the countryside and uses the outdoor solar shower. He says that he’s feeling more at one with nature.
Johari and Vito both meet with Cecil, who shows them how their environmental footprint was reduced by the way they’ve lived for the last few weeks. Where they once would take up 12.5 planets, they are now down to 1.3. They are both shocked and say that, living at Dancing Rabbit has made them both think about making changes when they return to their regular lives. Both vow to use public transportation more and Vito says he will definitely be buying compact fluorescent light bulbs for his home. Johari says that she wants to be a person in her building who makes a difference.
Movin’ on Down to Funky Town
It’s their last night at Dancing Rabbit and Johari and Vito throw a party in celebration. Everyone is dancing and laughing and having a great time together. Johari, in a move that she probably thought was funny and I just thought was tacky, gives Tamar a gift: deodorant. Honestly though, if many of the Rabbits don’t use deodorant, the music wasn’t the only thing at that party with some funk.
Johari and Cecil pack up and say their goodbyes to everyone at Dancing Rabbit. As they drive away, Johari tells us that the Dancing Rabbits have proven to her than one person can make a difference. Vito says that seeing the effect his mass consumption has on the world around him has made him look at things differently.
Things you can do to make a difference:
- Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. We learned from this episode that if every American switched out just one light bulb in their home for a compact fluorescent, we could shut down one nuclear power plant.
- When you go to buy your next car, look into a hybrid or at least a more fuel efficient model. America is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world and the supply won’t last forever.
- Buy products with less packaging and packaging that can be recycled. While plastic drink containers can usually be recycled, the plastic wrap that seems to be covering everything lately, is often not recyclable.
- Buy biodegradable paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, tissue paper). They’re much better now than they were even a few years ago.
- Support your local farmers markets and buy organic products if you have the option.
- Carpool, walk or take public transportation more. If none of those options is feasible, coordinate your errands so that you use less gas.
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