My new favorite book: No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

No Impact Man: the adventures of a guilty liberal who attempts to save the planet and the discoveries he makes about himself and our way of life in the process is a book—and documentary and blog—that follows the adventures of a New Yorker and his family as they try their hardest to reduce their ecological footprints for one year.

Before the No Impact Man experiment, the author admits to feeling frustrated that the government and the rest of humanity weren’t doing enough to address our environmental crises. So instead of continuing to complain that someone else wasn’t fixing the problem, he decided to finally figure out what he and his family can do.

They ate only local foods. They turned off the electricity in their NYC apartment and used a solar panel to power a laptop and one lamp (that means no heat or air conditioning!). They took the stairs (no easy thing in tall NY buildings!). They biked. They used only cloth diapers on their toddler and made their own non-toxic cleaning products. They washed their clothes in the bathtub. And author Colin Beavan takes the reader along for the often comical and consistently thought-provoking ride.

This is a must read for those of us that just go with the status quo because we tell ourselves that one person can’t make a difference. For as the No Impact Man discovers, perhaps the most tangible benefit of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is the positive impact it has on your quality of life. When they stopped watching TV, the author and his family enjoyed more time together. When they stopped eating take-out and started cooking, they lost weight and felt better. And when they started making these choices, they felt closer than ever to the “good life,” measured by closer relationships, good health and concern for the greater community, rather than measured by the consumption of stuff and entertainment. 

This book is especially a must read for those of us that already consider ourselves eco-warriors. I think I am a pretty hard core environmentalist and for years now have tried to live by my eco-conscious values. But in reading about one family’s decision to take things to the extreme for one year, I couldn’t help but ask myself if I could do more.