No Impact Man


9780312429836A couple of months ago the gal that does my hair was telling me that she makes some of her own cleaning products. I  believe I mentioned those ideas in this post. During that conversation she also told me about this book she had read called, “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan (published 2009). Along with some details about washing clothes in a bath tub and walking everywhere, she described it as, “this guy and his family go without electricity for a year in New York City.”

I was immediately intrigued. Having lived in New York I couldn’t imagine going without electricity in that city. It turns out there was a lot more to the year than just no electricity. The first part of the project was to produce no trash. This meant, no getting take out and no buying food with packaging. Next was reducing their carbon foot print – or how to anger relatives when you don’t go and visit them. Also no TV and no buying anything new for a year. Then it was buying all food that was grown and made within 250 miles of NYC. Finally, giving back. In other words, “trying to do enough good to outweigh the harm.”

Now, the sub-title obviously gives away this man’s political affiliation and though he and I will likely never come down on the same side of a political aisle, there were many things in his book that I thought were good points and some great ideas for everyday living. Surprisingly, Beavan received a fair amount of push back from his friends on his side of the aisle, “What good is one person going to do?” His response, was fairly succinct –  none if they don’t try.

After reading his book, I came away with two things. One, a reordering of priorities. With no electricity, no trash, no new things, no subway or plane transport, this family had to walk,

Beavan's bike

Beavan’s bike – made from all used parts.

bike, go to bed early, get up early and think creatively about how to accomplish everyday tasks. All of this caused there to be a shift in their lives where they lost weight (his wife’s pre-diabetic condition was reversed), talked more to one another, spent more time outdoors and cooked and ate together more.

Second, I appreciated his willingness to try. He set out not to preach in his book and I think he did a good job of not preaching. He decided he had a set of beliefs and he was going to put those in motion. He was going to try and for one year he, his wife and their daughter not only tried but they succeeded in going without some of the things that we all think we can’t live without.

I am not advocating you or I shut off our electricity, in fact, Beavan and his family turned their electricity back on after the year was over. However, what kind of unanticipated rewards might I find if I were to change the way I do some things? I am up for talking to people more, cooking more, oh and using cloth grocery bags so I don’t have to figure out where to store or recycle those plastic or paper bags!

Anyway, even if you are not a “liberal” like Beavan, I think you would enjoy this book (or the documentary). It’s an easy read (or watch) and you may find an idea you would like to “try.”


2 responses »

  1. Did you know SLO passed a no plastic bag ban? And if you want paper you have to pay $0.10 per bag. I carry a cloth bag in my purse now!

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