Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: No Impact Man

I just finished 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, a book I was surprisingly engrossed in from beginning to end. Why do I say surprisingly? Well, after being a frequent reader of the No Impact Man blog, and watching the documentary, I didn't think there would be that much new content about the project that would keep my interest. Plus, at times I've found Colin's tone on the blog to be a bit grating, but I'm hyper-persnickety like that. The No Impact book, however, was a great read.

First, if you're expecting a step-by-step, nitty-gritty guide to the project, or details on what the Beavan's used instead of toilet paper during the experiment, you're going to be disappointed, because this isn't that kind of book. Yes, the basics of the project are explained, but the book, to me, was much more about the philosophy behind Beavan's environmental work. And somehow Colin manages to describe his philosophy in a way that doesn't sound so new-agey or preachy as to be a turn off, as other books I've read have.

Another plus, is that Beavan isn't too egotistical to admit his own faults and mistakes. He fully admits to judging other's "eco-sins" more harshly than he judges his own and works to correct that. He isn't afraid to point out his mistakes and "cheats" during the project.

Beavan delves into some of the problems behind the United States' current economy of consumption, if you want more detail on those issues, read the Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. Like Leonard, Beavan also makes the point that it would be one thing of our over-consumption was actually making us happy, but it's not and it's killing the planet.

Beavan definitely examines our reliance on one-time use products and his family's efforts to eliminate them. This is definitely something I can improve upon, and will work to by:
  • Using a hankie instead of tissues

  • Buying recycled toilet paper, which isn't sold at the stores I frequent most (which by the way seems completely asinine to me. Why must we use virgin paper to wipe our precious asses?!)

  • Using cloth napkins and towels etc. instead of paper towels as much as possible. With three cats, I'm still not willing to give up paper towels entirely.
I already eliminated bottled water, and bring coffee from home each day in a thermos.

I also like that Beavan includes not just his notes, but also a long list of interesting-sounding books, websites and other resources for more information, including several that are new to me.

This book definitely gave me some new ideas to think about. So, if you can't tell already, I'd give No Impact man a solid 4.75/5.0 rating and highly recommend it.


  1. I totally loved that book. I especially love the whole idea that it ends up not being about the guilt trip, but about the benefits of being less "plugged in". Have you seen his Ted talk?

    Totally love the sentiment.

  2. I hear you on the cats and paper towel - I only have one, but I sometimes think he's bulemic.

    I do buy recycled though :-)

  3. Ha! A bulimic cat! I have a couple of those myself sadly.


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