Book Review – No Impact Man

For every task I need to accomplish there seemed to be some throw-away item I could buy to help get it out of the way. My whole life appeared to have turned into a moneymaking machine intended to buy more convenience, with the seeming purpose of getting my life out of the way. I’m like a snake eating my own tail. It’s as if I’m just trying to get the whole thing over with…

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 by Colin Beavan

This was one of those books I was excited about, but at the same time, tried not to get my hopes up about. In the end, No Impact Man was slightly different than I anticipated, but still an excellent and enjoyable book.

These types of books seem to promise (at least to me) to show you “the way.” The way to be greener, the way to live with less of an impact. The difference here is that No Impact Man didn’t make those sorts of promises. In fact, its absurdly long subtitle is very true. This is the adventures of a guy doing his best to be no impact. In that it succeeds very well. The story is entertaining. Beavan does a great job of chronicling the ups and downs of his “no impact” year.

If you’re hoping for a guide to how to go no impact, this isn’t it. It’s first and foremost a story. Further reading is offered in the back, but No Impact Man doesn’t offer the tips and tricks you see so often. He does talk about what he did and how he did it, (the book would be awfully awkward to read if he didn’t), but he offers no guides. Fine by me…attempting to go no-impact is at best personal and situational, not to mention deeply complex. Beavan’s attempt in New York City would look very different from my own if I ever tried it. For one, I don’t have as many stairs to navigate. For two, the farmer’s market in my town is not nearly as extensive. (We’re lucky if there are eggs and bell peppers.)

He does look at many of the catch-22s we’ve made for ourselves. Like the fact that I don’t bicycle to work partially because I’m not physically able just yet, but mostly because it’s unsafe. Work is too near a major highway and a very busy road. Too many cars. So I drive…contributing to the too many cars that make the path to work unsafe to bicycle on. He also points out, many times, that we in the “first world” take for granted many things those in the “third world” go without.

In short, I highly recommend No Impact Man. It’s a fun read for anyone interested in green living. For the less literarily inclined, there’s also a movie.

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