No Impact Man

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

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Bill McKibben meets Bill Bryson in this seriously engaging look at one man's decision to put his money where his mouth is and go off the grid for one year--while still living in New York City--to see if it's possible to make no net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no air-conditioning, no television. After this mad endeavor, Beavan explains to the rest of us how we can realistically live a more "eco-effective" and by turns more content life in an age of inconvenient truths.
Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2009.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780374222888
Branch Call Number: 333.72 BE
Characteristics: 274 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Aug 15, 2017

Still incredibly relevant nearly 10 years later, I stumbled upon this book on the shelves of my local library when browsing for books within the genre. I read this while undergoing the (less-planned) process of changing my own impact in many of the same ways. Even the most seasoned urban environmentalist can probably learn something from this book, especially on topics where one is called to choose between two options that seem equally bad for the environment (The answer to "paper or plastic" happens to be "reusable cloth bags," for example).

I will say that readers in the suburbs will feel slightly left out, and advice that would benefit them more - such as pointing out opportunities for more robust composting and gardening, hanging laundry to dry, rainwater harvesting, and the installation of on-site renewables - is mostly left out; yet as Beavan and countless scholars, researchers, and planning experts have shown, suburbs themselves impact the environment far worse than dense cities by many magnitudes and on many fronts, and don't save homeowners nearly as much money as they think after accounting for higher transportation and health costs. Suburbs have 3 times the carbon emissions; sprawl which makes biking, walking, public transit and streamlined recycling and composting programs cost-prohibitive; and an ungodly amount of wasted fresh water on lawns.

The greatest takeaway, which he more than hints at on several occasions, is that you don't have to go to the extent of living without electricity altogether, hand-washing vomit-soaked sheets, and climbing 40 flights of stairs every day; you just have to TRY. Find something you think you can do better, do it, and stick with it. Maybe start with the things that also happen to save you lots of money (like never buying bottled water, buying used, and programming your AC to turn off while you're out of the house). Brag to your friends about it. After some time has passed, add more things, reaching higher and higher but never to the point that you feel like you're sacrificing your health, relationships, or wellbeing.

Nov 03, 2014

Great book, I am very happy I read it. It is very nicely written, easy to read, and tells a powerful personal story. It also encourages you to think and act. Loved the resource section at the end of the book as well, and this guy's blog is awesome too. A must read for everyone. Great book! I am a bit of environmentalist myself and the story in the book really rang a bell with me. Good book if you want to "convert" someone to care more about environment!

ksoles Oct 29, 2013

Modern bookstore shelves certainly lack for neither "how to live greener" guides nor year-long project memoirs. However, in the witty and entertaining "No Impact Man," Colin Beavan combines narrative with philosophical musings resulting in a unique read on an otherwise tired subject.

Spurred by a sudden concern about climate change, Beavan begins by producing no garbage, traveling carbon-free, eating low impact food, and buying only used items. He then progresses to using no electricity, conserving as much water as possible, and, finally, offsetting any remaining impacts through good works such as volunteering for an environmental group. Throughout the book, he confronts difficult questions: do people work in the rat race just as a means to buy more stuff? What are we striving for? What does happiness mean? Ultimately, Beavan realizes that reducing his impact on the Earth has made him happier, has deepened his community and family connections, and has inspired him to exercise and eat healthily without deprivation.

Beavan freely admits that he had no idea what he was getting his family into; he remains candid about his difficulties and confusions. Thus, readers end up cheering for the narrator as he struggles to make the best choices for the Earth and for his family. The book proves that, whether by taking the stairs, eating less meat, carrying a re-usable mug or investing in solar power, everyone can do something. And, more importantly, by learning that a sustainable, low-consumption lifestyle can translate into a happier lifestyle, it shows that society needs a new definition of success, one that does not focus on monetary gain.

gareichler Dec 30, 2011

This is a great book. It has truly changed my life.

Aug 18, 2011

Everyone (and I do mean everyone) should read this book!

Apr 29, 2011

I had read the NY Times article "The Year Without Toilet Paper" when it was published a few years ago - and didn't realize that this book is the outcome of the experiment until I actually cracked it open. It was a nice surprise, because I'd thought about the Times article quite a bit and have become more cognizant of my own waste-making since.

I hate to use the cliche, but since it took me three [seemingly brief] reading sessions, I'd call this one a page-turner. Beavan uses the year to break down the consumption habits he'd like to address and change - it's amazing to see how far he goes. He starts with eliminating packaged food to eliminating motorized/electric transportation (including elevators), changing electrical use around the house, not buying anything new (only used items), considering waste water, eating locally - it was neat to see his progress from joe-average to creative impact-reducer.

Beavan takes the time to incorporate his ideas on the bigger picture his experiment is addressing - including individual versus collective actions. Whether or not you personally have any inclinations to replicate Beavan's experiment, reading about the types of changes he and his family make is pretty fascinating (including the things they just can't change/give up).

Wanda_H Jun 24, 2010

I did like to tone of this book, it was a very interesting and thought provoking read.

Jun 09, 2010

this truly was a great find, it was so refreshing to not be preached at and journey through a comical, entertaining journey with someone not-so-different from myself. Managed to take a serious issue and make the reader look to a future of Quality of Life, and abundance without torturous deprivation!

excellent read

Mar 10, 2010

A wonderful human story. How to have more impact in your relationships and less impact on the earth.


Add Age Suitability
gareichler Dec 30, 2011

gareichler thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

May 01, 2011

marishkajuko thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary
gareichler Dec 30, 2011

Colin Beavan decided to spend a year with as little impact on the environment as possible. He introduced the project to himself, his wife, Michelle, and his young daughter, Isabella, in stages: making no waste (composting, not buying anything with disposable packaging, not using anything disposable, etc.), using no carbon-producing transportation (cars, buses, trains, elevators, etc.), buying only sustainable food (grown organically within 250 miles, no meat or seafood), buying nothing new (except underwear and socks), using no electricity (except a little bit generated by a small solar panel), and minimizing water use. He also reversed the small remaining negative impact with positive impact through volunteering. He posted information on his blog and wrote this book.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top