Sustainable Saturday - Book Review: No Impact Man

I don't think I could have intentionally picked a better book to end the year with as we think about goals for our lives for 2012. 

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 written by Colin Beavan who is a self proclaimed environmentalist.  I have referred to him as an overnight environmentalist, however at the same time many who say they are experts in the field have not gone as he has in lifestyle changes.

Colin Beavan and his family, wife Michelle and daughter Isabella for one year, living in New York City, challenge themselves to live as sustainably as possible.  We are not talking about shopping at Whole Foods and buying environmentally friendly cleaning products, but complete, intentional, lifestyle overhaul.  The idea that we should think about what the earth can productively offer not just what we want in that moment.  The idea that Convenience means more time to work instead of taking care of our families.  We as a society are so focused on where we are going, not what we are doing right now!

The year begins with the goal of reducing trash.  Self proclaimed "take-out junkies" have a tough habit to quit.  They successfully reduce their trash including their 2 year-old daughter's disposable diapers (transitioning her to cloth).  They then reduce and practically eliminate motorized transportation of any kind including elevators (they live on the 9th floor of their apartment building), with the exception of Michelle's office which resides on the 40th+ floor of a building.

The family then moves to eating Sustainably.  After some research, they determine that all their food must come from within 250 miles.  This short distance radius means that they will become vegetarian and since they have no stockpile or deep freeze full of food from the past seasons, they will eat only vegetables and fruits that are in season.  At one point, Colin refers to himself as a 1950s housewife who cooks and bakes to sustain his family.  He talks about how different the food industry is in Europe and how fresh markets are the norm.

From the Sustainable eating phase, they move into much more challenging goals such as purchasing nothing new (used is allowed), reducing all waste (including toilet paper), cleaning products (they make their own), and eventually turn off the electricity in their apartment.  This means no refrigerator, no washing machine, no dishwasher, etc.

Overall the book speaks to the great emphasis that we have on Consumerism in the United States.  Early on in the project, the family gets rid of their television.  Colin's wife Michelle is addicted to reality television.  They determine that the television is the enemy in the living room that feeds consumerism by the plethora of commercials or ads that we are exposed to everyday.  We are a society that thrives on disposable goods of every kind from paper products to appliances with life expectancies of only 5 years . . . then off to the landfill.  Colin talks about how scarce fresh water will become in the coming years and the overall impacts on the environment and Global Warming.

All I can say is what a absolutely inspiring book.  While I found myself at times laughing at Colin's discoveries, such as his realization that Organic produce travels many times farther than regular produce.  That local farmer's, even though they may not have the USDA Organic Label, are many times producing animals or crops in an truly Organic way.  These are discoveries that we have made over the years in our personal quest to live and raise our children in a environmentally friendly way.

This book really makes me believe that we can all be doing so much more.  What an inspiration as we move into 2012 and as my family thinks about what we want to accomplish this coming year.

There is also a DVD:  No Impact Man which is a great accompaniment to the book.  I read the book first and then my husband and I watched the DVD documentary together.  It profiles Colin, Michelle and Isabella on their journey through the year long project.

DVD:  No Impact Man

As the news stories go: "Colin Beavan is a liberal schlub who got tired of listening to himself complain about the world without ever actually doing anything about it" Thus, in November, 2006, Beavan launched a year-long project in which he, his wife, his two-year-old daughter and his four-year-old dog went off the grid and attempted to live in the middle of New York City with as little environmental impact as possible. The No Impact project has been the subject of stories in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and many other national and international news outlets. Beavan has appeared on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America, Nightline, The Montel Show, and all the major NPR shows. He speaks regularly to a wide variety of audiences, is frequently quoted in the press and consults to business on the intersection of sustainability and human quality of life. 

Note:  Some of the links referenced in this post are my referral links.  You can read Saving Family Green's Material Connection Disclosure Policy here.

No comments: