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 No Impact Man, a guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, and generally becomes a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons–loving wife along for the ride. And that's just the beginning. In other words, no trash, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no air-conditioning, no television . . .
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or can our culture reduce the barriers to sustainable living so it becomes as easy as falling off a log? These are the questions at the heart of this whole mad endeavor, via which Colin Beavan hopes to explain 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.
Beavan (Fingerprint) chronicles his yearlong effort to leave as little impact on the environment as possible. Realizing that he had erred in "thinking that condemning other people's misdeeds somehow made virtuous," he makes a stab at genuine (and radical) virtue: forgoing toilet paper and electricity, relinquishing motorized transportation, becoming a locavore and volunteering with environmental organizations. Beavan captures his own shortcomings with candor and wit and offers surprising revelations: "lower resource use won't fill the empty spaces in my life, but it is just possible that a world in which we already suffer so much loss could be made a little bit better if husbands were kinder to their wives." While few readers will be tempted to go to Beavan's extremes, most will mull over his thought-provoking reflections and hopefully reconsider their own lifestyles.