No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

I used to be a very regular user of the local library but over the last few years, I’ve only visited intermittently with the boys and don’t think I’d borrowed a book on my own library card for some considerable time. It was only when I was doing some password housekeeping and tried to change the pin on my card earlier this year that I discovered my account had been deactivated. I’ve had it reinstated now, but it was rather a wake-up call. No wonder councils are trying to cut library services if people like me can’t be bothered to use them. So I’ve vowed to make better use of the library and will aim to visit between once a week to once every 3 weeks. My new motto is use it or lose it!

The first book I borrowed was No Impact Man: Saving the planet one family at a time by Colin Beavan. It almost jumped off the shelf at me, with my current focus on reducing waste, in particular plastic. You may find out more about the author on his website here.

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Here is the blurb.

In the growing debate over eco-friendly living, it seems that everything is as bad as everything else. Do you do more harm by living in the country or the city? Is it better to drive a thousand miles or take an airplane?

In NO IMPACT MAN, Colin Beavan tells the extraordinary story of his attempt to find some answers – by living for one year in New York City (with his wife and young daughter) without leaving any net impact on the environment. His family cut out all driving and flying, used no air conditioning, no television, no toilets. . .They went from making a few concessions to becoming eco-extremists. The goal? To determine what works and what doesn’t, and to fashion a truly ‘eco-effective’ way of life.

Beavan’s radical experiment makes for an unforgettable and humorous memoir in an attempt to answer perhaps the most important question of all: What is the sufficient individual effort that it would take to save the planet? And what is stopping us?

This book tells of how Colin, Michelle and their 18 month old daughter Isabella and dog Frankie spent a year back in 2007 living as environmentally as possible. And any negative impact that they couldn’t eliminate, they would counter balance with positive impact. The initial plan was to ease themselves in gradually, starting with zero waste, no disposable products and no packaging. Followed by travelling with no carbon footprint, then food choices, consumer purchases, heating, electricity, water use, pollution. And although it was a family project, it generated huge media interest.

At this time there was lots of “greenwashing” and it was very confusing for Colin to work out what to do for the best. It starts on day one with Colin immediately feeling guilty for using paper towel to blow his nose when he wakes up, before he finds a cloth napkin in the kitchen that he can repurpose as a handkerchief. The second strike for the morning is Isabella’s disposable nappy. And so it goes on.

I was absolutely hooked reading this book. There was plenty I could relate to and lots that goes way beyond anything I’m considering, like turning their electricity off.

I highly recommend this excellent book by Colin Beavan, which is a real eye opener as to the scope of what can be achieved as regards environmentally friendly living. It is available on Amazon in both kindle or paperback format.

I’m off to look at my next library book now, a beginner’s guide to crochet. This is a craft I’ve never tried, but I’m hoping to learn how to crochet my own dish cloths. I stopped buying the ones containing microplastic like J-cloths at the beginning of this year, although still haven’t finished using up the existing roll.

In the meantime, you may see my series of blog posts documenting my journey towards a plastic free and zero waste future here.

And of course I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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18 thoughts on “No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

  1. Susan B

    I have enjoyed dipping into your posts about reducing waste but somehow missed this review. It sounds like a very interesting read. Although I enjoy a good story, I find non-fiction books both accessible and enriching. It must have taken lots of courage to be an eco extremist but bravo to Colin for doing so and bravo to his family for going along with the ride.The book has good reviews on Amazon, too.


    1. mumjd Post author

      Yes this is an amazing book, gave me a lot of ideas. Although I have to say that during lockdown so much more packaging is coming into our house again, that I don’t feel able to write a post in this area currently. Although one small win recently is I have now made apple cider vinegar from apple scraps


  2. fionajk42

    No toilets would be going too far for me! I’ve stayed at a farm with a composting toilet and it made me gag. However, the other things mentioned sound sensible.


    1. mumjd Post author

      Yes although this is specifically mentioned in the blurb, the author deflects questions on this. He only really discusses cloth nappies for their daughter


  3. shelllouiseblog

    I’m very interested in reading this book. We’re doing our best to cut our plastic usage and I’m off to read your posts about your journey to a plastic-free future.


  4. Catherine @ Story Snug

    This sounds like a really interesting read. We’re doing our best to reduce plastic and I was so excited when I saw that organic produce was being sold loose in our local supermarket today. However, I wasn’t too impressed that they only offered plastic bags and not paper :o(



  5. sarahmo3w

    This sounds like a very informative and educational read. I can’t get my head round no toilets or no electricity! Well done on using the library too. I must admit I haven’t used it since my kids were small. In the spirit of being environmentally friendly, it’s an unnecessary car journey away as it’s not near to anywhere else I would need to go.



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