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

Colin Beavan




Trade Paperback

288 Pages


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When the guilt about his high-impact lifestyle finally got to Colin Beavan, he swore off plastic, went organic, became a bicycle fanatic, turned off his power, and devoted himself to saving the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe. The liberal New Yorker dragged his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride. And that's just the beginning. 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 . . .

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.

To enhance the No Impact Man reading, Colin's No Impact Project will work with your university to coordinate an experiential learning program called the No Impact Experiment. Colin's team will customize a program for your campus, adding a tremendous value to the students' reading experience and classroom work. In addition to making the book come alive outside the classroom, it will also serve as an introduction to your schools' green practices and resources. This week-long carbon cleanse gives students a chance to see what no-impact living is like. Visit to find out how it works.


Praise for No Impact Man

"No Impact Man would be a beneficial text for first-year or transfer students as part of a common reading program. Selected books should be an appropriate reading level for first-year students and of reasonable length . . . At 274 pages, the text is far from daunting. While it deals with environmental issues, Beavan's book should not be considered solely as a proselyte text. Rather, the author's wit and personal anecdotes serve to entertain readers and engage them into its larger purpose in terms of questioning their view of civic duty and personal responsibility. The criteria for selecting a book for a common reading program may include the following relevant themes for first-year students: connecting to the university community, persisting, overcoming obstacles, dealing with change (new people and places), acknowledging and dealing with different points of view, setting and achieving goals, and providing inspirational messages . . . No Impact Man not only meets all of these criteria, but it effectively holds readers' interest and sparks discussions on many diverse topics, from the environment to economic conditions to personal wellness . . . No Impact Man provides plenty of content for discussions and inspiration to help first-year students progress towards these goals of a common reading program . . . Rich in polemic content, No Impact Man is a great tool to spark discussion and help first-year students develop intellectual competence by exercising their critical thinking skills. The book brings into focus many of the current national and global environmental dilemmas, economic concerns, and moral issues lending students plenty of opportunities for the ‘practice of academic freedom and the potential of open debate' . . . Plenty of discussion topics arising from this text allow students to examine dual or contrasting viewpoints on current affairs. This lends to opportunities for discussion, writing exercises, and research, if desired . . . In addition to academia, university life includes being ‘informed about current events' (Liljequist & Stone, 2009, p. 100). As first-year students transition into the adult world, Beavan's text can help them to become aware of contemporary issues that are part of the ‘post-high school' world. Students will likely not be overwhelmed by the exposure to current events as Beavan's discussion on environmental concerns is buffered by the simplicity of his writing style and language, which is conversational and exoteric. The increased awareness will help students to make informed decisions concerning the environment, personal health, and economy . . . Beavan's text also inspires individuals to consider leadership roles within their community . . . This message is in keeping with the goals of a common reading program, which fosters interaction and involvement in campus and community activities. Beavan's lifestyle experiment and the lessons he learned from his ‘year of inquiry' (p. 15) can inspire first-year college students as they endeavor to shape their identity . . . Besides being able to relate to Beavan's experiences in terms of examining one's identity, first-year students may also discuss ways in which the author overcomes his insecurities . . . Gaining an increased awareness of environmental and social issues will help first-year students to begin the journey to developing multicultural awareness. Beavan's book talks about not only national issues, but global implications of individuals' actions. He stresses the significance of shifting one's thinking from self to a collective experience . . . No Impact Man provides an opportunity for discussing how the first-year students can deal with their increased personal responsibilities and be mindful of their actions which could impact the welfare of citizens in their greater community . . . As a common reader, Beavan's text has the potential for providing plenty of relevant material for discussion and program-related activities . . . Entertaining and informative, No Impact man can offer first-year students a fresh perspective on their roles and responsibilities in the new community."—Samvedna Dean, Managing Editor, The Journal of College Orientation and Transition

"Beavan pose[s] some serious questions: What can each of us do to improve the environment? How hard is it to change your lifestyle so that it's more sustainable over the long haul? To make a difference, do lifestyle changes have to be drastic? . . . In point of fact, a household can make changes that have a big planetary payoff without affecting the lifestyle at all . . . The plot line to this story is energy use and its connection to global warming."—Katherine Salant, The Washington Post

"No Impact Man is a deeply honest and riveting account of the year in which Colin Beavan and his wife attempted to do what most of us would consider impossible. What might seem inconvenient to the point of absurdity instead teaches lessons that all of us need to learn. We as individuals can take action to address important social problems. One person can make a difference."—Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat

"There's much honest soul-searching in No Impact Man, along with Buddhist wisdom and humor and oodles of grim statistics about consumption and waste. Neither a scold nor a bore, this reluctant zealot wants to live deliberately, to find 'some sort of middle path between the self-indulgence of the unconscious consumer and the self-denial of the ascetic.' The path's not easy to find, but at least he's looking."—Chris Tucker, The Dallas Morning News

"Colin Beavan has the disarming and uniquely remedial ability to make you laugh while he's making you feel like a swine, and what's more, to make you not only want to, but to actually do something, about it."—Norah Vincent, author of Voluntary Madness

"There's something of Thoreau in Colin Beavan's great project—but a fully engaged, connected, and right-this-minute helpful version. It's a moment when we need to have as little impact in our own lives as possible—and as much impact in our political lives as we can possibly muster. Beavan shows how!"—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"No Impact Man is a subversive book--not because it preaches a radical environmental agenda, but because it gives the secret to personal rebellion against the bitterness of a man's own compromises."—Arthur Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness

"The No Impact Experiment changed Colin Beavan and reading No Impact Man will change you."—Annie Leonard, creator of "The Story of Stuff"

"From their first baby steps (no takeout) to their giant leap (no toilet paper), the Beavans' experiment in ecological responsibility was a daunting escapade in going green . . . So fervent as to make Al Gore look like a profligate wastrel, Beavan's commitment to the cause is, nonetheless, infectiously inspiring and uproariously entertaining."—Booklist

"With thorough research, Beavan updates his blog with convincing statistical evidence, while discovering new ways to reduce consumption and his family's environmental footprint . . . An inspiring, persuasive argument that individuals are not helpless in the battle against environmental degradation and global warming."—Kirkus Reviews

"Beavan captures his own shortcomings with candor and wit and offers surprising revelations . . . [Readers] will mull over his thought-provoking reflections and hopefully reconsider their own lifestyles."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads




  • No Impact Week at Denison University

    For a week, Olivia Aguilar's Environmental Studies 101 class entered a world with no plastic water bottles, no paper towels, no food waste, and no carbon footprint. For one week, the class attempted to have as little impact on the environment as possible. The week-long experience draws inspiration from the book "No Impact Man"in which author Colin Beavan spends an entire year learning to carry on everyday life with little or no environmental impact.

  • Introduction to the No Impact Experiment

    Based on the sucess of No Impact Man, Colin Beavan has created the No Impact Experiment for others to assess and reduce their carbon footprint.

  • No Impact Man by Colin Beavan--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Colin Beavan's book 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. What does it really take to live eco-effectively? For one year, Colin Beavan swore off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, became a bicycle nut, and tried to save the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his young daughter and his Prada-wearing wife a



  • Colin Beavan

  • Colin Beavan is the author of two previous books that have absolutely nothing to do with the environment: Fingerprints: The Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science and Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, and he posts regularly at He lives in New York City.

  • Colin Beavan
    Colin Beavan


    Colin Beavan

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