Blog Undefined: Can we save the world by using less?

Instead of switching to a more environmentally friendly car, what if we didnt drive cars?  What if we tried NOT to have an impact?  What would that be like?

Instead of switching to a more environmentally friendly car, what if we didn’t drive cars? What if we tried NOT to have an impact? What would that be like?

Alexia Kingzette, Staff Reporter


According to Mr. Webster

  1. to fix firmly by or as if by packing or wedging: to press together
  2.  to have a direct effect or impact on : impinge on
  3.  to strike forcefully; also : to cause to strike forcefully
  4. to have an impact —often used with on
  5. to impinge or make contact especially forcefully

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan is the story of how one writer in New York City tried to save the world.  The book’s cover itself states: “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.”

So you know if you weren’t too lazy to read all of that, right off the bat he feels in some way guilty about how we live. Understandably, let me make this clear:  almost everyone on the planet knows humans just kind of suck.  Excuse my wording but I wanted to make my point as clear as possible.  I don’t get why everyone thinks this some newfound idea.

It’s emphasized in every environmental book I read, that we are destroying the planet on which we live and all the consequences are our own fault. Everyone has all these ideas on how to do better: car pool, eat organic, use less paper, buy different light bulbs.  And yet, no one ever asks:  why do we just NOT use a car?  Why do we just NOT find uses for paper?

Why do we just NOT try to have a negative effect period? That’s what Colin, his wife Michelle, his toddler Isabella, and their dog Frankie set out to do. They do the unthinkable.  They try living for an entire year without making any net negative impact on the environment. Not only is he trying to make no technical impact on the environment but also make an impact on how the rest of us do things.

This means no cars (biking a lot), no power or air conditioning, no industrial food (go organic), no trash, no toxins, no subway, no elevator, and so on.  Now you would think he must have already been somewhat prepared for this adventure but you’re sadly mistaken. The biggest surprise for me was the fact that Beavans’ family, previous to his experiment, ate takeout food literally almost every day. They used tons of excess packaging that wasn’t necessary. A big question for Colin was whether living greener could not only make the Earth happier, but also himself happier.

Beavan comes to the realization that not only do we have to give up a lot, but we also have to think about fairly distributing the things we do have, like clean water and modern technology.

While Beavan does many things I could never do, it did make me think:  what if I had to do it?  What if I had to give up my favorite shampoo?  Maybe it won’t matter because how hair looks will be something the world won’t care about. I think that’s something that is crucial. We either have to change or we’ll be forced to change. By the time we have to it could already be too late. Something I really got out of this story was that Beavan focuses on living a real life. I’ve read books on food and society but they often seemed a little farfetched.  Beavan makes changes that could be done, even if they are extreme.  At least they could be tried.

So, am I a hypocrite?  I sure couldn’t do some of (most of) the things Colin and his family did.  Could you?

At the end of his book, Beavan directly asks, “So what are you going to do?”

Besides making me feel awful about myself, he had a point.  If he he could survive a year without eating out, without T.V. and so much more, couldn’t I do something?  I don’t think it is appropriate to go the extremes he went to, but I do believe the book kind of guilts the reader into trying to make better choices not just for the environment’s sake but the sake of society.  And the book asks:  what if living simply also brought happiness?

If we all made one of the major changes Colin made, like literally everyone on the planet used one of his ideas or just a few of them, then we could be getting somewhere. One household tries not to have any waste/ garbage. One household tries not using much electric light. One doesn’t use air conditioning. Whatever it might be, if we all did something, there would be less obligation for the big guys to demand of us.

We should all just be mini no impact men.  The idea of the book was cool, and I give the Beavans’ complete props.  I just wish they didn’t waste too much paper.  (Joke!)

As Always,

p.s.  Here’s the web site for information on the No Impact project and Beavan in general.