Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books campaign: No Impact Man

This review is part of the
Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

The book we review on the Green Books campaign is:

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

Author: Colin Beavan

Beavan is a PhD electronic engineer (University of Liverpool). He spent the late 80s and early 90s as a consultant to philanthropic organizations such as social housing providers, drug treatment agencies and hospitals, helping them to promote themselves in order to secure increasingly scarce, Thatcher-era funding.

In 1992 Beavan returned to the United States and wrote for magazines until Hyperion published his first book Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science (a popular history of criminology) in 2001. In 2006, Viking published his second book, Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America’s First Shadow (about the operation that formed the precedent for U.S. anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan).

He is director of the No Impact Project, a visiting scholar at NYU, an advisor to the University’s Sustainability Task Force, and sits on the board of directors of New York City’s Transportation Alternatives and on the advisory council of Just Food.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Published on:
September 2009

What this book is about? (from the publisher's website)
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. 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.

What we think about it?

I thought that a good preparation for reading the book would be to watch again "The Story of Stuff". At the end of this excellent 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, Anne Leonard who narrates it is saying "let's create something new". Colin Beavan definitely tried to do that in his one year experiment, which he writes about in his book.

Both the story of Stuff and the No Impact Man project are actually a mirror of our society and what we see there is not a pretty picture. We see a rat race that is ruining the planet and the same time doesn't provide us the happiness and good life we expect to have out of it. Beavan is looking to change it , adopting the wood-harvesting philosophy of the Menominee tribe of "living happily, taking from the planet what it can sustainably offer and not taking what it can't."

He is not a hippie. No sir. He might be a rebel, but he is a rebel living in New York, which makes everything a bit more realistic for the average urban reader. It's true that some of Beavan's experiences describes in the book might be too extreme for some of us, and for him as well, as he explores his limits with electricity for example and finds out that life can be too difficult without using a washing machine. But at the same time, he teaches us a very important lesson on how we tend to blame everyone else in not doing enough to fight global warming, politicians, businesses and even family members and friends, but we rarely look inside and see how much we contribute to it with our daily life routine, the same one Beavan tries to drastically change.

This book is a fascinating journey, both personal and social, and you learn so much not only about the Beavan family, but also about yourself and the society you live in. What I liked about it even more is that he finds a perfect balance between providing us with facts, philosophical ideas and historic perspective and keeping the story interesting and funny and avoiding from making it just one of those "how-to" educational guides.

For me this book was a perfect choice for our green books campaign not only because it is printed responsibly on 100% post-consumer recycled paper and cardboard and processed without chlorine, but also because Colin Beavan believes we can make a difference, and this is what this campaign is all about.

Bottom line: Written with wit wisdom and two feet on the ground, this book is far from being an urban green fantasy and has and is greatly recommended!

Disclosure: We received a copy of this book from the publisher.


We're giving away our review copy of the book, courtesy of the publisher, and of course a tree will be planted for the copy!

How you can win? Please add a comment below and share with us what's the most extreme sacrifice you did to green up your lifestyle. Submissions are accepted until Tuesday, November 17, 12PM EST. The winner will be announced the following day.

If you're looking for other interesting green-themed books, you are invited to check out our
green books page on Eco-Libris website's green resources section.
Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!


Charlotte said...

gosh. It's hard to know what other people would think is most "extreme." But here goes: I keep a bucket in the shower, to catch the water before it gets hot, so as to use it for toilet flushing, which is fairly reasonable, but I take this to extremes, and am very careful to squeeze the water out of my hair after I'm done into the bucket, so as not to waste it.

James said...

ooh, well, here goes - I pee in a plastic bottle, which goes on the compost. Not only does it save on flushing the loo (and water is a precious resource here in the UK, Israel, where we've just moved from, and anywhere in the world, no matter how much or how little rainfall), but it helps rapid decomposition of all the good things in the compost bin.

Reccomended for all true greenies!

Serena said...

no need to enter me in the giveaway, but this sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the green book review.

Mary Preston said...

I ask all the male members of the family to pee around the lemon tree. The tree loves it but the bugs don't. Save water, save the lemons.

Elsie said...

I need this book for ideas, my recycling efforts are my main helpful activity.... would love to read this intelligent, creative narrative on recycled paper, about helping our home, our planet to survive!


JodyLynn said...

The most extreme would have to be I gave up eating animal flesh, consuming dairy and processed foods. I am now a raw vegan and feel the best I ever have in my life!

Jennifer T. said...

I wouldn't call this "extreme" but I use cloth napkins instead of paper to reduce what goes into the landfill.

miller lawn service said...

I'm afraid we're not very extreme yet. But we did go the cloth diaper route with our third child and I'm committed to finding new ways to go green in the future. Thanks!