No Impact Man: The Documentary. Abandoning Consumption, this NY Family Lives a Year Without Harming the Environment

“What if we called it the year I lost 20 pounds without going to the gym once?  Or the year we didn’t watch TV and became much better parents as a result?  Or the year we ate locally and seasonally and it ended up reversing my wife’s pre-diabetic condition?”  -Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man

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No Impact Man came out in 2009.  It’s a fascinating, multifaceted story.  Simply put, a man goes on a mission to see what it’s like to live a whole year without any negative impact on the environment.  In the middle of New York City, Colin Beavan experiments with a zero carbon footprint lifestyle, stringing along his wife and young daughter.  They give up driving, eating out, toilet paper, Pampers, coffee, plastic anything, etc.  As a family, they struggle and they fight, but they are ultimately brought closer together.  I finally got to watch No Impact Man last night (it streams on Netflix, fyi).

The root of No Impact Man is the journey of a family that tries to live a zero-impact lifestyle in our consumer world.  They give up air travel and driving, they compost and practice zero waste, they only eat local food grown within 250 miles, and they live without electricity for six months (minus one solar panel that power’s Beavan’s laptop).  But the conflicts behind No Impact Man run much deeper then a green lifestyle, and they provide for some serious eco-entertainment.  First off, Beavan questions the nature of his own experiment, and whether his extreme measures are something the public can actually learn from.  Is he going too far to be considered a legitimate resource?  The family deals with celebrity, and consequently, hate.  The project makes national news quickly, and before you know it, even environmentalists attack Beavan for being irrational and giving them a bad name, and the family is only left to wonder, “Why all the hate?”  And underneath it all, we see a conflict unfold in the Beavan family.  Can Beavan’s wife, Michelle, a self-proclaimed lover of take-out food, new styles, and all things consumption, survive a year without clothes shopping or her favorite latte from Starbucks?  Ultimately, the storyline of No Impact Man builds on itself, and the lessons the Beavan family learn from this experiment develop and unfold throughout their remarkable year.  No Impact Man is a documentary that will undoubtedly make an environmental impact on you and leave you appreciating the Beavan family for their struggles and successes.

For more on No Impact Man, visit Beavan’s blog here.

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