No Impact Man

   By drodriguez  Sep 14, 2008

You may have heard news of a New York City family in the midst of a yearlong experiment in which they have dramatically changed the way they eat, travel, entertain, and ultimately live their lives. Their story has been featured everywhere from the New York Times to Comedy Central’s satirical Colbert Report. It comes as no surprise that there will be a book and movie deal in this family’s near future.

Colin Beavan, Michelle Conlin, and their 2 year-old daughter Isabella have been following an ever evolving set of rules in order to live a self-described “no net impact” lifestyle.

Mr. Beavan explains the family’s lifestyle experiment on his self-titled “No Impact Man” website with this simple equation: No impact + positive impact = zero.
What he means by this is that the family will produce as little trash as possible, cause very little carbon dioxide emissions, all the while taking part in community clean-ups and supporting environmental charities.

Some rules the family lives by include eating organically grown food that originated within a 250-mile radius from their Manhattan apartment and using a home composter to turn the little trash they produce into worm food. They also have plenty of items on their list that are forbidden, like electricity, newspapers, magazines, disposable razors, toilet paper, coffee, carbon-fueled transportation (try to imagine spending winter on your bicycle), among many other everyday things.

What do you think of this family’s efforts to go green?

Do you think their idea of an environmentally sound lifestyle is too extreme, or do you think this type of conservation is something we all need to take into consideration?

Make a Comment

susieqlvn by susieqlvn | Alvin, TX
Nov 20, 2008

What a nut case!!! I hope he wakes up before serious psychological damage is done to his daughter. I think the bottom line is that he is doing this for the attention. He needs to get over himself and bring some sense of normalcy to his family. Also, cute trick having a personal website without the use electricity. And, uh, TV interview? OK how did he get around the forbidden stuff doing an interview on TV? Like I said, he is desperately seeking attention and probably harming his young daughter in the process. Where is the wife? Is she as crazy as he is? It takes all kinds is what my grandmother would say.

christineliz by christineliz | Trumbull, CT
Dec 12, 2007

It sounds a bit extreme (and maybe tough on the kids) but who knows, maybe they'll come up with some really great ideas for sustainability or "green" living. It sounds like if it's a yearlong experiment, they recognize that it might be temporary.

I know I couldn't do it. But i'm interested to hear or read about what they learn and experience.

mackie80 by mackie80 | Maplewood, MN
Jun 30, 2007

I saw a tv interview with them and it was very interesting. As far as toilet paper, I believe they said they just go without. Don't think I could go that far. The man agreed that it was very extreme, but it was more so to prove the point that if everyone tried to cut back on their waste it would have a huge impact! Simple things like riding a bike more instead of driving (though that isn't exactly practical for people like me who have to drive 25 miles to get to the office!) could really make a difference in a place like NYC. And it's healthier.

aahleesaah by aahleesaah | San Francisco, CA
Jun 05, 2007

I think it's great that this family is doing so much for a cause they obviously strongly believe in. It's so important for each of us to strive to live our lives in a positive way as best we can and this family is doing just that. More power to them. As for "poor Isabella," humans can handle a lot of things. Our ancestors didn't have central heating and lived on a largely uncooked diet and, well, civilization didn't end.

jemappel by jemappel | Rye Brook, NY
May 29, 2007

I think what they're doing is fantastic. It's easy to be a critic and poke holes and prove that they're not perfect in their efforts. I mean, someone is trying to do something good but we have to pick something like toilet paper to show how flawed they are? A couple of the comments on this blog show how cynical we have become. The challenge with trying to live a "green life" is that our entire society is built on consumption, including the fact that most of us don't live in walking distance of our jobs and grocery stores, etc. If we ALL tried - just tried a little bit - to do what this family is doing, it would have enormous benefits to the environment and to humanity in the long run.

divadelta by divadelta | STARKVILLE, MS
May 28, 2007

Give the folks a least somebody's making an effort to try to learn how to go about saving our environment. (But that toilet paper question was legit.)

sharman421 by sharman421 | TALLAHASSEE, FL
May 26, 2007

OK, here's the BIG QUESTION: What do they use intead of toilet paper? And poor Isabella. Does she freeze in the winter and eat raw food? Or do they use clean fuel to cook their organically grown-in-polluted-manhattan veggies? I am sure the book will be printed on recycled paper. Last question: Are they Amish?

lindawall by lindawall | Colulmbia, TN
May 25, 2007

cvarano, I did go back and check the links right after I made my post. It does answer a few questions. One thing I think is interesting is they are only commited to doing this for one year. We all need to make a committment to cut down on waste all the time. With gas prices up and all we are hearing about global warming we all need to do our part for the earth. I am all for conversation. BUT; I still think this is extreme and I also think it is all coming down to this man selling a book.

cvarano by cvarano | BROOKLYN, NY
May 24, 2007

I think that if this particular family is willing to go to these great lengths to go green more power to them. I don't think this is a great way to encourage others though. If you look at all they have to go through it doesn't exactly spark motivation to follow in their example. I think families definitely need to be more environment friendly but starting small is more realistic. Also, lindawall, to answer more of your questions there is a link above to the main "no impact man" website.

lindawall by lindawall | Colulmbia, TN
May 24, 2007

How does he power his computer? Do they have jobs that use these Forbidden items. Does the food and other things they use require that the forbidden items are used? I can see that we all need to cut back on waste; but this is very extreme. Also it looks good on paper (do they use paper) but in our day and time I would say it would be very hard to do. If they needed medical help or there was a fire would they let a carbon-fueled transportation vehicle help? A lot of questions are not answered in this article.