No Impact Man

In between sips from his recycled peanut butter jar-turned-water bottle, Colin Beavan described his No Impact Man experiment and passion for the environment. On Wednesday, March 17th, a student-filled lecture hall at Boston College listened intently to his simple mission: to experiment with ways to live a happier, healthier life by doing less harm and contributing more good to the planet. His method was a little bit more difficult: to live for a year with as little environmental impact as possible.

Beavan’s family also participated in the experiment, including his wife, Michelle, 2-year-old daughter, Isabella, and dog, Frankie. They embarked on their yearlong journey in November of 2006, and broke the experiment up into three stages: living without creating garbage, producing the least amount of impact in regards to food choices, and consuming only what was necessary and sustainable.

While living in New York City, their goal was to produce no net impact on the environment by reducing their negative impact and increasing their positive impact on the planet and in their community. As Beavan puts it in his blog, “No trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets.” And yes, the rumors are true—no toilet paper, either (he comically declined the invitation to comment further on that subject matter during his presentation at Boston College). As for increasing their positive impact, Beavan’s family did things like help clean the banks of the Hudson River and giving money to charity.

Beavan’s project has had significant influence. He claims that his family’s attempt at living a “no impact” life for a year has led to greater happiness, health, and financial wealth than he had ever expected. Not only has it had personal effects, but Beavan began a blog at that has had tremendous success. According to his site, 1.8 million people have visited the blog since its establishment, with an average of 4,000 page views every day and 10,000 subscribers to email and news. The site prompts open discussion on environmental issues. He invites anyone and everyone to participate in this discussion and in creating a world in which more good is done than harm. Visit the No Impact Man site (listed at the bottom of this article) to learn more about the project and click on the “Get a Happier Life!!!” link on the page to view suggestions on how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Beavan’s entire project, including his book and recent movie (both entitled No Impact Man), has brought public attention to issues such as food system and material sustainability, climate change, water resources, and energy resource exhaustion. Beavan makes one point clear, that as much as he would like to change people and mold the world into what he thinks is right (wouldn’t we all?), his mission is to first work on himself. He speaks only for himself, showing respect for opinions differing from his own. Regardless of whether or not we agree with all of Beavan’s political and personal views, we can all admire at least one thing about him: Beavan actually lives out his values. He saw an area in our society where he believed change was needed and proceeded to work to make it better. He’s taking action in a way that inspires himself and others, which is something that we all can do, wherever our passions lie.


To learn more about Colin Beavan and his No Impact Man project, visit:


To see the trailer for the No Impact Man movie, visit:


Featured picture was taken by user Neokrisys on Our use is permitted according to the Creative Commons liscence. The original picture can be found at

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