EcoIcons: Reading Colin Beavan's "No Impact Man"

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I recently finished reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. I suspect you've heard of it? Just in case... a few years ago it was "kind of a big deal." A writer from NYC (and his wife and baby) spends a year trying a myriad of ways for his family to live with zero net environmental impact. He made national news. He made the talk shows. There was a documentary. But the heart of the project was that he wanted to write a book on what he learned.

I watched the documentary a while back. It was interesting/good. Maybe that is one of the reasons I was lackadaisical about getting around to reading the book? (I already knew the plot, I felt.) Well. I should have read it sooner.  It's not very long and it flows well to make a quick and interesting read. For me, the book is a solid home run. I wish I'd read it sooner. In some ways, it was not at all what I expected.

I expected the bits about why we should try to do better for the environment. I expected the parts where he talks about what measures he undertook, and the parts where we find out if those measures were difficult or enjoyable. I did not expect intensely personal storytelling. I did not expect such deep, philosophical speculation.

In the end, I learned a little bit. But I thought a lot. And I felt more inspired than I anticipated.

At work, I like to keep a few special books. These books serve a purpose for me. If I am feeling uninspired and selfish, or even bored; when I don't want to work or have trouble focusing, I pick these books up, flip to a random page, and read just a little bit. When I do that, I am hoping that these books remind me of my priorities and my values. I am hoping they remind me that I didn't come to work to entertain myself, but to accomplish Something Good. I am hoping they keep me grounded and focused. These books are thoughtful and quotable and give my brain something to chew on, in little bits. No Impact Man is going on that book shelf. I might buy a second one to have as a loaner.

So here's a little quote for you to chew on this Earth Day, one which the author decided was the moral of the story:

"I got too paralyzed by this question of whether I was the type of person who could make a difference. Finally, during the year of the project, I realized that's the wrong question. The real question is whether I'm the type of person who wants to try."

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