Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Books I'm Reading: No Impact Man

I've actually been reading books lately, wonder of wonders--I've read almost three whole books in the last three weeks! Usually I am a novel type of girl all the way, but I have gotten more and more into non-fiction the last few months. One that I have just read is called No Impact Man: Saving the planet one family at a time by Colin Beavan. I was a little wary of it when I picked it off the library shelf; there seem to be a lot of books lately that are basically "do something for a year, blog about it, turn that into a book, get lots of publicity", and there is a little cynical part of me that questions people's motives about those sort of things. But that is not very charitable of me, and I figured at the very least it would have a few pointers for greener living, so I thought why not?

And I am really glad I read it. The basic gist of it is that Beavan decides to spend one year, with his wife and toddler, making as little impact on the environment as possible. He starts off knowing next to nothing about how to do this and therefore learns as he goes, gradually making changes to his lifestyle. This seems a pretty sensible way to do things--you can't cut out everything at once, and it seems a bit silly to research things (i.e. learn how simple changes could make big differences) but not actually implement them until some arbitrary date in the future. But it does lead to some humorous / annoying occurrences. For example, the very first stage is to make no trash, which he chose with the mistaken assumption that he would be easing his way into things. Then he goes and has an existential crisis on day one over blowing his nose, and I am just thinking "Handkerchief. Handkerchief. HANDKERCHIEF!!" I mean, come on, that one's obvious, right? Apparently not to Beavan.

Overall, it was a good book, though. He did well to give background about why it is important to make less trash / use less water and electricity / travel more sustainably and how it works in a real-life family, in both good and bad ways. My favourite part was the continual focus on people and how we choose to live our lives. I sometimes get turned off by sections of the environmental brigade because they seem to want to save the planet for the planet's sake, not in order to improve the lives of the people living on the planet. I'm sorry, but I don't think the Earth would be better off if humans didn't exist. Living the best life possible seems to be at the centre of this book, and leaving the world in such a state that our grandchildren can do the same. That doesn't mean having the most stuff, but finding out what parts of modern life are adding to our lives and what are taking away from them, on both an individual and societal level.

It is all about intentional living, which I love. I'm not all about doing things just because that is the way they have always been done. I want to choose the path that is best for myself and my family, that brings us the most joy and peace in our lives. Of course, having the time, knowledge and resources to make these types of decisions about our lives is a luxury that not everyone has. The ideas behind this are touched on some in the book in the discussion of individual action versus political and corporate action. It shouldn't be "versus", but rather "in conjunction with", as both are important. For instance, I can do my part to help keep our waterways clean by purchasing certain cleaning products, but really, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors shouldn't be in our personal care products in the first place!

I wouldn't want to do what Beavan did for the book. But it has made me think more about how I can lessen my impact and, more surprisingly, examine what it is that I really want out of life.

I am *hoping* to do another post this week detailing some of the green things that I have been inspired to implement because of this book, so watch this space!

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