No Impact Man: Film Review

NoImpactManCould you live one year without electricity, toilet paper, toothpaste, or your car? One New York City man embarked on this seemingly impossible journey with his family. The results were filmed for the documentary No Impact Man, which opened at the Crest Theater yesterday. The film compliments the best-selling book by the same name.

Colin Beavan is a history writer with an environmental worldview. When he realizes that his lifestyle doesn’t live up to his own expectations, and that his writing falls short of fully expressing his passions, he embarks on the potentially crazy adventure of becoming No Impact Man: diminishing his environmental footprint. His wife, at first begrudgingly, must join him for the wild ride along with their toddler daughter.

The family’s goal: stop producing garbage; eat only what can be found at the local farmers’ market; eliminate their carbon footprint by traveling only by bike (no cars, planes, or buses); use environmentally-friendly and homemade cleaning products; go off the power grid; and participate in environmental action groups. A giant undertaking!  

In the beginning, Michelle (the wife) vocalizes her many discomforts with their chosen lifestyle. She’s forced to give up coffee, an addiction she clearly enjoys many times per day. Because they can’t buy coffee locally, it is stricken from the family’s list of allowed products. When her husband brings home a worm-filled compost bin, her distaste is apparent. Her reactions stand in stark contrast to her daughter’s, whose innocent wonder at all their new experiments calms Michelle and adds depth of meaning to the film.

The documentary is less educational than heartwarming. You won’t be moved to rush home and turn off all your power. You won’t learn how to mix your own cleaning products. You’ll want to read the book, or follow Beavan’s blog for that. Yet, what the blog and book lack, the film provides—the impact this lifestyle has on the family.

Living without power, relying only on home cooked meals, and lacking any form of transport beyond their bicycles all collide in a happy outcome: bringing the family closer together. Without the television, they find themselves playing cards together by candlelight. Without a plane ticket, they’re drawn to find hideaways in the city, like the unpopulated beach they stumble upon, or the public fountain where their daughter gleefully splashes. Colin and his daughter learn to grow food in a public garden. Michelle, who has never cooked, begins to explore the kitchen. The family’s health improves. They become more active in their community.

This is a feel-good documentary that brings home the idea that less is truly more.

Four Stars!

2 thoughts on “No Impact Man: Film Review”

  1. This sounds like something I’d enjoy seeing. I hadn’t heard of this film or book previously, so I’m excited to see that it’s playing at a local theater and can’t wait to check it out! Well-written review I might add 🙂


  2. Thanks for the kudos, Jessica! I hope you like the documentary. Plus, check out his blog. On Nov. 15 they’re doing a nation-wide day of action. I’ll be writing about it for SacRag.


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