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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Best Read of 2009: No Impact Man

Somewhere along the line I became enamored of Facebook's Library application and I started neglecting to talk about books I had been reading here. This is the book I ended the year encouraging everyone to read, in person, and I probably shouldn't neglect leaving a record of that recommendation here.

I was so encouraged by this book, I read it twice in row. Once on my own and then out loud with my daughters. Hubby read it and became a fan, as well.

In short, No Impact Man is about a writer from NYC who decides to spend a year making as little impact on the environment as possible. In a test of extremes, he and his wife go all out to determine if it is possible to live happily without contributing to the detriment of the world.

They stop using elevators, they only move about the city by their own power, they stop participating in activities that create trash and consuming products that are, in any way, harmful to the environment. All in all, the experiment is fascinating and makes for a good read, but the lesson I walked away from this book with was really something other than what I had expected.

Sure, I want to continue to do my best to live a low impact lifestyle. I know there is much more that can be done and I expect to continue making lifestyle changes for the better rather than for the worse. But the thing that really impressed me about this book were the questions about how we spend our time and why we (as a culture) prioritize the things we do.

It goes much further than a "keeping up with the Joneses" mindset, though that's the basic idea. But for me, the questions about happiness and what we stand to gain from human connection were much more powerful. It was an illustration of tuning in to the world around you rather than finding excuses to tune out, embracing rather than avoiding.

I loved this story and I loved the feeling of optimism I was left with when I finished reading the pages of this book. I think for some, the extremes of the experiment might be a little too much to take. But the end message is not about doing it all, just about doing what you can. Doing something. Making small differences in your own way and asking questions about the way you choose to spend your time.


bs said...

My two bits: stopped buying paper towels, at home and work, use old cloth towels and wash them. If can read it online, stopped all snail mail versions. Recycle what I can.
Hoping makes a little difference?

Tracy said...

BS -- Exactly -- if everybody does a little bit, that adds up to a lot. Better to take some action than no action at all.

But YOU are also tuned in to bigger lesson (IMO) from this book, which is about connections and asking questions about what really makes us feel happpy and fulfilled.