book inspiration: no impact man results in much impact for this girl

Most people in my life know that I love books and places that have books. When I had moved to Harrisburg after college, one of the first things I did was walked to the library to get myself a library card. When I had been in San Francisco the first time by myself staying in a new neighborhood, one of the first things I explored on a walk one day was the library and a local bookstore. However, what some people may not know is that while I love books, including the smell of books, especially library books (kinda weird, I know), is that I have difficulty reading just one book at a time. This difficulty of mine results in reading multiple books at one time which has led to half-read books sitting on my bookshelf. But since finishing graduate school, I’ve begun to visit the library more frequently. And, I have also begun to read books from start to finish one at a time (sometimes two). Perhaps I have been more inclined to read a book start to finish because the library only permits a person to renew a book so many times, however, whatever the case may be, the books that I have read recently have become much more influential and impactful in my life. This may sound crazy, but lately I feel that these books that I have read knew what I needed to hear and be exposed to all along. Do any avid readers out there or even non-avid readers ever feel that something or someone in a book understood them in ways others were unable to do? Someone please say “yes.” I hope I am not alone on this one…

The most recent book I read is titled No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. This book was recommended to me by a dear friend and fortunately, I was able to borrow a copy from the library. Unfortunately, it is a book I am sad to return because there are so many quotes I know I’ll want to refer back to at some point. It’s also a book that shared a way to begin approaching appreciating life that I’ll want to and have been adapting to my own life in small ways. No Impact Man is an honest and vulnerable account of the year Colin Beavan and his family experimented in their attempt to live without making any net impact on the environment. What sounds like a crazy idea at first turned into a journey where in the process of shrinking their ecological footprint, not without hardships I might add, came a revelation of the possibilities and limitations for obtaining intentional relationships, simplicity, and happiness in an economy that falsely suggests and encourages our desires are limitless resulting in material excess.

This afternoon I spent time writing down quotes and statistics that were incorporated throughout the book that brought to light (for me) the importance and reality of how each of our lifestyles are affecting the planet. Did you know that on average Americans produce 4.6 pounds of trash per day? Or that every minute, nine football fields of trees in the Amazon rain forest are mowed down? Scary, right? Beavan asks himself the question we should all be asking ourselves: Am I willing to try? He says, “So whether it’s human nature of industrial systems that need to change, when it comes to saving the world, the real question is not whether I can make a difference. The real question is whether I am willing to try.”  Beavan writes and I ask myself and now you, why is it so easy to believe and assume that the purpose of life is to get a good job and a good salary and a good box to live in and another good box to ride in and hope that the boxes will keep you safe from everything?

Is the way to happiness to fulfill MY desires? I want this…I want that…Who is this “I?” Why does this “I” live? Beavan asks, “If the pleasures we seek are not permanent, then how important are they?”

Here’s another of Beavan’s ideas that I found thought-provoking: “If we can have better and better cell phones, but they are not accompanied by better and better understanding of ourselves and our place in this universe, can we really say that we have progressed?”

I don’t incorporate the quotes above and ask the questions I do above as a guilt trip. While I admit that I often found myself feeling guilty or struggling with how to incorporate even in the smallest of ways to begin to live a life that wastes less and appreciates more, what I took from Beavan’s own journey is one of patience, forgiveness, and courage to go and do what may appear to others (at first) as radical actions. For all of the many times I have not gone and done something because I felt that my little action would not make a difference, I will now forever be reminded of a quote from the Bhagavad Gita that Beavan highlights: “To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.” Or in Beavan’s words…”Just do it!”

I truly believe that if we each begin to become more intentional in understanding how we use our planet’s resources, perhaps along the way, we will find that we are wasting less life.



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