For preview only. Get it at

No Impact Man

2009, Environment  -   53 Comments

No Impact ManAuthor Colin Beavan, in research for his new book, began the No Impact Project in November 2006.

A newly self-proclaimed environmentalist who could no longer avoid pointing the finger at himself, Colin leaves behind his liberal complacency for a vow to make as little environmental impact as possible for one year.

No more automated transportation, no more electricity, no more non-local food, no more material consumption no problem.

That is, until his espresso-guzzling, retail-worshipping wife Michelle and their two year-old daughter are dragged into the fray.

Laura Gabbert and Justin Scheins film provides a front row seat into the familial strains and strengthened bonds that result from Colins and Michelles struggle with this radical lifestyle change.

Ratings: 7.40/10from 5 users.

More great documentaries

53 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Harry

    reproducing (having kids) is the problem, no impact man is part of the problem, he loses all credibility

    1. Angelo

      having a child would only create a logarithmic growth pattern on the population, in the sense that 2 people have one child that child following the same 2 person 1 child principle would have an additional child, which by the time the originals persons grandchild was at an age to reproduce following social norms they would have passed away (or close to it). not to mention the effect of accidental deaths factoring in to ur death rate and influencing the growth rate of the population.

    2. pasquello

      Harry is my man. I've been reading piles of studies, books about the environmental problems. I've been listening to countless lectures and watched numberous docs. Almost no one even dares bringing up the fact that the number of people is the mother of all problems. 1832 : 1 billion 2013 : 7.2 billion. No need to be professor at Harvard University to get that one.

  2. Harry

    a man truely concerned with causing "no impact" would not have kids

  3. oQ

    I just watched this doc on Vimeo where it is available....slow, interesting, similar to a "reality show" of a family making new choices while living in the city. They take a year to try to answer the questions;
    Is it possible to have a good life without wasting so much?
    Can i live on this planet doing more good than harm?
    Can one person make a difference (or three in their case)?
    It changed their life.

  4. TimRox C

    In my opinion, making effort to trying should always be encouraged.
    And if you feel like you disagree with the way this family tried to live,
    maybe you can make your point by living in a better style than they did.
    After all.. the debate here is unnecessary, concerning the motives or the impact.
    Simply be the change you want to be, and if possible, change those around you too. But of course, you must practice before you preach.

    I believe another reason why people find this documentary frustrating is that they believe this family is a typical example to rich people who had fun in "playing green". I think this is exactly why we should work on
    promoting trade equity.
    This is true sustainability apart from the aspect of ecological friendly measures. (Of course, the doc provides a lot of gd examples of what we can do instantly in daily life)

    We are the ones who hold the power, and
    we are the ones who can and only change the destructive practices that are going on every day.
    As individuals, we must always bear in mind that we can only take/change things one step at a time, and one step is never bad because that step is indicating growth, no matter how big or small it is.

  5. Mind of Z

    A lot of criticism here but I think it's great what they're doing - even if the effect is minimal. Why? Because if everyone starts buying and using less, there is an affect.

    He uses the film to set an example - so what if he sells books which uses paper (even though he doesn't use toilet paper), if 100 people reduce their consumption of resources, that will collectively have an effect. Every one of our choices makes an impact over a lifetime. And that's the point. You don't have to give everything up, but even small changes are better than none.

  6. Bridget McDonald

    I don't think the idea was to ENFORCE this way of living within America; obviously we love our Starbuck's and SUV's too much. The idea is to promote awareness of this lifestyle and the option to live a similar the change you want to see in the world. As for enforcing this lifestyle in America or consumer societies alike...that is where none other but legislation comes into place, limits on what we as American's can or cannot do, and you all know what happens when American's rights are taken bueno.

  7. Nimeni Celebru

    The idea of the movie is good, extreme but still a good one, but it is difficult if not impossible to enforce in a consumer society, especially in the U.S.. And as long as there is economy as it is in present and the currency is harder to apply on a global scale.

  8. enpro

    the ironic thing is the best way to save the environment is to don't have kids..

  9. roycenz


  10. seth

    these ivory tower new york liberals make me sick. they are truly clueless yuppie scumbags, and they deserve each other....i cant tell you how many times i wanted to smash wifeys face with a maul hammer. before you come to the conclusion that i am one of those AM radio republican redneck types (who all should die painfully as well)i want to point out that i am not at all, my political philosophy is very left leaning...just not American pussy left. (think Leninism). like someone else said, it is overpopulation at the core of all our problems...this kind of showboating wont change a thing.

    1. Bridget McDonald

      word to that, I hear your anger towards the ignorant, phony, New York 'liberals'.

    2. Susan Donovan

      What makes people from NYC, like myself... phony exactly?

  11. Hans I.

    Thanks for a great documentary.
    I urged my students to watch it. Can't wait to hear their opinions.

  12. Blindsite

    What is wrong with all you people? Did you all miss the point of the project? It was about challenging the assumptions of consumerism. It's not about being proud or some holier than thou shtick, it's about getting people to think about what they actually need as opposed to just buying things for the sake of convience. He wasn't denouncing technology, he was seeing if he could live without it. In fact he actually realized, and pointed out, that it's not about living in austarity but finding ways to provide people with what they want in a sustainable manner. There's nothing wrong with having electricity but we should have it generated using renewable methods, like solar panels, like wind turbines, like hydro and geothermal energy. It's not about everyone going to an extreme it's about making people ask themselves "Do I really need this? And is there a more sustainable way for me to get this?"

    Yes the poor are acutely aware of how wasteful the rich are, but the rich aren't. They take their wealth for granted. So the only way to make change happen is to make them become more introspective and to reexamine their values.

  13. Reasons Voice

    @Karen. No not all Americans are like that. Most are not like that in fact. These are extremely wealthy elitist NYC hipsters. The East coasts answer to the hollywood crowd.

  14. Karen

    They were boring people. Are all US citizens so self centered and arrogant? Exactly, what was it that made them think they were all that? I find it difficult to believe they were doing everything they said they were doing when the cameras were off. The only reason she went along with the idea was for the big book pay off. He was so stressed out in the beginning of this show, I thought his eye bags might explode. Stressed out trying to be a Jones perhaps.

  15. kimdracula

    All this guy cares about is his dream, and his dream only. I hope the wife leaves him and stops following this bastard.

  16. Wayne

    Just finished watching ``No Impact Man``.

    Loved It !

  17. Reasons Voice

    HAHAHA @Whoopi; That was priceless.

  18. Steve

    Thanks for posting this Vlatko. Ironically, I was thinking about buying it and having it shipped to Japan. Now I don't need to. I was very impressed by what they did. Even though it was only one year they seem to be living much more sustainable lives then they were before. Inspiring!

  19. whoopi goldberg

    so he wont use toilet paper but seems to have no problem selling books??

    1. Gmajo

      The books were 100% printed on 100% recycled paper. He could have (and almost did) use an alternative source for the book, but chose to go with what was more cost effective and had less negative impact on the environment by using all recycled material.

  20. Aron

    I liked it. There's no doubt that the actual impact this family made was minimal when compared with the bigger picture, but I feel they were genuine in their search for inner potential. Whether you like or believe in the characters, the film makes some very solid points...especially towards the end.

    The best was the bit about corporate capitalism between Colin and his gardening mentor neighbor @ 1:09. That old dude really shut him up for a minute.

  21. the loler

    I really cant stand these wannabe green people and their nonsense. One person living green for a year = absolutely pointless. Is hat an exercise in making yourself feel better about the other 80 years of your life which you spend being one of the billions of consumers in the world today? I hope so because in terms of doing something about the enviroment its about as relevant as a drop of water in the atlantic ocean, its just an exercise in stroking your own delusional ego.

  22. southab


    You didn't watch the film and made immediate judgements on it from the intro.


  23. southab

    I just watched the video and scanned the comments. I think it was utterly admirable for someone living in a big city to take this project on.

    Nevermind living off the land or isolated in adverse conditions where your survival dictates that you have to use only what is available.

    To live in a city/climate where EVERYTHING is available 24/7 and not take advantage of every easy opportunity for comfort and desire truly depicts dedicated individuals.

    Hats off to them. Wonderful film of dedication to a project.

  24. duck

    Having been one that grew up dirt poor, I can tell you that having to live without anything at all is very different than trying it out for a short time.

  25. Angie

    wow. Am I to be labeled thus, for living in the USA? Many of the people that I know live simply and well, in the great state of Montana where respect for the natural world and people surrounding us are true. Krissto, I dont know where you live yet your comment was rude, insulting and hurtful to the point of...

  26. Krissto

    Whatever comes from USA...ignore it. That's the first step for humanity to progress...

  27. Gidz

    Inspiring. They didn't really do a hell of a lot.
    But... at the very least they got me thinking.

  28. Imightberiding

    Sorry, I tried but couldn't watch much of this. I have to agree with @Reasons Voice & @Waldo. A couple of spoiled rich kids playing a game. Why is a film made about this couple while they are only attempting to live a normal life & not actually living it. T.V. appearances, the wife smirking as she lists who she is all the while displaying no redeeming values. I'm sorry people but as Waldo said above, they call this activism while I call it normal living. What's the big deal? I know, I know ... At least they are doing something. So one year of "activism" corrects a lifetime of selfish shallow behavior?

    @Dr. Dunkleosteus, good points & suggestions to the naive or ignorant masses but to me extremely obvious & second nature. I am not trying to toot my own horn, it is always louder & carries farther when some one else does it for you. I am just put off & a bit offended as was Waldo & Reasons Voice by these "extremists".

    @Mace The same could certainly be said about him putting up with her.

  29. Hambone Littletail

    First, the eco-fascist doomsday prophet inside of me needs to get something off his chest: the NUMBER ONE, and ultimately the ONLY, way to permanently erase our footprint on this planet is to STOP BREEDING! Overpopulation is at the core of every single environmental issue facing this planet, bar none, period, end of story. It is my honest opinion that if the CEO of Exxon or Monsanto leaves this world childless (and I have no idea of the breeding habits of corporate CEOs), he has done less lasting harm to this planet than the CEO of the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society, if he leaves this world with even one, much less two or three, children. I cannot BELIEVE that "Mr. No-Impact Man" hasn't come to this basic truth; perhaps his wife's "miscarriage" was a subtle sign from Gaia to point this out to him. I am sure that this couple has heard from countless folks that there are MILLIONS of unwanted babies ready to be adopted by such fine folks.

    That off my grumpy chest, let me now say this... I give "Mr. No-Impact Man" a high-five for having the cajones to take this moral high-horse stand, and I dare any of you critics of him to try to walk in his shoes for one DAY, much less a year. The planet-wide revolution in consciousness that it is gonna take to pull this planet out of the suicidal tailspin it is on starts with PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, and I applaud him for making an effort toward that goal. I gave up my car two years ago (and I don't live in NYC) and cut my consumption of this worthless crap by approximately 90 percent (reducing my garbage pile accordingly). I am a better person for it, and this planet is a better planet for it. Of course, I have also been (unintentionally) celibate for the simple fact that NO WOMAN is going to live this lifestyle. The single toughest part of "leading by example" and "acting in the highest and best good for yourself and the planet" is the fact that NOBODY -- including your closest friends and family members -- are going to join you. Americans are simply too spoiled to wake up and smell the coffee.

    I guess the proof will be in the pudding in a few more years, when the feces hits the fan, and 95 percent of the population of New York City goes "POOF." When that happens, my guess is that "Mr. No-Impact Man's" daughter is going to be one of the few survivors who is left to carry this broken society into the next phase. Okay, I'll quit with the rant, but you can find plenty more on my Youtube page, Humptydumptytribe, if you want to find out more about living a little more lightly on this planet. Again, kudos to you, Mr. No-Impact Man.

  30. Kelton D

    No impact man " I thought gardening was suppose to be hard"

    Hippie with skullet "Ya, well I did most of the work when I f@#$%^ dug it up and layed the manure last fall"

    Couldn't stop laughing...

  31. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    Haha, touche.

  32. Reasons Voice

    @Dr. D; Oh I can agree that they did get some good out of it. But take it from someone who lives close to these people (about 10 miles from the farm they stayed at) they may be a product of their environment however they are part of what creates that environment.

  33. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    Please excuse my excitement-induced grammatical mistakes.


  34. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    I also agree with reasonsvoice and waldo, however, let's give them a little credit... they did try it for a year and came away with some positive corrections to their lifestyles.

    When you live in New York, that is your habitat. Everything around you shapes who you are. If you're surrounded by... stuff, then you'll be used to having and living with... stuff.

    I thought the man was noble in his attempt, however I thought his wife was extremely resistant to helping him or helping herself. The fact that she was flying out to see her parents and taking her daughter at the end... but not her husband indicates that there were some issues within their relationship that the experiment brought to the surface. The debate over the second child was a big rift. I don't think she handled that in an appropriate manner at all. I'm surprised they stuck with it for the whole year, seeing as how differently they approached the situation.

    Overall, I enjoyed the doc and it gave me some ideas. I love thinking about these things. Mostly because of the money-savings, but also for enviornmental reasons. Simple integrations into our current systems would be a great start and they wouldn't affect our standards of living.

    I would like to start a compost bin in my backyard, far from the house (why didn't they just hang theirs out the window!?). That would drastically cut down on waste and would provide nutrient-rich soil for a hobby garden.

    Solar panels and a wind turbine are a couple things I would love to have. The wind turbine would be extremely cheap to set up and the savings it provided would finance a couple solar panels in no time. No one has to go without electricity, in fact that is one of the more important things we almost have to have. We just need to find other ways of getting it. For everyone who runs on treadmills: get a stationary bike instead, or better yet, a real bike that can be attached to a trainer! I used to be a bicycle mechanic, so I have some clout in this area :). You could also hook up your trainer to the same battery bank as your windmill/solar panels. Exercising any other way would seem like such a waste! Imagine, people wasting electricity to exercise when you could GENERATE it! I never understand people who decide "okay, we're going to be biker riders now" and they go out and get the most ragged, heavy, rusted old bike and they wonder why they don't like riding bikes. Get a good one! Learn how to work on it! Servicing a bicycle is NOT difficult and all the tools needed can be purchased for around $100 (I've done major surgery to bikes with MUCH less at my disposal).

    Clearly, preparing your own food is a great way to save money, especially when you take advantage of farmers markets and a communal or hobby garden.

    Water usage is a lot easier to deal with than people make it out to be (for those who live in an area with regular precipitation). Just think: Why do we use tap water to flush our toilets? Do you think that our waste knows the difference? Is anyone drinking out of there? Why don't we have cisterns that collect and store rain water, perhaps with a tap backup for dry spells that we use to flush our toilets? Imagine how much that would save you on your water bill!

    You have to start out with a modern, energy efficent framework, like an energy star house and appliances, meaning: well-insulated throughout (doors, windows, attic, basement, etc.), all electric utilities, low-wattage bulbs throughout (compact fluorescents), low-flow toilets (I love the two-button design toilets that use less water for liquids and more for solids), aerators on the faucets and shower heads, etc.

    You can go on and on, but those would be the big things that wouldn't even affect your quality of life! Who likes paying bills anyway?

    People should also be living closer to where they work. THis just makes sense. If I drove my truck to work (7 days a week), it would cost me $150 dollars because it's 20 miles away. If I ride my motorcycle, it only costs $35 a week. An incredible savings! Granted, it can't be done year-round, but for the months that it's possible, it's the best way to travel. Bicycling within 5 miles of your house is completely doable. For most people this puts them in range of their local grocery store, outlet mall, and friend's house. Again, it's not ideal for long distances or inclimate weather, but for when the days are nice, it's gret exercise and free transportation without having to wait for a bus.

    I know I'm going on a rant so I'll stop here, but an efficent lifestyle is extremely easy to create and maintain, it just takes a little creativity and inital effort to get into the routine, then it's smooth sailing!

  35. Reasons Voice

    The only positive in all of this is that the little girl got to actually get outside.

  36. ProudinUS

    Living life like our forefathers did centuries ago...I don't know.

    1) No electricity
    2) No packaged "meals in a box"
    3)Huffing it on foot with no energy propelled means of getting from point A to point B.(No way!)
    4) No TV,phone, computer and the best invention ever made......the microwave.

    Living off the land with no luxuries(in my oppinion) won't be accepted in our lazy/spoiled life style of every day wants/needs.
    Recycling/conserving is almost a myth in alot of envirnments.Alot of us are to lazy to seperate our aluminum into a seperate bags and bring them in to BE recycled.

    This doc.was a test of will power then anything else. It's sad that their motives and experiments will go in one ear and out the other. Even if they are making a positive impact on the enviroment.(you can tell by their own strain sin the experiment that they too, are spoiled brats.Caused by our envirenment and

    I believe once you live with modern tech. there's no turning back.

    PS.The other day I was looked for the TV remote for two hours before before I said the h^ll with it and changed it manually...lazy a$$! (my TV watching has cut way down)

  37. Waldo

    @ Reasons Voice

    I couldn't agree more, what a couple of spoiled posh brats. I simply will never understand people like this. I live everyday much in the way they try to for a short while, and I don't call it activism, I call it life. Besides, something rich spoiled fashion obsessed people will never understand, a self inflicted hardship will never come close to being like those that live this way, because it is self inflicted and therefore a choice. They seem to think they will somehow negate their guilt by denying themselves designer coffee and 500 dollar shopping sprees for a year. First off if you feel guilty for living the way you do that should tell you something, secondly playing environmentalist or poor will never amount to anything but a game. This is offensive to geniune people, at least is was to me.

  38. Jan Alleman

    Awesome docu! Very inspirational. Please ignore the haters!

  39. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    Another netflix doc! Vlatko, you sly devil, how are you getting these!?

    I didn't bother when it was on netflix, but I think I'll give it a watch now.

  40. Reasons Voice

    Wow this is just so NYC. A spoiled rich girl who thinks that it is somehow important that her two year old is wearing $300.00 boots and a guy who cries for the polar bears. If we would stop focussing on extremes we would actually get something done. When I bought boots recently I opened the box to find a second box which opened revealed eight sheets of paper wrapped around the boots which had 4 tags on them. Lowering impact is as simple as just drop my boots into a paper sack and send them. That would reduce waste by about 90% or more. Simply by eliminating excess we resolve the issue. No need to eliminate everything.

  41. TylerDurden

    A good start, but I agree with Bad-conduct. We will soon be forced to face our own procrastination and our future lives will either reflect our ignorance now or reflect our wisdom now. It's our future and it's our world not theirs, they lead us around on a leash handing out worthless scraps of paper and laugh their way to the bank as we slave away and toil for it, while our habitat rapidly decays. Our natural resources sold out from under our feet to the highest bidder. A society that imports resources is simply unsustainable, a society where there are less and less of everything that supports life every year is writing it's own obituary.....wake up.

  42. sonny corbi

    an eye opener, interesting doc. i applaud the couple for their sticking to the project. i remember when we had no plastic, no air conditioning, no TV! no doubt it was harder but one thing though, we felt or at least i did, i felt more connected to the earth, we interacted more with each other. there is a lot to be said for that! i know when i get out and take long walks how good it feels to meditate, to gaze at the mountain range to look at the cows to stroll along the river path and so on. The real problem is population growth!! The easiest person to Bull Sh/t is myself/our self. It's a real problem. And the only way to turn society towards a more renewable system, i am afraid, is a major correction in the population? I have lived a good life and i wonder if i am so self centered that i really don't care about any ones future except my own! I hope not, not entirely.

  43. lele


  44. hanselda

    All those no impact to environment slogan in western civilization smells just hypocrisy to me. If you want to reduce the impart by austerity, go live in New Guinea like the aboriginal there. You save way more material and energy than suffering in New York. Will you do that?

  45. Mace

    I don't know how she puts up with this guy. :|

  46. Bad_conduct

    Sounds like the existence we are about to be forced into.