Movie “No Impact Man” is Saved by the Wife


Noimpact You may remember the No Impact Man blog, by a Manhattan-dwelling writer taking on the daunting task of living, with his reluctant wife and happy 2-year-old, as close to off-the-grid as possible for a year.  That means giving up toilet paper, air conditioning and the refrigerator, among other horrors.  Well, naturally their year of sacrifice and self-promotion was filmed by not just hoards of TV crews but by a documentary movie-maker, and I caught the result at the Silver Docs film festival.

Now the Man himself, who dreamed up this stunt/gimmick/ brilliant, transformative project (depending on your perspective) is frankly a tad insufferable at times but lucky for him, his wife is funny and grounded – in a shopaholic, Starbucks-addicted sort of way.  At the end of the year, after being an incredibly good sport about the project, she declares that the worm composting HAS TO GO.  (I shudder to imagine their hot apartment filled with fruit flies from the Man's inadequately researched vermicomposting operation – flies that could have been prevented.)  But the project did change her in positive ways, charmingly evidenced by her discovery of farmers' markets and – at the age of 39 – cooking!  (We hear her say with a look of wonder on her face that she'd never cooked dinner before.)  I love this woman. 

Oh, and the aging hippie who teaches the Man to grow food is also good fun.

Treehugger's review is a good one.

ADDENDUM: I forgot
to weigh in on the merits of the project! Seems to me it was a huge
success in bringing attention to the issues – in an entertaining way,
no less – and the point isn't whether they did it perfectly.
And sure, he's writing a book about it – he's a freelance writer – and
I hope he sells lots. Their apartment is so tiny I don't know how they
can stand it.


  1. But it is a giant lie. He did have an impact. He consumed food, energy, water, and other natural resources that whole time. He breathed in oxygen and breathed out carbon dioxide. It can never be otherwise, for life requires energy to exist.

  2. I do think that it could be something interesting, learning if you could give up luxuries to which you had become accustomed, but as there are millions of people living this way without any choice who won’t ever make any money from it I think I’ll have to give it a miss.

  3. I’m with Jay. I think the name of his project is inappropriate, since it’s impossible not to have an impact…even if you’re dead and rotting. I admire the effort, nonetheless.

  4. I agree with the fact that its impossible to NOT have an impact. But what you can strive to do is close the circle, hence the term sustainability.

  5. It may be interesting but in general, I wince when I see people take things this far. All they really do is scare off the people who might otherwise make the smaller but still significant changes that we all need to make. Fanaticism never works.

  6. Those of us who are old enough to remember wartime living know how important small individual efforts are. For example, we saved paper, string, rubber bands, fats, cardboard, tin cans, glass bottles. All glass bottles were returnable, sweets were rationed, as was gasoline, food was carefully used, people had vegetable gardens and canned the produce. We made jam and used old glass jars sealed with waxed paper held on with rubber bands. No-one starved, our teeth were actually better because of the absence of sugar, and the rather spartan diet may actually have been good for us.

    There is a certain pleasure that comes from making-do, from using resources carefully, from finding something we already have and using it instead of purchasing new. I don’t think we have to strive to make NO impact, just to lessen it. I do agree that this story has a tinge of fanaticism and zealotry about it. But I still save string and rubber bands–never know when hard times might come again!

    (And, in answer to the question about toilet paper — telephone books were in high demand because they provided thin but strong pages, but newspaper was the usual. One of my jobs as a kid was to cut up the newspaper into 6″ squares, put a string through a stack of it, and hang it on the nail provided. There were more elegant holders available, but my family had the string and the nail already.)

  7. I do agree with the comments above, though I wished the vemiculture was successful. What were they doing with the compost? Do they have a pea-patch? If they did I hope they keep it (up).
    If gardening teaches you anything, it teaches you that you will not be successful all the time, learn from your mistakes and have at them with more gusto the second, third, or fourth time around.
    I hope they just didn’t give up because it initially didn’t work for them.

  8. I find his blog insufferable; something about the way he writes just rubs me the wrong way, and he’s always creating correlations that are highly suspicious, if not outright spurious.

    While I admire the sentiment, the execution pushes me the wrong way. It’s a milder version of how I feel about PETA.

  9. I think some of the comments have not been fair. I did follow noimpactman’s blog for a couple of months and found him quite genuine.
    Regarding no toilet paper: I believe he used plain water. As for living in manhattan, folks living in densely populated areas generally would have a lower impact than ones living in the suburbs where fuel impact of sustaining their lifestyle is pretty big (for most folks).
    Noimpactman project was run sort of like an experiment. At no point did he give an impression that he was trying to be holier than thou. He tried addressing all question from skeptics and a lot of time questioning his own actions. In the end, it was meant to be an experiment on how lifestyle/mentality would change if one strives to be noimpactman and finding out how feasible the green alternatives were.
    I for myself am highly skeptical of folks like him. But I found his journey quite entertaining and informative.

Comments are closed.