No Impact Man Tests Limits of Man’s Carbon Footprint, Wife’s Patience


The bold environmental project Colin Beavan began in the fall of 2006—to expunge his carbon footprint by giving up material consumption, electricity, non-local foods, and basically all worldly pleasures in Manhattan for one full year—was always destined to have some naysayers crying “publicity stunt.” And to an extent, it is. Timed to coincide with the release of Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s entertaining doc chronicle of Beavan’s year in self-righteous hell, his new eco-martyr memoir of the same name is subtitled “The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process,” which both doubles as a lofty plot synopsis and pre-emptively deflects critics with that “guilty liberal” confession. Unfolding mostly as real-time vérité, the film is less valuable for detailing Beavan’s expensive and punishing process to become greener than that jolly giant (he buys composting “worm boxes,” for God’s sake) than it is for showing his deeply hesitant wife, Michelle Conlin—who laments her inability to dine at Pastis or buy iced quad espressos—give in to this decidedly un-fun lifestyle. We could all do better, definitely (be sure to sneak in your reusable bottles instead of buying from the concession stand!), but how much can we possibly glean from a guy whose idealism can be measured with a calendar?