Colin Beavan and his family lived for many months without toilet paper. He got around without a car and in nearly every aspect of his life, Beavan did all he could to leave as little an environmental footprint as he could.
It was all part of what he called the "No Impact" Project -- a yearlong experiment to shed "conveniences" of modern living.
In the book "No Impact Man," Beavan chronicles the challenges, successes and thought-provoking questions that arose throughout the year.
Read a chapter from the book below, then click here to explore the "GMA" Library for more great reads.
This book, in short, is about my attempt with my little family to live for a year causing as little negative environmental impact as possible. If what I've described so far sounds extreme, that's because it's meant to be. My intention with this book is not to advocate that, as a culture, we should all give up elevators, washing machines, and toilet paper. This is a book about a lifestyle experiment. It chronicles a year of inquiry: How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet's resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Would living this way be more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or is there hope? Is individual action lived out loud really just individual action? Would the environmental costs of producing this very book undo all the good, or would the message it purveyed outweigh the damage and add to the good?
But perhaps most important, at least when it came to addressing my own despair, was I as helpless to help change the imperiled world we live in as I'd thought?
These are the questions at the heart of this whole crazy-a** endeavor. Answering them for myself required extreme measures. How could I figure it all out if I didn't put myself in the crucible of going all the way? This was not intended to be an experiment in seeing if we could preserve the habitat we live in and still stay comfortable. It was to be an experiment in putting the habitat first and seeing how that affected us.
As it would turn out, my environmental exercise would wind up drawing the attention of both some independent filmmakers, who wanted to make a documentary about the No Impact project, and The New York Times, which halfway through the year would stumble upon my blog and write a profile of my family. The result of that profile was as much a surprise to me as anyone. The world media was fascinated by my experiment, and I found myself in the middle of a press storm, sometimes centering, to my chagrin, on the somewhat trivial fact that, as part of the project, I'd chosen to find a more environment-friendly approach to bathroom hygiene than toilet paper.
I was thrust into a debate about collective versus individual action and unwittingly became something of an environmental spokesman. I got thousands of e-mails from people asking what they should do, how they should live their lives. I suddenly found that I was, though I hesitate to say it, an accidental leader.