Amy Stodghill, a writer with Green Options, talked to me by phone a few weeks ago. It turns out she comes awfully close to being better at getting my points across than I am! For that reason (and—I admit—because it lets me off the hook for a day), I thought I’d post my favorite parts of her piece.
Green Options: What are some of the biggest surprises so far?
Colin Beavan: The change of rhythm. Whether hopping in taxis or talking on your cell phone, everything is a big rush. Even on a Saturday, which is supposed to be one of the rest days, you're like okay, I'll have brunch with you at ten, and then I'll head up to the MoMa at noon, and then some friends are having a party for the kids at three, and then you guys are having a dinner at seven.
We just can't move that fast on our bikes and by walking. At first you think you're losing out, but on a weekend day basically we can do one big thing and we savor it much more. That was kind of surprising to me.
GO: Many comments on your blog have been very supportive, but on occasion you'll get some angry comments. Why do you think that is?
CB: I think sometimes people are mad because they think i'm trying to tell everybody else what to do but I'm really not.
One thing that's important about No Impact Man is that it is an experiment that we are doing. I'm not suggesting that anybody else does what we are doing. I'm just saying this is what we're doing.
I think all of us can do what we can do. People who live in the countryside or the suburbs may not be able to drive less. I'm in a fortunate position of not having to use a car. I'm not out there saying, "Don't use your car," but my hope is that maybe the project will cause people to think about their own lives and not ask themselves if they can do what I'm doing, but look at their own lives and ask "What can I do? How would I be happy to contribute to the planet's well-being?"
I support people who are trying to make a difference. Maybe they can't be no impact, but I support people that are making an effort. For the sake of the project I eat local and seasonal, but there is one stand at the farmers market that grows greens in a greenhouse. They're converting their green houses to biodiesel, which is not perfect but they're making the effort. So, I can buy from them because I support what they're doing.
GO: I really like something you said on your blog: "Saving this planet depends on finding a middle path that is neither unconsciously consumerist nor self consciously anti-materialist." Can you explain that?
CB: My favorite model is something that Bill McDonough talks about in Cradle to Cradle. He talks about a tribe called Menomonie, and they harvest lumber. In 1900 there was a certain amount of harvestable trees. Now they have the same amount of land, but they have a lot more harvestable lumber, and meanwhile they've also harvested a whole bunch of lumber. They had so much, they took a lot of it, but they still have more than they started with. The reason why they did that is because instead of taking what they wanted from the forest, they took what the forest had to offer.
I'm not saying we shouldn't have any fun, but we should look at it as, instead of just taking what I want from the planet, saying, what does the planet have to offer? What can it offer with me without it hurting itself? How can i be a good guest?
Don't forget, I'm just a schlub. I'm not an expert. I make mistakes. I'm trying to figure it out as i go along. Chances are I'll make some wrong choices but that's part of the project because so many of us have no idea what to do.
To read the rest of Amy’s interview with me on Green Options, go here.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.