There were seven stages to the No Impact project: no trash, no carbon-producing transportation, sustainable eating, no buying anything new, no fossil-fueled electricity, careful water use and giving back.
The first six stages were all about conservation. About limiting. About doing less harm. There were incredibly discoveries to be made about the truth of where joy and the wonder of life come from, and it isn't, after a certain level, from resource use.
But the final stage was to me the most important. In the giving back stage, I volunteered with environmental organizations. I helped experiment with putting oysters in the New York harbor to clean it up. I helped care for newly planted trees that would take diesel particulates out of the city air.
The final stage was not about conservation. It was about innovation. And it was in this stage that I met new people and made the most friends. It was here that the people were most excited. It was not about doing less harm. It was about doing more good. It was less about limits and more about possibility.
It was, in fact, the part of the project where I may have learned the most about people. Because I learned about what inspires them. Conservation means taking care of the old. Innovation means bringing in the new.
Don't get me wrong. I believe in energy and resource efficiency. I believe in the low-hanging fruit.
But I also think it's important to remember that the amount by which I can do less harm is limited by the harm I do. The potential amount of good I can do, on the other hand, is limited only by my vision and imagination. It's infinite.
PS Thank everyone for their thoughts yesterday. I'm going to filter through and make a post out of them.
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.