Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Impact Man

What a treat it was tonight to see Westport-native Colin Beavan, a.k.a, No Impact Man, give a presentation as part of the Summer Conversations series at the Apponagansett Meeting House in Dartmouth.

If you haven’t heard of him (which is tough given his coverage in everything from the New York Times to Good Morning America to most green blogrolls), Colin has charmed readers worldwide with the documentation of his homegrown ‘experiment’ known as No Impact Man. In a nutshell, Colin and his family decided to try and have as little impact on the environment as possible for one whole year as they lived their lives in New York City. Phased in over seven steps they systematically brought their cumulative carbon footprint to near zero.

How you ask? Everything from eliminating trash and electricity (save for a solar panel to power his laptop) to eating all local, seasonal food, to not buying anything new. His story tonight was inspiring as it was deeply thought provoking; Colin challenged the audience as he has his readers by calling into question how excessive consumerism (and the detrimental effects in has on the planet) is in direct conflict with our collective happiness both as individuals and as a society. It resonated well with me; it is something I’ve written about often. More stuff does not equal more happiness. More stuff causes us to lose sight of those things most important in our lives: quality family time, conversations with friends and neighbors, the strong fabric of that which is community. As Colin puts it, "Happy planet, happy people."

But what makes Colin’s story all the more powerful is that his intent was never to change the world, rather to change himself. It’s just that the world has had a birds-eye view of his journey and has responded with overwhelming support.

Now that the experiment is over, he’s moving forward, anecdotally noting that he should now be called Moderate Impact Man. I encourage you to spend some time on his blog. If you can’t find time for that, no worries, the book and movie versions of the story are on there way.

(Many thanks to Nate over at Biodiesel Now for last minute heads up on this event and good conversation to and fro!)

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