By: TANJA SREBOTNJAK, Director of the Hixon Center
In the big scheme of things, our individual actions to reduce our ecological footprint seem largely inconsequential. It requires hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us to make the same lifestyle changes (e.g., retrofitting light bulbs, walking instead of driving, reducing and recycling our waste, etc.) for the environmental savings to add up to something consequential. Even in our own lives, such changes seem small and far outweighed by our own cumulative environmental footprint. So, what does a sustainable lifestyle really look like?
Enter Colin Beavan: a resident of New York City, known as “No Impact Man.” Here is his story.
Colin heard a lot about climate change and environmental degradation, and decided not to be part of the problem anymore. He changed his (and his family’s) life to live a year without having a negative environmental impact. This meant taking no more car or plane travel, using no electricity produced from non-renewable sources, consuming only organic and locally grown food, reducing material consumption levels for only pure subsistence, and installing a composting bin in his living room.
It’s fair to say that the year wasn’t always easy for Colin, his wife Michelle and their young daughter. Critics could easily point to a number of things that weren’t free of environmental impacts (not all locally grown food is better from an environmental standpoint, for example), but what matters most is that Colin and his family continued to live a happy and stimulating life. While they did not retain all of the adjustments they had made during Colin’s “No Impact” year, they became more environmentally attuned and found ways to integrate environmentalism into their daily lives without them causing much disruption. They now live a low-impact life without greenwashing, or being abandoned by friends as “crazy tree-huggers.”
Colin has also dedicated his work to “build[ing] a safe and healthy life that both helps other people and our planet and is full of friends, fun, meaning and purpose.” You can find out more about how he’s doing it at Colin Beavan website.