I was feeling lonely before, in my quest to be and do all things green. It baffles me, now that I am here doing these things, why everyone is not doing them as well. Perhaps they are not fully aware of the problems of climate change, or they would be doing just what I am doing, right? Is it not the only rationale response to this issue? Perhaps they are aware, but push it so far back into their minds that it does not really register, or impact any decisions. If they put those horrible thoughts back there far enough, perhaps they are not true and will go away…
That must be it.
But not so with Colin Beaven – he was feeling the way I was feeling. He wondered what he could do. He realized that he could talk about it a lot, but his words would not have much meaning if he was living a lifestyle that included eating take out every night and creating 9 gallons of trash over 4 days. He was not happy were the world was going, but also not happy where he was going. So he made some changes. Big changes.
He starts off just like me. He doesn’t know much, he is not a trained environmentalist. He is a just a regular guy who wants to make a difference. Despite feeling like he can’t make a difference (which we all feel, don’t we?) he decides to try. Trying is the most important part, because you never will know at the start the difference you will make in the end.
He decides to live his life in New York City, while having no impact on the environment. His wife (Michelle) and his baby daughter (Isabella) go along with this plan. One year, no impact. This ultimately includes making no garbage, eating only locally grown food, giving up meat, giving up coffee, using only self propelled transportation, buying no new items, no elevators, no take out, no TV, no washing machine and by the midpoint of the project, no electricity at all. This means no fridge, no oven, no stove…
There is a point in the movie where he and his wife and child have all their friends over to their apartment to share a beautiful meal. At the end of it each person holds a lit a beeswax candle and then he turns off the breaker. Darkness falls. The people in his living room all stand there holding candles, looking at each other in amazement. Look what this family will do for the environment. Look at what they will do. They will live in darkness, with only the candles to light their way. They are surrounded by the support and love of their friends. It is a beautiful moment.
His wife, prior to the challenge was a self professed shop-oholic who drank 4 iced quad espressos a day. With each new change she is a bit apprehensive, but by the end she has fully embraced the lifestyle. The hurried rush of their lives slows down. They spend more time talking to each other. They spend more time playing with their daughter. They spend more time shopping for their food, and preparing it. What used to be an inconvenience and required take-out, now becomes time spent nourishing their family.
It turns out that he did make a difference. Once people heard about what he was doing, the radio stations, TV stations and newspapers started to call. He gave numerous talks to children and community groups, and did numerous interviews. He wrote a book, he made a movie, he wrote a blog. He got his message out there big time, and inspired so many people along the way.
He inspired me.
At the end of the book in the epilogue, he gives real concrete examples on what you can do to make a difference. He provides lists of books, websites and environmental websites to join. He tells you that people seem only to get the message once they start doing things for the environment. It is the doing, the starting, that is the spark. Once they are set off, they start coming up with new ideas and plans and ways to get involved all on their own. They don’t need convincing.
So here I am, doing. As was the fitting last sentence of his book – What will you do?