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Interview: Colin Beavan

It's not easy going green
By TOM MEEK  |  October 2, 2009


Review: No Impact Man. By Tom Meek.
Writer Colin Beavan, currently on tour to promote his eco-minded book, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, the accompanying (and similarly titled) documentary film (which opens later this week), and his eco-advocacy group,, sat down with Tom Meek to discuss living green. Both the book and the movie chronicle how Beavan and his family attempt to live one year (2006) in New York City without any impact on the planet: meaning no cars, no non-compostable waste (bottles, wrappers and bags), no electricity (to a degree), cloth diapers for his daughter and eating only locally grown foods. One of the biggest challenges was living on the ninth floor (no elevator) and having a dog that needed to be walked three times a day.

Beavan, who affectionately refers to his No Impact year as an 'experiment,' will be at the Boston Public Library on October 6th at 6PM and later that evening, at the Kendall Square Theater to answer questions following a screening of the film.

How has the reaction been to your yearlong experiment and the book?
There's been a lot of interested people showing up at events. People are aware of these joint crises we have going on with the economy and the environment. Well, there are three really, the environmental crisis, the economic crisis and a quality of life crisis, so I think people are looking to see what they can do to participate in the solutions.

In her New Yorker article, Elizabeth Kolbert's implied that the No Impact experiment grew from the need to come up with an idea to write a book about.
In my twenties, I was really concerned with global warming. In my thirties, I was really focused on being a writer, but after writing a few historical books (Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War and Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science), I couldn't really write about history anymore and I wanted to figure out a way to get back to my roots and write about global warming. And I wanted to reach a broad audience, but at the same time I thought that my own lifestyle might be contributing to the problem, so I thought maybe if I wrote a story about making my lifestyle different, that might appeal to a wider audience.

Then I looked around and could see we were waging this war for oil. We were burning the oil and causing global warning and meanwhile, people weren't really happy. There are people out there who are working two jobs, up to their neck in credit card debt and don't have enough time to spend with the ones they love, and even those who are financial successful, are still not happy. We're using up all these resources and they're not doing all that much for us as a people.

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Related: Review: No Impact Man, Hardboiled hub, Going Green Guide, More more >
  Topics: Features , Science and Technology, Laura Gabbert, Nature and the Environment,  More more >
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