My interview with Colin Beavan.
Mr. Beavan, how did this all begin?
«In 2006, we had both the Iraq war and news of the melting of the polar ice caps. This was terribly depressing. On the one hand, we were fighting a war for the oil to power our corporatized way of life. On the other, we were melting the planet as a result of burning that oil for the same way of life. In between we had the way of life itself, which didn't seem to be making people happy. Americans are stressed. They work too much. 27 percent of us suffer from anxiety and depression. It just didn't seem like a way of life to fight a war and kill a planet for. So what if we could possibly discover a way of life that was both happier for the people and happier for the planet? That's what I wanted to discover».
Your book and your blog focuses on importance of choiches and related sacrifices, but also on happiness. Are you happy, living this experience?
«Our economy is predicated on the idea that the more "stuff" people have the happier they will be. So, we all work hard to get more stuff and, especially in the US, forget about the importance of our social relationships. That does not make us happy. During No Impact Man, my family and I got to think about our relationships since we were no consuming stuff. We hung out with our friends instead of in front of the television. That's what contributed to our happiness».
What was the most surprising thing you discovered during the year of “No Impact”?
«So much of what we did "for the planet" turned out to be better for us. We ate local food and our skin cleared up. We rode bikes and we lost our guts. We stopped wasting air conditioning and we saved more than a thousand. We stopped spending our time being consumers and ended up spending more time being friends and neighbors. This is true for the culture too. An American economy based on renewable energy and sustainable goods would keep poisons out of the air that we breathe and the water that we drink and provide a whole new job sector. What's good for the planet is good for the people».
What has been harder?
«Renouncing laundry machine was hardest!»
And now, all habits learned during the year of “No Impact” they surviving?
«It makes sense to eat food with no unpronounceable poison chemicals in it, so we prefer food from our trustworthy, local farmer. Rather than take a taxi to the gym so that we can then run in place on the treadmill, it makes sense to get our exercise as part of day by biking and walking. It makes sense to save money so we've cut our power consumption. What didn't make sense was washing our clothes by hand when there was no electricity! So that means that we must also work together to change the systems to ensure that our electricity and other needs are met sustainably. The point is not to deprive ourselves. The point is to make sure that the resources we use actually make people happy and that those resources are renewable».
What is the “No Impact Week”?
«The No Impact Week is a program of the non-profit I founded after my no impact year, the No Impact Project. The No Impact Week is an eight day carbon cleanse. It's an opportunity for people to discover for themselves what a difference lowering their impact can have not only for the planet, but for their own quality of life as well. Join us for our next No Impact Week, kicking off January 3rd, by registering here!»
Are there questions interviewers never ask that you wish they’d ask?
«No one asks me the purpose of life. My little girl Isabella knows the answer. If you ask her "Why are we alive?" She says, "To laugh." And if you ask her, "What responsibility do we have in our lives?" She says, "To make sure other people can laugh too." To me, it's all about laughing and joking and enjoying each other. But it's not enough just to be grateful for the gifts the universe has bestowed upon us. We must help the universe to bestow those gifts on others too».
Andrea Mameli, Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) dec. 2010