Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Impact Man Impacts USC Students

By Judit Trunkos

Colin Beavan’s book “No Impact Man” published in 2009 started out as a local environmental experiment but turned into a global movement.  For an entire year, Beavan lived in his New York City apartment with his wife and daughter without the comforts and luxuries of wasteful modern life only to find that he achieved no impact on the environment and as a side effect, he improved his own health and became a happier person.

This year USC’s selected book for the first year reading experience was “No Impact Man” and the students were fortunate enough to have the author,  Mr. Beavan speak about his book, movie and his philosophy. Sustainable Carolina at the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures hosted Mr. Beavan for a brief Q &A about his work on Monday, August 15th.

According to the organization, the mission was: “to empower citizens to make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics.”

The surprising findings of the Beavan experiment though was that by cutting out waste and many luxury items from his life, such as processed food, sodas and plastic bottles, TV and taxi cabs, Beavan actually improved his own life.

When asked about what is it that the individuals should do to live a more sustainable life, Beavan responded: “Living environmentally is content specific. What you can do is specific to who you are. To give up coffee, for instance, is a problem for some but not for everyone.”

Environmental issues and the lack of sustainable lifestyle in our modern makes more people realize the problem and begin to look for their own solutions.  Beavan mentioned a few examples of community action.

“Some universities have big gardens or renewable energy systems or waste water system where the marsh cleans the water. Other Universities have buffets and they removed the trays so students can only carry what they can hold. This simple action helps reducing food waste and help with the freshman ten problem. In order to get more food, students must stand up and get it.” Explained Beavan.

Further, Beavan continued the casual meeting with students with a Matrix-like question: “How many of you think there is something wrong?” Everyone raised their hands in the room.

“So we have to ask ourselves what we can do to fix it?” responded Beavan to his question.

Beavan’s call for collective action for change of lifestyle was heard not only in this room, but all around the world as “No Impact Man” was translated into numerous languages.

“No Impact Project” mission is to use media and technology to make happier people. All programs are to engage people not to educate. The people must know how to get engaged how to get involved. Explained the author.

The No Impact Experiment is a one-week carbon cleanse.  It is a chance to see what a difference no-impact living can have on the quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity to test whether the modern “conveniences” of life are actually making us happier. So far, 48,000 people have participated in this challenge all around the world including in Australia, Netherlands and in China just to mention a few.

 “I do not have an answer to what should we do? It is more like what you can do! My job is to ask everyone to follow our passion. Follow out true direction! Everyone should be recognized for what is special about them as they contribute to society.” Said Beavan.

While the Beavans saved the world from 2190 paper and plastic cups, 572 plastic bags and 4380 gallons of garbage during that one year, they also showed the world that it was possible to unplug from mainstream lifestyle and that our happiness does not depend on it.

To learn more about “No Impact Project” visit

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