image courtesy of wikiality.com. Colin Beavan looks nothing like he does in this game-show picture taken from his appearance on the Colbert Report. He actually looks more like a melancholic, broody Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love, but I forgot to bring my camera the day we spoke.
The rain today shot down like gun pellets all the way from the subway at West 4th to the Dean & Deluca on University St, a light and airy room with an extraordinarily baroque scalloped and beribboned plaster ceiling. Before I bought my cup of tea, Colin Beavan was not sitting on one of the high stools set against the north-facing wall, but when I came around the corner, there he was, perched upon it like an albatross. He was wearing sneakers (Nike? I don’t remember), jeans, and assorted jackets and hoodies layered one on top of the another, and held in his perpetually moving hands a strand of worry beads, which he fingered one by one, pausing only to shake my hand.
Colin Beavan is known in some circles as the No Impact Man, which is also how he’s listed in my cell phone, making calls from him feel like a superhero’s on the other line. He and his wife Michelle (plus their two-year-old, Isabella, and dog Frankie), have plucked a year out of their lives to live in a “no-impact way,” which involves giving up trash, transportation, and, in the next few weeks, electricity. They live in what is by all accounts—if the New York Times, which recently wrote him up, is anything to be trusted—a chicly furnished prewar apartment on Lower Fifth Avenue.
Think about what is circumscribed within the above list of what many would consider necessities. Dishwasher. Elevator. Dunkin’ Donuts. Espresso. Toothpaste. Toilet paper. None of those are coming anywhere close to the Beavans this year. It is their experiment in the art of gracious living à la mode de 2007.
“We inherit a lot of customs from our previous lives and the generations that come before us,” intones Colin so quietly that I draw my head close to hear. “We have shucked our lives of all these things we’ve inherited. It’s…a complete life redesign.”