Friday, March 23, 2007

Colin Beavan's Journey

I'm glad Kim posted Colin Beavan's one-year experiment to reduce waste. I read the NY Times article about his journey and was struck by what I discovered. For example, his family has banned automobiles, magazines, and plastic bags from their daily living. They're now relying on scooters, bikes, and hand-me-downs as part of their daily routine, just to name a few items. (Go online to see what else they've banned from their lifestyle).

In a recent op-ed piece written for the NY Times, Beavan writes about his shame in acknowledging the fact that it's the first time in his life he's made substantial lifestyle changes that align with his beliefs. Now, this is a guy who's written numerous papers against hunting whales in Japan, poaching gorillas in the Congo, and the apartheid in South Africa. Yet, according to Beavan, "I made the mistake of believing that condemning the misdeeds of others somehow made me virtuous" (NYT, March 11, 2007).

So, if you have a moment, I encourage you to read the NY Times article Kim posted (see below). And after you've read the article, I'd like for you to think about this question, which was also posted in the NY Times:

What would you be willing to sacrifice for a more environmentally sound life?

Please feel free to post your thoughts about this question on the blog.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I was sort of "annoyed" with this project at the beginning of the semester because I viewed it as a lot of work on my already too-full plate. At the risk of coming of as being a goody two shoes, I have to say that I have done a complete turnaround. This project and Elizabeth Royte's book has caused me to rethink a lot of my habits and to start evaluating my lifestyle for how I can make changes. I'm really quite excited by all that our class has been doing and each time I run across information, I can't wait to share it. And I'm being sincere about that. In answer to the question posed about what we can do without, I think some things are a little difficult to achieve such as only eating food grown within a 250 mile radius. Fine for the summer, but what would we do for vegetables in the winter? It's also true that cities like Seattle make it really easy to buy organic, but living here, it's available, but you have to work a little harder to find alternatives (although we do have the Farmer's Market). Some of the changes I have been looking at include reducing the amount of fast food that I eat, the junk mail that I receive, buying less stuff, using reusable bags and sandwich bags, and using recycled paper products. I would also add that there are reusable menstrual pads called gladrags that people might be interested in knowing about. It would be hard for me to change all my habits overnight, but it's just a matter of being more conscious of our actions and making changes over time.

AmandaAshley said...

What Kim said. I have found that recycling plastic bags is not a big chore. Actually we have begun recycling everything: Paper, bottles, cans, etc. I am amazed by the amount of materials we accumulate in a week. If we could just get everyone to do this, it would be great. I have started to tell stores not to give me a bag. That has not been an inconvenience. It's a little more difficult to arrange carpools but that is something we all could do a better job of. The toilet paper thing is a bit gross but I might start taking fewer sheets and folding them :) Actually that would save quite alot! I wonder if it would be possible for us to submit more tests, homework and papers electronically??? Another thing is I could make a more conscience decision to turn off the lights. I think I would be able to give up a stylish car for a more fuel efficient one. Also, I could make the attempt to try to get off so many mailing lists. I recieve ALOT of junk mail. These are just a few of my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Amanda, these are all great suggestions. I also wanted to make one more comment about the toilet paper issue. I admit that not using toilet paper is a bit extreme, but I did want to point out that there was a brief period in my own life when I used toilet paper very minimally. The truth is that after a woman has a baby, that area of the body is quite tender and women are often given a plastic squirt bottle to rinse themselves after going to the bathroom. So it actually is not that gross or unsanity. And Europeans use bidets so this practice is not that unusual if you really think about it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that slip. I meant to type unsanitary, not unsanity.

Anonymous said...
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JENNIFER said...

Kim where can those reuseable pads "gladrags" be found. That sounds very intresting to me. Let me know please.
There is really nothing more that I can change with my life now. We recycle glass, plastic, cans, and the non-recyclable plastic I have kept and it's not even full, it's been two months now. We also use paper trash bags ( from wal-mart their really for compost) and the plastic wrappers I save in another tarsh can for stuffing. I have been telling people that if I had a compost and me boys didn't wear diapers I would be taking my trash out only once a month, only one bag. We now only take out our once a week and put it to the curb twice a month instead of four. So I have made some big changes I don't know what more I can do. Hope this gives you all some ideas.

Good luck, reducing your trash

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, You can find out more at I think there are also other companies who make reusable products besides gladrags. You could probably do a google search, but this should get you started.

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...


Your thoughts about using electronic resources reminded me of the "good ole days" when I was an undergrad at the University of Georgia.

My freshman year (circa 1996), I enrolled in a math class that was required for all majors. There must have been 1000s of students enrolled that semester because all of our exams were conducted in a computer lab.

There were about 50 computers in the lab so each student had to make an appointment to take their exam. To prevent cheating behavior, there were several test versions. Everyone was given a sheet of scratch paper, and the entire test, which probably covered 4-6 chapters at a time, consisted of 5 computational problems.

To further increase test anxiety, if you entered the wrong answer, the computer would allow you to enter another answer for partial credit. Trust me, this produced more stress than was helpful!

Anyway, in thinking about this experience, I can assure you that this organized, efficient process cost thousands of dollars. I would like to see this campus make significant changes in this direction, but it's going to take a concerted effort (and lots of money) to implement those changes.

:0) M