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I have a love/hate relationship with Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man. I used to hate him; now I love him. And his wife, Michelle, too.
Not in a menage a trois-y kinda way, though. I just really like this smart, funny couple who attempted, for a year, to wean themselves and their toddler, Isabella, off the fossil-fueled conveniences we all take for granted.
This meant, for starters:
* No driving, no flying, or even relying on mass transit. They got to where they needed to go on foot, bike or scooter.
* No more elevators, either; they took the stairs to reach their ninth-floor apartment (several exceptions to these rules were made: two train rides to visit upstate farms, and an occasional elevator ride when security measures or double-digit floors in a midtown New York high-rise required it).
* No buying new stuff, except for foods produced within 250 miles of Manhattan. So, no more takeout, out-of-season produce or coffee (although Michelle fought for, and won, a concession on the coffee front). And no meat, because livestock production is such a fossil-fuel-intensive process.
* No watching TV; the family eventually went off the grid entirely, playing cards by candlelight and otherwise amusing themselves without electricity.
* No washing machine or refrigerator. Abstaining from these two appliances proved especially challenging, as No Impact Man, the film documenting Beavan's endeavor, memorably shows.
And it's a question we really need to ask: Although we make up just 5 percent of the world's population, Americans hog roughly 30 percent of the planet's resources and generate one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases in the process.
Simple living — aka voluntary simplicity — has just about as many definitions as there are individuals who practice it. Simple living is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. Rather, it is about living an examined life — one in which you have determined what is important, or "enough," for you, discarding the rest.
"Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich."
— Duane Elgin, author