The Year of Living Environmentally

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Blogger Colin Beavan talks about his year-long experiment on "No Impact Living." He and his family only eat food grown within a 250-mile radius of their apartment and have said goodbye to all paper products, including toilet paper.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon in Washington, D.C., sitting in today for Neal Conan.

Here's a question. Could you live with worms in your kitchen, or without taking a bus or subway, using cleaning liquids or toilet tissue for a whole year? Last week's report on global warming gave many people cause. Colin Beavan has already taken a pause in his usual life to try to make a difference. He and his wife, their two-year-old daughter and four-year-old dog are four months into a yearlong project to reduce the amount of trash and toxins they produce.

They eat only food grown within a 250-mile radius of their apartment and banned all paper products from their home, including the aforementioned toilet tissue and diapers. They refuse to fly. They refuse to ride the subway or take an elevator - all of this in the middle of vertical downtown Manhattan. Why would a family subject themselves to such seeming deprivation? We'll have Colin Beavan along to tell us why.

And later, the 24-year-old videographer released just a few days ago explains why he spent nearly eight months in jail rather than testify before a grand jury.

But first, no impact living. How far would you go to reduce your impact on the environment? How far do you go? What problems have you faced, and how far gets to be too far? Please give us a call. Our number in Washington, D.C.: 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org. And you can comment on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Colin Beavan joins us now from our bureaus in New York. Mr. Beavan, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. COLIN BEAVAN (Blogger, Noimpactman.com): Hi, Scott, thanks for having me.

SIMON: And our studios are on the 19th floor, and I'm just guessing they didn't lower a rope out and bring you up hand-over-hand. So how did you get there?

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, this time I had to take an elevator because when I asked the security guard to let me come up the stairs, he just pointblank refused to let me. He said that...

SIMON: Oh.

Mr. BEAVAN: ...people with - what was it - oh, phobias like you have to call ahead of time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. Well, all right. But ordinarily, you would walk up 19 flights of stairs, wouldn't you?

Mr. BEAVAN: I would, and I tried today. I rode my bike here today. Part of the experiment is to try not to use transportation that causes carbon emissions, and I rode my bike. And at home, of course - we live on the ninth floor, so we're up and down the stairs all the time.

SIMON: And you've lost 15 pounds, I've read, since...

Mr. BEAVAN: Oh, you're out of date, Scott. It's 20 now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, mercy, I'm glad you could join us while you still had a little left.

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, you know, I was getting a little thick in the midriff. I'm kind of exactly what I ought to be now, so I just have to be a little careful not to lose any more.

SIMON: I ask this as a practical/moral question. What if you simply loitered there in the bottom of our offices - office building there, overlooking Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, and waited until somebody else got on the elevator? In other words, the elevator was going to be making a trip anyway, why not go along for the ride and get out on 19?

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, sure. I mean, this is question a lot of people ask. Why - the subway is going anyway. Why don't you get on the subway? The airplane is going anyway. Why don't you go on the airplane? Or, you know, also the SUV is going anyway, so why you don't get in the SUV? There are a couple of reasons. One reason is because - I mean, no - the name of the experiment is No Impact Man. And by the way, I blog about it at noimpactman.com...

SIMON:: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BEAVAN: ...and the idea is to just experience the range of options that are possible to reduce our harm on the environment. And some of the things that we're doing are admittedly extreme, but what we wanted to try and - when I say we, I mean my little family and me. What we wanted to try and do is figure out, well, what seems extreme on this side of it might not feel extreme on the other side. For example, when we started walking up the stairs, we thought, oh, this is going to be a terrible drag walking up the stairs all the time. But the fact of the matter is we don't have to go to the gym anymore. And Michelle, my wife, who rides a little push-foot scooter back and forth to work - and she used to take the subway - she says now she has some time alone, some time to decompress. So it seems like we're losing everything, but, in fact, we're getting things that we didn't expect from the experiment.

SIMON: Am I correct, you're going to write a book about this when it's over?

Mr. BEAVAN: That's right. It will come out in 2009 from Farrar, Straus.

SIMON: May I ask, is whatever savings you're making in paper by not using diapers and - or not using the paper-plastic diapers and toilet tissue over this next year more than outweighed by the amount of paper on which your book will be printed?

Mr. BEAVAN: I mean, what I do, Scott, for a living is I write books, but - and so - and every book I write has - my previous books have had a impact, too. But now I'm in this fortunate position where what I care about in the world and what I do for the - for a living have come together, like, because I've been worried about the environment for a long time and - but my career had nothing to do with my personal concerns.

I was just - I was writing history, and my history books are fine, I like them. But my career and the things that I was most concerned about in the world seemed to be going in different directions. So I'm in this really fortunate position where I'm able to address my concerns in my career, and, of course, it's my hope that the book also has the effect of changing other people's minds. Not that I'm suggesting that other people...

SIMON: But let me press you for a practical answer to that. And, look, I don't know how much paper goes into your book but, you know, let's say, God willing, there's initial printing of 15,000. That's a lot of paper, and I'm just guessing it's not nearly as much toilet tissue as you would use.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: Of course not.

SIMON: And I'm not - you've got a classy publisher, and I'm not suggesting you use any of their books for that, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: The good news about the book is that we're looking for a sustainable ways to produce it. My published, Farrar, Straus, also published William McDonough's book, "Cradle To Cradle," which was produced on a particular material. I'm forgetting the name of it now, but it's a material that once - it's not paper-based, this book. Once produced, this book, when you're done reading it, it can be reused. It can be brought back, reused, and another book made from it again. And my publishers are looking to do a similar sort of sustainable way of producing my book, too.

SIMON: Let the - take some calls. That OK with you, Mr. Beavan?

Mr. BEAVAN: Of course.

SIMON: OK, Jason, in Iowa City.

JASON (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call. I am really, really excited to be listening to this show today. In my experience, a couple of years ago, I - about three years ago, I decided to get rid of my car, and especially after the president got reelected, who I didn't feel was very open to the possibility of greenhouse problems. I decided to get rid of my car, you know, because, like, I felt there was nothing else that could be done. What really surprised me is that when I told people that, or when people found out, there was support, but there was a lot of people who were just appalled and offended just because they couldn't imagine living without a car.

And, you know, it just - why would you make such a huge sacrifice? Why - you know, what - oh, there's other people going to be driving, you know. What are you going to do in the wintertime? All these things. And it just seemed like they didn't really - they seemed to be personally attacked by my decision. I was just wondering if your guest was - experienced any of that, and I can take my answer off the air.

SIMON: OK, thanks very much. Mr. Beavan?

Mr. BEAVAN: I think - first of all, I would like to talk a little bit about - like Jason, he was concerned about things so he decided to change his life. And when I took on this project, the reason why I did it is I know I'm political by nature. I have a lot of political opinions. And what I've done up until now in my life is pointed my fingers at other people. We should have laws that tell other people what they should do.

There should be laws that say you shouldn't drive an SUV. And I finally realized that I should look at the log in my own eye before the speck in other people's eyes. Not that I'm very religious, but I'll take wisdom from where I find it. And that's the basis of this project. The idea is that instead of me figuring out what everybody else is doing wrong about the environment, I want to look at my life and say how am I contributing?

So first of all, I think it's really neat that Jason did that. And second of all, Jason, I'm sure there's a lot of people out there that support what you did, too, because a lot of people support No Impact Man.

SIMON: Another practical question occurs to me, Mr. Beavan. Now you will only eat stuff that's generated from, what, 250 miles from where you live, right?

Mr. BEAVAN: That's correct.

SIMON: Now I'm indebted to this line of inquiry to Michael Collins - Michael, forgive me, Pollan's latest book, "Omnivore's Delight" where - and I'm paraphrasing now - but I believe he makes the argument that, for example, let's say a good New York State apple that comes to you in Manhattan from 120 miles away might actually produce more carbon emissions because of the trucks that are necessary to get it into Manhattan than does an apple that comes to you all the way from Chile, because the one in Chile, of course, is shipped in great volume.

Mr. BEAVAN: There's more than one argument than the production of carbon for eating locally. For example, there's the whole question of being able to talk to the farmers directly and ask them how they produce their vegetables and to say, you know, do you use herbicides? Do you use pesticides? There's also the issue of keeping good, open farmland around our cities. So it's important to -for me to support these farmers so that they can make a living and don't have their land overrun by housing estates and one thing or another. So the whole eating - the issue of eating local is not just about the carbon impact, but a whole bunch of environmental issues taken together.

SIMON: I want to take a call, and maybe hold it over if we can. Jason, in Fairbanks, Alaska?

JASON (Caller): Yes, hello.

SIMON: Hi, there. I gather you have some experience to contribute.

JASON: Yeah, there - yeah, I really want to commend your guest. I think it's very critical that we think about our impact.

SIMON: Now, but what I've read on a little slip that's been provided to me about you, Jason, is that you've tried to have a subsistence life yourself there in Fairbanks.

JASON: Yeah, I live a little ways out of Fairbanks in a little tiny cabin and get around with a dog team in the wintertime. And I moved up here from the lower 48 and basically chose a different lifestyle, and there's quite a number of people who live up here that live this way.

SIMON: Hmm, Jason...

JASON: The old fashion way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...a question you must get all the time, you know, A, because I know Alaska's growing season is small compared to even that of New York. What do you do for fresh stuff in the middle of winter, and what happens if you get sick in the middle of the night?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JASON: Well, right now I have all my seeds started, so I'll grow vegetables this summer and keep what I can over the winter. But the truth is I don't eat a lot of vegetables in the wintertime.

SIMON: Uh-huh. And if you get sick in the middle of the night, do you hitch up the dog team?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JASON: I'm not that far from a road. It's only about a half mile from the road, but I use the dog team to get around and do...

SIMON: So you do have a car if it gets to that.

JASON: Oh, yeah, yeah. I have a car, and I, obviously, have a phone and a radio and, you know, I have a solar panel. I'm off the grid. But it's kind of a 21st-century...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right, well, thank you very much for speaking with us. We have to take a short break right now. We're going to talk more with Colin Beavan when we get back, about his year without cars, elevators, computers, even electricity, and more of your calls at 800-989-TALK. You can also send us an e-mail. The address is talk@npr.org.

I'm Scott Simon. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Scott Simon, in Washington, D.C. Neal Conan is off today. He'll be back on Thursday with a special broadcast from Tucson, Arizona. And we need some help from you before Thursday. There's an online survey at our blog asking about several issues that you might consider to be in the gray area on the moral continuum. It should take about five minutes to complete this survey. You can get the results on Thursday. That's all at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Right now, we're talking about how far one family will go to reduce the amount of toxins and trash they produce. Colin Beavan and his family are four months into that yearlong experiment without many of the modern amenities that we take for granted. You can read about how they're doing in regular updates on his Web site, and we have a link at npr.org/blogofthenation. And, of course, you're invited to join the conversation. How far do you go to reduce your impact on the environment? What problems have you faced? How far is too far? You can give us a call: 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

Mr. Beavan, thanks for staying with us.

Mr. BEAVAN: It's nice to be with you.

SIMON: You're going to have to take the elevator down again, too, won't you?

Mr. BEAVAN: I guess the security people won't let me walk.

SIMON: Now, as I gather, you're not necessarily recommending this for anybody. You were looking at yourself in the mirror, if you're still using mirrors...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...and saying I want to begin change with my life.

Mr. BEAVAN: That's exactly what's happening. It's an extreme experiment for a year, and we're trying - you know, basically we're taking - trying to do everything to utterly reduce our negative environmental impact as possible. And then on the other side of things, we're trying to do things to increase our positive impact. So, for example, you know, we have gone down and cleaned rubbish and trash off the banks of the Hudson to prevent them from going into the ocean, and other positive steps we'll do, too. So the idea is - of course, it's impossible to make no environmental impact, but the idea is to try and reduce our negative and increase our positive, and then maybe hopefully they'll net out.

SIMON: Hmm, can I ask you a question about diapers?

Mr. BEAVAN: Of course.

SIMON: A subject close to my heart. Our little girl's about to turn four.

Mr. BEAVAN: Uh-huh.

SIMON: And she's a little bit beyond that, save for the night, but I digress. We're getting another little one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Listen, we - my wife and I took a look at this proposition, and there is a school of opinion that holds - they're smiling in the control room. Yes, I have changed three diapers, OK, if you're wondering.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: But the experience is such you don't forget it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: My wife, God bless her, assumes most of that duty in our house. She does all the important things in our relationship, I must say. So we took a look at this proposition, and there is a quality of opinion that holds that actually given the amount of cleaning that's necessary of cloth diapers, that's more counterproductive to environmental health than using the paper and plastic ones are. How do you stand on that?

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, as the study goes, my understanding is that there was a study done in the '80s, and it wasn't just about the cleaning. You know, it was about - it had to do with the production of the diapers and, you know, it was called the lifecycle analysis, which is supposed to analyze the, you know, from the beginning to the end.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BEAVAN: But the thing about it is is my understanding about that study is that these lifecycle analyses are very sensitive to variables. So, for example, you'll notice on disposable diapers that they generally have an instruction in small print that says that the human waste is supposed to be disposed of in the toilet, and then the diaper itself should be sent into the trash. And when this study was done that showed for - that suggests that plastic diapers were no worse than cloth diapers, they - in the study, they did put the human waste in the toilet. But the fact of the matter is most people, when they use disposable diapers, don't do that.

Another thing that happens is cloth diapers, for example, can be used for more than one child. They're very durable. You use it with one child, and then you use it with the next child. Another variable that was in that experiment was the use of diaper cleaning services, which assumed diesel trucks were driving the diapers all around, but if you wash the diapers at home, it's different. So my feeling is that as long as you are sensible about how you do things, that the cloth diapers win hands down.

SIMON: But do cloth diapers take a lot more time, a lot more care? And not everybody in their life - practically speaking, we have so many people living, including yourself, two-income households - has that kind of time.

Mr. BEAVAN: It's true that it takes a little bit more time, especially at the beginning. But let me tell you a story about Isabella, my little girl. When we were switching at the beginning of the experiment from disposable to cloth diapers, we still had some disposables around, and we weren't so good at the pinning and all that. We're much better now, and…

SIMON: Oh, God, all it takes is one mistake to have a real drama on your hands.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: I know, I know. Believe me, she's never got the pin in her, but I've had it in my finger a few times.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BEAVAN: Anyway, when we were first - so occasionally, because we had disposable diapers left, we'd put one of them back on her, and Isabella would cry, no, I want real diapers, I want Bella's new diapers, new diapers, because - I guess because she was so much more comfortable in the cloth diapers.

SIMON: Well, I hope our little girl's not listening.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Let me pass along a comment from our blog, from Sheila, because a lot of people, ourselves included, immediately fasten on the feature of you're not using toilet tissue.

Mr. BEAVAN: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Sheila says, I'm amused that the non-use of toilet paper is getting so much attention. There are about a billion people in India and Pakistan who have never used toilet paper and are not likely to ever. Water has been the preferred way, and using paper is considered unclean. Does that answer it for you, too?

Mr. BEAVAN: Absolutely. I mean, the issue here is that all over the world, people have different methods of personal hygiene. But the question is where is the paper that's going in the tissue coming from? And, of course, there are sustainably managed forests and there are some brands of toilet tissue, paper towel, tissue to blow your nose on, that are - that come from sustainable forests...

SIMON: What do you do if you have to sneeze?

Mr. BEAVAN: Oh, I carry a cloth.

SIMON: OK.

Mr. BEAVAN: If you could see, I'm waving it right now...

SIMON: Well, I...

Mr. BEAVAN: ...but you can't see it, but I'm waving it.

SIMON: ...I carry a cloth, too...

Mr. BEAVAN: Right.

SIMON: ...but at some point they have to be laundered, and you have some problems with that, right?

Mr. BEAVAN: No, no. No, laundry's OK. What I have problems - what I don't do is put things with toxins in the water.

SIMON: Let's take another call, if we could. John, in Reno, Nevada.

JOHN (Caller): Hi, yes. I'm curious how you manage electricity and heat, energy as a whole.

Mr. BEAVAN: Sure.

SIMON: They're in Midtown Manhattan. You're living - is it on lower Manhattan, Fifth Avenue, I've read?

Mr. BEAVAN: Yes, that's right.

JOHN: It's, like, kind of tough to put solar paneling on your roof there. I live in an extraordinarily sunny part of the world, and I actually offset all of my electricity by solar panels, but that's not possible, I don't think, in Midtown Manhattan.

Mr. BEAVAN: Right, so the experiment - we didn't talk about this - the experiment works in stages. So the first stage was - because it's too hard for me - we couldn't just figure it all out at the very beginning and then do it. So we're slowly but surely adopting everything. And the first stage was transportation, then trash, then sustainable eating, and then consumption, and the next stage is energy. So we will be turning the electricity off in our apartment, but haven't done so yet. And there are, you know, portable solar devices that I could take up to the roof, for example, to get light. As far as heat's concerned, heat's something I can't do much about because my - I live in an apartment building and don't have control over it, and…

SIMON: Well, lucky you. What would you do?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, the interesting thing - the thing about - that that point goes to...

SIMON: I mean, it's cold on the Eastern Seaboard now.

Mr. BEAVAN: Yes, it's cold today, too. But the thing that that point goes to is that all of us can do what we can. In New York, in an apartment, you can't turn your heat off because you don't have control of it, just as some people in the suburbs, in the countryside can't avoid driving because they have to get to work. But each of us can look at their own lives and figure out what they can do to help.

SIMON: Why would a man who doesn't - with the exception of today for reasons we all understand - a man who avoids taking an elevator, how does he keep a blog? What's the practical and moral difference between riding an elevator and using a computer?

Mr. BEAVAN: Well, that's a big problem that I'm going to face very soon because, as I said, we're not up to the energy stage yet. And a couple of people are in touch with me trying to figure out ways that I can use a computer that has - that, you know, is - has its own electricity generator and one thing or another. But, yeah, it's a question, how can I continue to do that? One thing I want to mention is that there's, like, hints of all these, you know, the various steps we're taking at the blog. So people can go to No Impact Man...

SIMON: As long as you're keeping the blog, as long as you have electricity.

Mr. BEAVAN: …yes, at this stage, yes, at noimpactman.com.

SIMON: I believe is that Randy, in San Francisco, who joins us.

ADAM (Caller): Yeah, sorry, I should - it's Adam, in San Francisco.

SIMON: I beg your pardon, Adam.

ADAM: That's all right. So my question - actually, I have another comment now since I've been listening. But my initial question was why did you choose not to use public transit?

SIMON: Oh, Mr. Beavan?

Mr. BEAVAN: I think public transit is a wonderful thing, and I totally support public transportation. But…

ADAM: (unintelligible) I'm wondering why in this experiment you decided public transit was a no-go.

Mr. BEAVAN: Our - what we decided - you know, this is, as I've said, this is an extreme experiment...

ADAM: Yes.

Mr. BEAVAN: ...so the question is what can, you know, what would it be like if we tried everything? And so just for the sake of this - again, this is not what I'm promoting when the experiment's over - but the question was, well, would happen if we did walk? What would happen if we used our bicycles? What would happen if we tried to locomote ourselves instead of depending on other things? And what we found out is that it's hugely improved our health and we enjoy it more.

SIMON: Now you can walk in midtown Manhattan. You can walk on Manhattan Island. And for that matter, Adam, in San Francisco, parts of it certainly…

ADAM: Yes. Actually, I spend - I only drive when I have to leave the city, and I very rarely use public transit in the city.

SIMON: But there are a lot of people, may I point out, who think that improved public transit is an important part of more responsible energy use.

ADAM: I think it is. For an urban environment, unless we're all going to leave the urban environment, right. It's not tenable for a lot of situations. But I approve of the experiment. I was just curious as to why he picked that reason.

SIMON: Mr. Beavan?

Mr. BEAVAN: Yes.

SIMON: And thank you very much Adam, for calling in from San Francisco.

Mr. Beavan, can you tell us what you miss most?

Mr. BEAVAN: Actually, I think what I miss most is travel. I grew up traveling a lot. My dad worked for the United Nations, so we traveled a lot. And traveling informed a lot of who I am as a person. I love to participate in other cultures. And when the experiment's over - I mean, I think that the difference between now and when the experiment's over will be just a matter of strictness.

But all the same, I, you know, I don't think I'll ever be the type of person that flies somewhere for the weekend anymore. It's - there are steps we can take, like instead of flying twice for the weekend, you can fly once for a week sort of thing. But I still think that I'm going to be a lot more conscience about my air travel than I was before.

SIMON: I've been told you don't use olive oil.

Mr. BEAVAN: We - that's true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: That's funny. These are kind of some of the contradictions that happen. Like for the purposes of eating, we didn't use olive oil, because it doesn't come from within our 250-mile radius. On the other hand…

SIMON: There are huge olive oil storehouses in Queens and the Bronx, aren't there?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: Maybe, but the olive oil itself wasn't created within 250 miles…

SIMON: I haven't seen olive groves in Queens, you're right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: But there's a little bit of everything in Queens. Because the food stuff emanated elsewhere, that's why you're avoiding it.

Mr. BEAVAN: Yes, yes, yes, yes. That's exactly right.

SIMON: Well, that raises a question. Are you missing out on a lot of fun in life this year?

Mr. BEAVAN: Oh, no. Don't you think I'm having fun right now?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: You're welcome.

SIMON: I think some people might consider that a measure of how much your prospects have shrunk if you think talking to me is fun.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: There's a lot more in life.

Mr. BEAVAN: Oh, Scott.

SIMON: All right. All right. But you get my point. I mean, olive oil, travel, movies, culture. You're in New York, man. I mean, why live like, you know, you're in the middle of a tree stump somewhere?

Mr. BEAVAN: Here's the thing. It's that we - we're used to by habit - I mean, before we did this project, we were kind of the typical New York professional couple. And we were used to - by habit - just taking from the world what we wanted - taking from the planet what we wanted. And the shift here is that instead of just taking what we wanted, we're taking what's offered. We're trying to be good guests.

So it doesn't mean that nothing's on offer. There's a lot on offer. Things that have happened to us, for example, we don't use the television. We used to sit and eat take out and not talk to each other in front of the television. Now, we play in the kitchen and talk and have a great time with Isabella. Things have changed, but I wouldn't say they've changed for the worse.

SIMON: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Back now with Colin Beavan. Another e-mail we want to pass along - Nere(ph) in Austin, Texas.

Is Colin and his family following a vegetarian or a vegan diet? Pound for pound, meat production is about 10 times more energy intensive than production of plant-based foods.

Mr. BEAVAN: Yes. We are following a vegetarian diet. I was already a vegetarian, and my poor wife became a vegetarian…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: …for the sake of this project. But yes, we're vegetarians. There's arguments about the meat issue. This is why - it's complicated and each of us has to look at our own lives and how we consume. But - and there's arguments about meat production, because meat can also be produced on small, sustainable farms and one thing or another. But no, we've taken the vegetarian path.

SIMON: Let's go to another call, if we could. And this is Scott in Kansas City - Missouri, right?

SCOTT (Caller): Yes, yes, that's correct.

SIMON: As opposed to the Kansas side. Scott, how can we help?

SCOTT: I'm just curious to know how many of these green techniques will you implement when the one year term is over, and will you resort to sort of the lifestyle that you lived prior to the year 2007?

Mr. BEAVAN: No, I don't think - my wife says all the time that she - there's no way that we'll ever just revert to our previous lifestyle. I think that the main difference will be that the strictness might change. You know, if, for example, when it's snowing, we still don't get in the subway, I think - well, I mean - I think Michelle had to take the subway once because she was sick. So when the experiment's over, I think a little bit more common sense will apply.

But a lot of - and in some ways, the real value of the experiment will be to see what we keep. You know, that at that stage, we'll see what we want to hold on to. But I think the main thing that will get lost is the strictness.

SIMON: Because psychologically, may I ask, is there a difference between telling yourself I have to live this way for a year and telling yourself this is my life?

Mr. BEAVAN: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes it's a big consolation to say, you know, oh, we only have to do it for a year. But again, it's not to say that we only have to - that we're only planning to live environmentally for a year. It just may be that when it's late at night and we have to carry 30-pound Isabella up the stairs nine flights, we're able to say, look. A year from now we could take an elevator under these circumstances.

SIMON: Yeah. And may I ask, does your wife sometimes fall asleep dreaming of the pepperoni pizza slice that she'll have when the year is up?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEAVAN: She's - the food thing is the thing she hated the most to start with and loves the most now, because, you know, our diets were just not so good. And now they are good and we're eating much better. It just took a little while for our palettes to adjust to so much cabbage and apple.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, something just occurred to me, taking a look at my notes - you have no refrigerator, or eventually won't when the electricity quits?

Mr. BEAVAN: No, the freezer is gone now, turned off. The refrigerator is going to be gone in a month when the electricity quits. We're going to use something called a pot in the pot, which was a very simple technology developed for use in sub-Saharan Africa which basically is a matter of using a couple of clay pots and some sand and some water. And the evaporation causes the interior to cool down.

SIMON: So you're able to have milk for you little girl and that sort of thing?

Mr. BEAVAN: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Well, you know it's been a great pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Beavan.

Mr. BEAVAN: It's been my pleasure.

SIMON: Colin Beavan - he writes the blog Noimpactman.com. He's living an extraordinary way for the next year. When we come back from a short break, the blogger who spent seven and a half months in jail for refusing to give prosecutors a videotape of a protest. That's Josh Wolf. Give us a call at 800-989-8255, or send us an e-mail at talk@npr.org. I'm Scott Simon. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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