No Impact Man and Limiting the Rollins Impact

September 3, 2010 Features

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, a mouthful of a book title for one amazing experiment. For one year, Colin Beavan; his wife, Michelle; and his two-year old daughter, Isabelle, attempted to completely eliminate their personal impact on the environment. This means no electricity, no elevators, no cars, no buses, no airplanes, no new products, no garbage, and no food that is grown more than two hundred and fifty miles away from home, all the while living in the middle of Manhattan.

This summer, the entire first year class read about Beavan’s life altering experiment. Ayeh Saleh ‘14 said the book, “inspired me to focus on what I can do as an individual for our collective community.”

Another first year student, Kim Hojecki, was also impacted by the novel: “It makes you think about the way you live your life—I now take the stairs more oft en.”

The No Impact Man campus- wide experience began Thursday, August 26 in Dave’s Down Under with the film screening of the documentary that captured the Beavans’ yearlong experiment. For most of the student body, this was their first glimpse of Beavan’s lifestyle choices. For the first-year class, the documentary provided an interesting comparison. Lin VanderVliet ’14 stated, “I thought the movie showcased a lot of the struggles and better addressed more of the difficulties they dealt with.”

The No Impact Man experience continued with the Eco-Fest on Olin Lawn during the afternoon of Friday, August 27. The fun included tie-dying, decorating TOMS shoes, and snacks. Some of Rollins’ community partners were at the event as well, including the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge, Journey’s End Animal Shelter, and the Clean the World Foundation. Grace Nichols ‘14 was touched by how many students at Rollins were making an effort. “It gladdens my heart to see that people are not simply agreeing that there is a problem, but that their discontent motivates them to action.”

At 2 p.m. in the Alfond Sports Center, Beavan spoke to the entire student body. He began with discussing the motivations behind his experiment. After learning about global warming, Beavan began to point fingers at much of the community around him before realizing, “maybe I am really part of the problem.” He decided to work on changing himself before he tried to change other people. What did he discover? “We are wrecking our habitat, our place of well being, and we aren’t even having a party.”

He explained to the student body that you need to “trust yourself” and that there are no bad ideas. He reiterated that we do not need to go backwards, but we do need to ask ourselves if we are in balance. He ended by challenging the students of Rollins College: “There was a time in history when being informed was enough—now you need to be engaged. The problems are big, but if we all get involved, maybe we can solve them.”

After speaking, Beavan and a group of students traveled to Kewannee Park where they worked with Park Ranger and Biologist Sherry Williams to remove invasive species from the native trees in the area. “I am glad I came. It was a good experience,” stated Michael Buck a first year transfer student. The experience truly hit home with Rachel Kokomoor ’14: “It reminded me of something I had done in Bermuda… it was cool to experience the same thing. It reminded me of my current Facebook status… ‘If you do things right, people won’t know you have done anything at all.’”

The day ended with Colin Beavan eating a locally grown vegetarian dinner in the Mowbary House with members of the house, leaders from JUMP, the book selection committee, and the three first-year essay contest winners, Samuel Pieniadz, Kara Daniel, and Annamarie Carlson. When asked to speak, Beavan thanked everyone for everything they had done to make this possible. In his words, “Gratitude is the best antidote for waste.”

Throughout this week, students will be participating in a miniature version of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Experiment, giving up each of the things he gave up throughout his experiment on a different day of the week, reflecting on Beavan’s words: “As you are moving forward, I hope you are the type of person that doesn’t ask, ‘Can I change the world?’, but instead ask yourself ‘Am I the kind of person who wants to try to change the world?’”

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