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Stephen Colbert vs. No Impact Man

Steve Colbert, Comedy Central
Mark Gongloff at WSJ Energy Blog writes:

Energy Roundup has written before (here, here and here) about Colin Beavan, a/k/a No Impact Man, the New York City resident trying to live for a year with little or no net impact on the environment. The experiment, which has landed him a book and movie deal, involves such inconveniences (shared by his wife and daughter) as composting his own garbage, forgoing toilet paper, transportation and elevators and never buying anything new. As if being noticed by Energy Roundup were not enough, Beavan has also been profiled by the New York Times, NPR and a host of other news outlets.

Last night, however, he appeared in what could be his most “hostile” forum yet, The Colbert Report, where ultra-right-wing-esque host Stephen Colbert wasted an entire roll of paper towels, called Beavan “the patriarch of these eco-Mansons” and timed Beavan with an empty microwave (”It’s pure waste,” said his stage manager).

Beavan wrote of having “butterflies” in his stomach ahead of the interview. See for yourself how he handled it.
(12 April 2007)
See original for links and video. I’m not sure how Mark Gongloff gets away with it, but he runs the rockingest blog of any financial newspaper. Hat tip: GroovyGreen. -BA

Production, Consumption and Amish Economics

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
…What do I mean by Amish Economics? Well Gene Logsdon has an essay in _Living at Nature’s Pace_ about the economies build around Amish communities. In “A Horse Drawn Economy” Logsdon points out that his small, rural county in Ohio is home to a huge amount of business – much of it spurred by the Amish. Livestock auctions, small factories making cookstoves and horse-drawn equipment, farmstands and little quilt businesses. All of these spring up where the Amish go – because they patronize not the cheapest business, but members of their own community, and because others see benefits to patronizing them, they are profitable. And also because they don’t need to pay electric bills and large infrastructure utility bills, or even rent, since they usually work out of their homes and barns or buildings they build on their own properties, they keep most of the money the bring in.

…Like the Amish, we’re going to have to need a lot less, and keep most of our money for ourselves. That might mean giving up electricity altogether, or certainly giving up a lot of our lovely powered appliances and toys. It might mean encouraging things that don’t “raise the value” of our homes – but raise the quality of life in our homes, like adding low income or interstitial housing (my husband, btw, commenting on the fact that our local rich suburb has the houses marked by 4s, leaving plenty of numbers available for new homes in this densely packed burb, argues that they are planning for interstitial shantytowns, just in case ;-))

It will take some work (or a massive crisis) to get people to recognize that zoning as it exists now mostly operates to enforce a life that has to end. We need to accept that it is possible to have peace and joy with gardens instead of front lawns, shops in your neighbor’s garage and chickens in the backyard. We will probably need to scrap a whole host of regulations, including, perhaps some involving the sale of food – while it may be that large scale food production should still take place in certified kitchens, there are things (bread, for example) with which it is almost impossible to poison anyone, and other things where one ought to have the opportunity to understand the risks and take your chances – there is no inherent reason why my neighbor’s chicken soup is ok for me to eat when she brings it over if I’m sick, but not ok if I pay her a buck for a cup. We will need to get over our sue-happy culture, and start expecting that reasonably intelligent people can be expected to behave like grownups and deal if something accidentally goes wrong. Poop on your chicken eggs? Well, let me just wipe that off! Or you could go to the supermarket where they have the eggs that magically come from the special, never-poopin chickens…right. We all need to relax a little.
(12 April 2007)
Long essay by EB contributor Sharon Astyk – containing enough ideas for two or three books. -BA

A greener planet begins under the kitchen sink

Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor
When the subject is the environment, Diane MacEachern has long been ahead of the times. Thirty years ago, she earned a master’s degree in natural resources and the environment. And 20 years ago she helped design and build the energy-efficient house in the Washington, D.C., area where she and her family live.

Now she hopes to be in the vanguard again. Next week she is launching a national campaign and a website,, urging women to shift at least $1,000 of their annual household spending to green products. On average, people spend $18,000 a year on groceries and household goods.

“Women spend 80 cents of every dollar in the marketplace,” Ms. MacEachern says. “We could be the most powerful force for economic and environmental change in the 21st century if we focused our money where it could make the biggest difference. If a million people did that, it would have a $1 billion impact.”

As she outlines these benefits to women she meets, she finds an enthusiastic response. “Women love the idea that they have that much power in their purse,” MacEachern says. “It can get them a future they want to leave to their kids – clean water, clean air.”

For many years MacEachern focused on changing public policy. Although that remains important, she became frustrated by the “dilly dally” approach of Congress and state legislatures. “It can take years to pass legislation,” she says. “But in terms of providing an incentive for manufacturers to reduce pollution, we can influence that much more quickly in the marketplace than we can through regulation.”

For many people, the marketplace question becomes: What should I buy?

“You start with the products that make the most difference to you,” MacEachern says. “You also try to focus on the product that has the biggest impact in protecting the planet.” She offers six suggestions:
(12 April 2007)

British brides say “I do” to green weddings

Sylvia Westall, Reuters
LONDON – Here comes the bride, all dressed in — green.
White weddings might have been the dream of fashionable brides of old. But the trendiest British weddings are now at least metaphorically green as couples seek to reduce the impact of their nuptials on the environment.

That means everything from recycled wedding dresses and guests arriving by bicycle, to home-grown flowers and locally produced food for the wedding buffet.

“A year ago there was nothing green at wedding shows. I was really struggling to get the message across that green weddings are about “eco-chic”, not lentils and hessian,” said green wedding planner Ruth Culver.

“Now specialist venues, products and services are being launched every week.”..
(9 Apr 2007)
Positive and unpretentious article on a happy trend, this is what progress looks like.-LJ

E-waste win points way

James Rose, The Standard
..Last week Lenovo, the Chinese computer manufacturer, was given the ultimate praise by conservation group Greenpeace when it was awarded top spot in the group’s survey of how companies deal with e-waste.

E-waste, the bits and pieces left over from discarded electronic goods, is one of Asia’s major environmental problems. Some 80 percent of such goods thrown out by the developed world are sent to Asia, where they are broken up, reused and/or dumped.

The fallout is massive. E-waste workers are regularly exposed to highly dangerous toxins as they handle the inner components of such products. Also, toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, beryllium and poisonous plastic softeners known as phthalates end up concentrating in water systems and in soils.

Lenovo, according to a Greenpeace statement, “scores top marks on its e-waste policies and practice; the company offers take-back and recycling facilities in all the countries where its products are sold. Lenovo also reports the amount of e-waste it recycles as a percentage of its sales.”

Greenpeace goes on to say the company has not yet phased out using toxic materials, but kudos nevertheless to Lenovo. Why did Lenovo do it? ..

James Rose is editor of
(9 Apr 2007)
See also Greenpeace International ranks Apple Inc. last on list of electronic companies’ environmental friendliness.