Skip to comments.US family tries life without toilet paper
Posted on 09/19/2007 9:48:42 AM PDT by traumer
It is mid-afternoon in an airy, lower-Manhattan flat, on the ninth floor of a posh-looking building with a doorman.
It is a bit dark and there are no lights on. There is a strange quiet feel to the flat, perhaps due to the lack of any appliances - no fridge humming, no TV interference, even no air conditioning, though it is hot and humid outside.
Walk into the bathroom, and you will notice that there is no toilet paper, no bottles of shampoo or toiletries.
In the kitchen, berries and cheese are laid out on the counter and there are candles on the dining table.
This is the home of No-Impact Man, aka Colin Beavan, who describes himself on his blog as a "guilty liberal who finally snaps, swears off plastic... turns off his power... and while living in NYC turns into a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears".
While there are a lot of people who think that we're freaks, our friends have been really supportive, and they do come over and play Scrabble with us in the dark Michelle Beavan
He has dragged his wife, Michelle, and young daughter Isabella, along for the ride.
"The concept is that we should have no net environmental impact, which is, of course, technically not feasible," says Colin.
"So the idea is that we would reduce our negative impact and increase our positive impact."
Cutting the trash
The 43-year-old writer says he is not manically trying to offset everything, but he tries to get involved in environmentally friendly or sustainable projects around the city.
The first stage of the one-year experiment was to reduce rubbish. The family buys only second-hand goods and takes a hamper to the market.
Colin uses a glass jar he picked up from the trash as a reusable cup when he orders take-out coffee or juice.
Cleaning products Baking soda, vinegar and borax are used as cleaning products
Food is bought every other day from the nearby farmers' market on Union Square, and put in the hamper without wrapping.
The family then stopped using all carbon-producing transport, so they now walk or cycle.
They then shut down electricity in the flat - no more dishwasher, fridge or washing machine.
Now they are trying to reduce the amount of water they use, from the 80-100 gallons (303-379 litres) a day used by the average American, down to seven.
The more the experiment advances, the more drastic the changes become.
"I was a typical American consumer - I shopped a lot, I ate most of my meals in take-out containers, I took cabs everywhere," said Michelle, a journalist with a weekly business magazine.
Although she still goes to the office every day (on her bike), uses the elevator to get to the 43rd floor, turns on her computer and uses a mobile phone, she has had to redesign her whole life.
"It has been a shock to the system."
Michelle admits there were times when she regretted agreeing to the no-impact experiment, but says it has been one of the best adventures of her adult life.
"In essence, the project has really slowed down time, which is pretty amazing considering how fast time has become, and especially with us living in New York - you come home to a quiet, soothing cocoon."
For news from the outside world, there is the solar-powered crank-up radio, although the family rarely uses it.
A solar panel on the roof provides power for a laptop and one light.
From the kitchen, Colin brings out a wooden box with air holes on the sides. He opens the lid and scoops up a handful of dark brown matter that looks and smells like earth. In fact, it's a combination of fruit and vegetable peels and worms.
"This is the compost box, the worms take the food scraps and they turn it into compost," explains Colin.
There are many places all over the world that don't use toilet paper ... it's a lot more hygienic Colin Beavan
What happens in the toilet, where there's no toilet paper?
"What I'll tell you, is this: There are many places all over the world that don't use toilet paper," is all he will say at first.
He then adds that because people wash, it is a lot more hygienic.
For detergents, laundry, body soap and toothpaste, they use a combination of vegetable oil, baking soda, vinegar and borax.
The Beavans realise that not everybody can afford to embark on a similar radical experiment or live like that long-term.
They also make clear that it is an experiment, and they have had their doubts about what works and what really makes a difference.
They insist they do not want to force their ideas on anyone else, but they feel happy about the difference it has made to their own lives.
Their life is now centred around the kitchen table, as well as activities such as riding bikes together.
"While there are a lot of people who think that we're freaks, our friends have been really supportive, and they do come over and play Scrabble with us in the dark," Michelle says.
But is it really possible to have no impact on the environment while living in a city where any resident is inevitably part of the system?
"There's no question that this city has an infrastructure and some of the impact of the city itself should get credited to us," said Colin.
"But the fact is that it is actually easier to live an efficient life in this city, and this is well documented. Here in New York, we emit about a third of the carbon per member of the population of the rest of the country, and it's because of the efficiencies of scale of this city."
We're not going to bring the air-conditioner back. We're going to continue to ride our bikes everywhere. The fridge will come back, but will be used minimally Colin Beavan
The Beavans say that when the experiment is over, they will not simply revert to their old way of living.
"We're not going to bring the air-conditioner back. We're going to continue to ride our bikes everywhere. The fridge will come back, but will be used minimally," says Colin.
Michelle cannot wait to turn on the washing machine again. Hand-washing clothes has been the toughest change and a chore that has meant laundry is often not done, though Isabella enjoys stomping the clothes in the bathtub.
Colin is planning to write a book about his year as No-Impact Man - his publishers are looking at sustainable ways of publishing.
It may be a worthwhile experiment in the eyes of some, or a total waste of time by a tree hugger for others. But whatever you think of the Beavans, somehow when you leave their flat it feels like there is only one option - to walk down the nine flights of stairs.
For a minute I thought this was about Kramer.
The indoors flush toilet was a bigger deal. Going outside in 20 below weather in the middle of the night (or really, any time) was no fun at all.
I'll have to show her this story. I think that her comment will be "Why?" followed shortly by "Idiot.".
One giant backwards leap for mankind.
Thank God I’m a left handed American!....I wouldn’t want any of those filthy Muslim habits!
Gross. At least move to the country and use leaves.
Can I get an indulgence from FR to publicly LMAO in a few months when this idiot dies of some horrible, turd-world, fecal-borne disease?
Oh, you really shouldn’t have posted that! I’m drinking chocolate milk...out of a disposable bottle...
Yeah, but then you use more soap and detergents. Shake this guy's left hand from now on.
Hahaha, he’s such a dork!
In the ‘60s my sister and I spent the summer in rural Virginia while my mother did a summer program in college. We stayed on a farm that had electricity, but no indoor plumbing. There was a pump out front, an outhouse with a Sears catalog for toilet paper, and chamber pots under the bed.
I couldn’t get back to the city fast enough.
Tiny little random facts in my brain: Chimpanzees use toilet paper (dead leaves), and teach their young to do so.
That means these folks aren't descended from the apes. They're lower than that.
I’m sorry—but I don’t get your point. These people aren’t bothering me at all.
At least the pioneers and indians had fire and could hunt and fish and grow their own food — make pottery and clothing. They also had access to natural materials to substitute for toilet paper. It was a hard life, but livable. These idiots on the other hand are a joke. Our ancestors would look at this family of freaks and laugh.
Yes, no electricity, no plastic, no car, restricted water use, but he will slaughter a forest to print his words for you to read.
In addition to uping your carbon production, you better be safe and purchase some Carbon Debits
And I suppose he thinks they grow the coffee beans in Central Park. Along with the cows for the creamer.
What a maroon.......
“””We’re not going to bring the air-conditioner back. We’re going to continue to ride our bikes everywhere. The fridge will come back, but will be used minimally Colin Beavan
The Beavans say that when the experiment is over, they will not simply revert to their old way of living.
“We’re not going to bring the air-conditioner back. We’re going to continue to ride our bikes everywhere. The fridge will come back, but will be used minimally,” says Colin.
Michelle cannot wait to turn on the washing machine again. Hand-washing clothes has been the toughest change and a chore that has meant laundry is often not done, though Isabella enjoys stomping the clothes in the bathtub”””
When people do temporary experiments like this it is wonderful for them, they learn a lot, get more control over excessive habits and have greater appreciation for their comforts when they start using them again.
Many people have done this on a smaller scale, for instance turning off the TV for a few months and then learning to use it more sparingly in the future.
If someone is interested in preparedness they just about have to do a little experimentation along these lines to become proficient in it.
The simple act of turning off the electricity for three days can be a great learning and growth experience for a family.
US family tries life without brains.
Another salon poser eschewing the trappings of civilization so he can feel how the Other Half lives. I have a homestead in South Dakota that has no running water or central heat or indoor plumbing of any kind. I’ll rent it to this clown for half of what he’s paying in Manhattan. Then we’ll both be happy.
Ya, I loved it when we had no electricity for 8 days after a hurricane. Talk about a learning and growth experience. Unfortunately we had a gas stove and gas water heater so we didn't get the full learnig and growth experience we could have. We were still able to shower and eat.
Boy It would really piss them off if they new my morning routine. First thing I do is get up and walk in the bathroom turn on the shower and then walk out to my desk get on the computer to see what happened in the world on FREE REPUBLIC. Well you know how addicting this site can be. No sooner am I looking down at the clock and it has been 35 minutes. lol.
Another whacko liberal! If he wants to have no impact, he should dig a hole and jump in.
My user name says it all!
“Ya, I loved it when we had no electricity for 8 days after a hurricane. Talk about a learning and growth experience.”
Hurricanes are probably what started my interest in being prepared, as a kid my mother had to keep the stuff we needed for those long black outs.
As an adult the 12 days I went without electricity after Alicia was no big deal for just one example.
Once a father has tried to teach his family about what to do during a preparedness situation it is always a good idea to test them with a three day total utility shutdown.
Teenagers and wives especially sometimes need to see the reality before they start really paying attention.
I get a rash just thinking about this.
This is basicly a clinical mental illness.
When you meet a liberal, seriously think about whether you want to shake their hand or not. You know where it’s been.
Liberals are nuts.
Don’t you like chocolate covered strawberries?
Why would anyone buy corn husks?
“If he wants to have no impact, he should dig a hole and jump in.”
I was just thinking the same thing. If every screaming liberal who wanted to “help the environment” would simply commit suicide, then the rest of us could share the world’s resources more easily. It shouldn’t be hard to convince them to off themselves; just tell them it’s “for the children.”
“Another salon poser eschewing the trappings of civilization so he can feel how the Other Half lives.”
YeP Poser indeed.
Mr. Manhattan can choose TP or not.
Many folks that do not use TP do not have a choice in the matter.
There must be a reason why this aspect of the whole thing is so evocative.
In Nigeria people would love to enjoy amenities like consistent power, clean water and a sanitary sewer system. Not just for the convience but because it means better health and economic stability.
They could teach Mr. Manhattan a lot about reality.
Must be NY Times subscribers.
The liberal, as a liberal is defined, is about as ignorant and stupid about how toilet paper is made and destroyed in waste water treatment as anyone can be.
Maybe they can wipe with Sheryl Crow’s hair....
“though Isabella enjoys stomping the clothes in the bathtub. “
Odds are they use more water to hand wash than my water efficient washing machine uses.
What a loon.
Why not, she is already using Cherokee Hair Tampons.
That was for all you South Park fans
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.