CBS’s Smith Touts Green Couple Who Lived Year Without Toilet Paper

Harry Smith, Colin and Michelle Beavan, CBS On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith promoted a new book and documentary about a New York City couple that spent a year without modern amenities, such as toilet paper and electricity, to limit their impact on the environment: “This is an amazing saga....when the lights were switched back on, Colin and Michelle clearly saw a year that meant so much more than living without toilet paper.”

Smith asked Colin and Michelle Beavan what their “inspiration” was, to which Colin replied: “Concern for the planet. I mean, we were reading so much about global warming happening and we were just frustrated because what can any one person do? So we thought we’d try to do what we could.” Michelle added: “I had just seen the movie An Inconvenient Truth, so that really – it was kind of perfect timing.”

In response to the Beavan’s only eating fresh unpackaged food, Smith saw the logic: “the cost of what the wheat is in a box of cereal that costs $4? It’s a couple of pennies, you know, versus all of this stuff that’s around it. So there’s – there’s some sense in all of this.” Near the end of the segment, Colin again cited global warming hysteria: “And we discovered that, you know, there is a climate emergency happening and it is possible for us as citizens to actually take care.” Smith agreed: “You just have to get 300 million people to do it.”

While concluding the segment, Smith made reference to the lack of toilet paper: “Okay, and the last question, is the answer newspaper?” Colin dodged the question and simply replied: “what we want to talk about here is that we have a big emergency.”

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
8:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: And could you spend a year without toilet paper? This couple did and they took it even further. They’ll tell you about their year of no impact living and going green to the extreme.

8:31AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Coming up, the surprising story of a man who went green to the extreme along with his wife and daughter. This is an amazing saga. There’s a book, there’s a documentary film. What if you basically said ‘I’m going to not use electricity, I’m not going to buy new stuff, I’m not going to buy packaged food from the store.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Not even toilet paper, right?

SMITH: Think about that, for one solid year.

RODRIGUEZ: I can’t imagine.

SMITH: Completely changed their lives. They are with us live in the studio this morning and have got a great story to tell.

8:35AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: In 2006, a New York City writer began a one year experiment. He and his family would try to live their lives with as little environmental impact as possible. Now their extreme green experience is the subject of a new book and documentary. For Colin Beavan, his wife Michelle, and daughter Isabella, a year of little impact on the environment meant big changes.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: No-Impact Man; Going Green to the Extreme]

COLIN BEAVAN: It meant no carbon dioxides, so no driving or flying.

SMITH: The family traveled on foot or by bicycle. Ate only unpackaged locally grown food. And stopped shopping for anything new, including toilet paper.

MICHELLE BEAVAN: Honey, do we have any toilet paper?

COLIN BEAVAN: No.

BEAVAN: It’s not about deprivation, it’s not about not taking care of yourself. It’s the opposite, it’s about seeing is it possible to have a good life without wasting so much.

SMITH: Rather than ship waste to a landfill, Colin had a compost bin in the living room, complete with worms. The year wasn’t always easy.

COLIN BEAVAN [TURNING OFF LIGHTS]: Okay, here we go.

MICHELLE BEAVAN: Honey, do you remember where you put the matches?

SMITH: And, of course, compromises were made along the way. But when the lights were switched back on, Colin and Michelle clearly saw a year that meant so much more than living without toilet paper.

COLIN BEAVAN: What if we called it the year I lost 20 pounds without going to the gym once? Or if we called it the year we ate locally and seasonally. There are actual benefits to living environmentally.

SMITH: Colin Beavan’s book about his family’s experience is called No Impact Man and he joins us now with Michelle. Good morning.

MICHELLE BEAVAN: Good morning.

COLIN BEAVAN: Good morning.

SMITH: Alright, original inspiration was what?

BEAVAN: Concern for the planet. I mean, we were reading so much about global warming happening and we were just frustrated because what can any one person do? So we thought we’d try to do what we could.

SMITH: So you have this idea and he comes home and he says ‘guess what we’re going to do, honey?’And you said?

MICHELLE BEAVAN: And I said – I said yes. He was really excited about it and I had just seen the movie An Inconvenient Truth, so that really – it was kind of perfect timing.

SMITH: Sure. Sure.

BEAVAN: And he was very excited about it and I thought this is for a great cause. So I’m game.

SMITH: Alright. Great ideas sometimes are so great because they’re ideas. And then the reality comes. How hard was it?

BEAVAN: You know honestly, the hard thing is breaking all the bad habits of wasting. But by three months in, the dividends were so enormous that it was really an incredible adventure. The health dividends.

SMITH: Okay, alright-

COLIN BEAVAN: Because, for example, when we turned the TV off, we ended up spending more time together as a family. Spending more time outside with our little girl. So it was interesting that we let go of the inconveniences – the so-called conveniences and efficiencies and found other joys.

SMITH: Right. So what did you eat for breakfast? Because you didn’t – tried not to buy any packaged food, right.

MICHELLE BEAVAN: Right.

COLIN BEAVAN: And only local food. So breakfast time in the wintertime was a lot of corn meal porridge, but in the summertime-

SMITH: Mhmm.

BEAVAN: Yeah, that’s true. But in the summertime when the farmer’s market really came up, then it was all sorts of berries and cantaloupes. And actually, what happened to us was we lost weight because we were eating so much better.

SMITH: Right. And not using the elevator, as well?

MICHELLE BEAVAN: No. So we were using the stairs, so we had automatic cardio built into our day. Bike, walking around, stairs. It was great, we didn’t have to go to the gym.

COLIN BEAVAN: So funny the city of New York is right now promoting people, asking them to take stairs as a method of exercise.

SMITH: Sure. Right. The – when people came over, friends of yours, say you had them over for dinner, and you’d have your compost box right in the middle of the living room and it probably gives off a kind of an interesting aroma, as it were. What – how did people respond to it?

BEAVAN: Well-

SMITH: Did you turn on the lights?

BEAVAN: Well, for example – no, we didn’t turn on the lights specially – but, for example, one time we had a local eating party where – a pot luck dinner where everybody had to bring their own food that they made. And then the whole thing ended up being this whole conversation about how did you do it and where did you get the local ingredients from. It was really fascinating.

SMITH: Right. Is this one of those – okay, so we did this for a year and that was so nutty and what a great experiment and what a great experience. What’s the most important thing you hung on – you’re going to hang on to? Because you turned the lights back on, right?

BEAVAN: We did. You know-

SMITH: Are you taking the elevator now?

MICHELLE BEAVAN: Yeah, but-

COLIN BEAVAN: But no air conditioning.

MICHELLE BEAVAN: No TV. You know what, it’s really not hard not to waste. And it was a great joy and a pleasure that made me happier to feel like I was treating the planet with more respect and it made our family really intimate and more close to kind of let go of-

SMITH: Of the stuff.

BEAVAN: Of the distractions of screens and high-fructose corn syrup and all that.

SMITH: It was interesting, I was just out in Iowa, I was talking to a farmer friend of mine and we were talking with the price of commodities and all this other stuff. And he said do you know how much – how many – the cost of what the wheat is in a box of cereal that costs $4? It’s a couple of pennies, you know, versus all of this stuff that’s around it. So there’s – there’s some sense in all of this.

BEAVAN: Yeah, this was a great lifestyle redesign for us.

SMITH: Yeah.

BEAVAN: We weren’t saying anyone else should do it, but we – we discovered enormous joys and benefits by redesigning our lifestyle in a way that just wasn’t wasting and harmful to the planet either.

COLIN BEAVAN: And we discovered that, you know, there is a climate emergency happening and it is possible for us as citizens to actually take care and do-

SMITH: Did you feel like it made a difference?

BEAVAN: Yeah. I mean, thousands of-

SMITH: You just have to get 300 million people to do it.

BEAVAN: Yeah, that’s right. Thousands of people came to the blog and started working on it themselves, too.

SMITH: Okay, and the last question, is the answer newspaper?

BEAVAN: Oh, you – though, what we want to talk about here is that we have a big emergency.

SMITH: Okay, alright. I just thought that was the answer. Alright. Thanks very much. To read an excerpt from No Impact Man, go to our website, EarlyShow.CBSNews.com.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC