A Day with Colin Beavan

September 03, 2010

By Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)

To many people, “T.G.I.F.”  is an acronym for “Thank God It’s Friday,” but for participants of “No Impact Week,” “T.G.I.F.” stand for “This Green Includes Fun!”  The first week of the new semester ended with a lively flurry of activity and environmental awareness. Celebrating the Class of 2014’s summer reading book, No Impact Man, author Colin Beavan came and spent the day with Rollins students.

Because Winter Park’s drainage system had washed debris and garbage off the streets and into the city’s beloved lake, Beavan and a group of students began their morning paddling around Lake Virginia in canoes, removing trash from the water. 

Once the clean-up drew to a close, the group returned to dry land to take part in Eco-Fest. Held in front of the Olin Library, this event brought together organizations from near and far to educate and entertain. Animal sanctuaries, sustainable soaps and the ever popular TOMS Shoes were all well-represented. But it was the “Leave No Impact” t-shirts that caught everyone’s eye at the marketplace. Passersby could not resist the temptation to tie-dye these 100 percent organic cotton tops and claim them as their own.

As midday turned into afternoon, the Alfond Sports Center filled with students until seats on the bleachers were nowhere to be found. Escaping from the heat of the day, Beavan spoke to the assembled crowd about his 2006 project, in which he, along with his wife and daughter, embarked on a year long quest to eliminate their impact on the environment while living in New York City.

“I thought that he really made a difference in society, even at the beginning when he was taking small steps,” Michaela Paris said. “It inspired me to change the way that I live.”

Beavan also talked about our society’s “Distributed Problem,” summarizing that there is no single, sure-fire answer to fixing the difficulties we face today. Like the problem, the answers must be diverse and complex. These solutions have to come from somewhere, and we shouldn’t just depend on famous and well-known individuals to make a difference. Beavan pointed out that Ghandi and John F. Kennedy were famous leaders who initiated change in society, but for each well-known leader, there are countless unrecognized leaders—leaders like us – who are agents of change, too.

“Don’t be afraid to use them [your own passions and talents]…trust yourself,” said Beavan.

After a brief respite, the volunteers took off again. Teaming up with the Watershed Action Volunteer (WAV) program, the group travelled off-campus to help remove invasive plants species from a local watershed area. In the evening, Beavan joined the summer essay contest’s winners Annamarie Carlson, Kara Daniel and Samuel Pieniadz for a dinner at the new Mowbray Sustainability House.

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