More Rich Urbanites Bring Pretension to Living Simply

In today’s New York Times (where else?) there’s yet another story about super-rich urbanites sacrificing delivered meals and cab rides in the name of environmentalism. Meet the Beavens: Colin, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction; Michelle, 39, a writer at BusinessWeek; and Isabella, 2, who live together in their Eames-furnished, “elegant prewar on Lower Fifth Avenue” that Michelle bought in 1999.

The Beavens are doing their darndest to live an entire year with No Impact, meaning no waste. They will only eat organic food grown within 250 miles of Manhattan, will make no trash except compost, will use no paper (including toilet), and have unplugged all their household appliances. However, Michelle will continue using her Kiehl’s and Fresh moisturizer, laundry will be done by machine, and the cleaning lady (thank you Jesus!) gets to keep using the vacuum.

It’s admirable that the Beavens are trying to reduce their impact on the earth, albeit, only for a year. But it’s annoying that their No Impact lifestyle is possible only because they have the enormous funds and spare time to do so.

Who would have the time to make bread from scratch if not Mr. Beaven, who writes during the day? Who has the money to buy and eat only organic food from the Farmer’s Market? Who would clean their apartment, if not their hired cleaning lady? One can’t help but wonder if the experiment wouldn’t be more interesting and more applicable to most Americans if the Beavens were not rich, married Manhattanites, but instead a single mother living in the burbs? Or if the Beaven’s actually left Manhattan (horrors!) to live on a farm (double horrors!) in Ohio?

Albeit, the Experiement will reduce the Earth’s wasteload, if only a little, and will make for interesting reading. As the Times puts it, the Experiment “…may seem at best like a scene from an old-fashioned situation comedy and, at worst, an ethically murky exercise in self-promotion.” Touche, The New York Times, touche.

—Jen Phillips