Environmentalism these days is full of earnestness.
A lot of the fun has gone out of it as people buy hybrids, grimly sort their trash into mandated piles, and study up on international treaties.
So, when we heard about the man in the United Kingdom who had devoted his life to living without cash, we admired his courage, creativity, and his enterprise.
But mostly, we admired the fun he seems to be having.
These efforts, whether funny, sensible or downright strange, might inspire change. At the very worst, the people conducting them will be able to say they had a good time trying to do something good.
The one who started it all.
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau ditched his home and moved into a cabin in the woods (which he built himself) for two years. Then, he wrote about it in his book, 'A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.'
He planted beets, turnips, and made a little bit of money with odd jobs. It was an 'experiment with living,' and his conclusion was that he was much happier than his neighbours.
His aim: to strip life down to its true necessities. 'Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things,' he wrote.
Mark Boyle will not buy anything.
He has been living without any cash in a caravan on an organic farm in the UK for close to a year. He lives off the land, armed with a solar power laptop, a caravan and a toothbrush made from washed-up cuttlefish bones.
Boyle grows his own food, or sometimes forages. He lives off the power grid, uses newspaper as toilet paper, and bikes everywhere. And he says that it can be done.
His aim: 'I just wanted to show that you can live a really happy, healthy life without so much money or stuff.
Yet another superhero in Gotham: No Impact Man hit the streets in 2007 on his tricycle.
For a year, Colin Beaven and his family generated no net carbon emissions, no trash, and in general, no net carbon impact.
They lived for a year without such luxuries as take-out containers, toilet paper, motorised transportation including elevators to his apartment, and heating. A recently-released book and documentary details their lives.
His aim: 'to show what each of us can do to end our environmental crisis, make a better place to live for ourselves and everyone else, and hopefully come up with a happier way of life along the way.'
Journalist Vanessa Farquharson gave up her refrigerator, and a few other accruments to save the planet.
She spent every day between 2007 and 2008 adopting one new green resolution. Some were just superficial, like not using q-tips; others were better, like when she sells her car. A year later, there was a book: Sleeping Naked Is Green.
Her aim: 'People shouldn't feel as though they have to choose between living out the rest of their days in a hippie commune in the middle of a hemp crop with a composting toilet and living in a stylish urban condo with his and hers sinks.'
Web designer Jenna Woginrich set out to become a homesteader after living in New York.
She moved to a rented farmhouse in northern Idaho, learned to raise chickens, keep bees, produce her own food, make her own clothes, and in general, live the simple life.
Her aim: to create a how-to guide for anyone wishing to make a urban to rural transformation.
Novella Carpenter raised fruits, vegetables and livestock on a small, abandoned lot in Oakland, California.
She is an urban farmer, whose experiment keeping bees, turkeys, ducks, a goose, rabbits, and pigs in the city is both charming and practical (she eventually kills them for food).
Her aim: to have the joys of the country without its isolation, by moving farm life to Oakland
Two dudes took off in a french-fry car across the country as a lesson in alternative fuel.
Greg Melville and friend, Iggy, used cooking oil to drive across the country in an altered cooking oil-running Merc. They used only 4 gallons of diesel, but spewed so much air pollution along the way that the emissions more than compensated for any positive environmental effects.
Their aim: to prove that veggie cars are a sustainable alternative to gas clunkers.
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