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'No Impact Man' runs for Congress

Colin Beavan announces bid to succeed Rep. Ed Towns

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s “No Impact Man” hopes to make a big impact next year — in Washington.

Environmentalist Colin Beavan — the Clinton Hill resident who made a name for himself by curbing his fossil fuel consumption and living to blog about it — is throwing his sustainably made hat into the ring to succeed Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene).

Beavan will square off against the winner of a Democratic contest between State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Prospect Heights) and Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie), on the Green Party ticket.

Though he’s best known for his personal austerity measures — chronicling his avoidance of energy-sucking appliances like air conditioners in the name of a healthier Earth — he says his hope is to jump-start the economy by backing Brooklyn businesses.

“The government and corporations take wealth away from communities and we basically beg for the money back, but we should invest in job development here so money doesn’t leave the neighborho­ods,” said Beavan.

Born in Stuyvesant Town, Beavan got an engineering degree, consulted for housing and health providers, and wrote for magazines before becoming an environmental activist after reading stories about the country’s dependence on foreign oil during the Iraq War.

In 2006, he launched the blog “No Impact Man” dedicated to shrinking his environmental footprint, and the website took off.

He detailed his family’s avoidance of gasoline, electricity, and heat — and decision to only eat food grown within 100 miles of Brooklyn. They became vegetarians, nixed most transportation, and even managed to keep the air conditioners off in 100-degree August heat.

“We were a little bit lucky there was cross ventilation in the apartment,” said Beavan. “We would fill up the bath with water and leave it, and on the blistering nights we would jump in the baths and make ourselves wet.”

The blog led to a book deal, a documentary, a national speaking tour, conferences, and a nonprofit, noimpactproject.org, which shows readers how to incorporate some of Beavan’s waste-reduction techniques to their own lives.

Beavan hopes to use his experience in an eco-abstinence to inform public policy. He still manages to do his part to reduce climate change such as restricting personal travel, but, if elected, he would probably take the train to go to work.

And even if he doesn’t win, he hopes to engage and excite a district stretching across the borough from Brooklyn Heights to Brighton Beach as an everyman candidate (albeit the everyman candidate who once refused to use toilet paper for one year).

“Our real goal is to get people involved in the democratic process,” said Beavan. “Citizens should decide for themselves to run for office and represent their communities better than professional politicians can.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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Reader Feedback

Or from Yellow Hook says:
Now, show your results.
May 22, 2012, 8:57 am
Craig Seeman from Bushwick says:
As former Green Party candidate in the old 52nd AD and later 33rd Council District, it's exciting to see Colin Beavan running!.

He has my support and endorsement.

Too many years of electing Democrats, even those claiming to be "reformers" and seeing no real change. I hope people are bold enough to vote for Beavan and, bolder still, work and support his campaign. His commitment, endurance and resolve are EXACTLY the kind of strength we need in congress.
May 22, 2012, 2:30 pm
dont understand from bk paper says:
why write this piece? you have a fringe candidate in a november election and you write a piece now about a non-substantive issue...why not write about charles barron and hakeem jeffries, who are facing off in a consequential and hotly contested election in a month.
May 22, 2012, 8:03 pm
Or from Yellow Hook. says:
"The blog led to a book deal, a documentary, a national speaking tour, conferences, and a nonprofit, noimpactproject.org, which shows readers how to incorporate some of Beavan’s waste-reduction techniques to their own lives."

He'll be a little late to the tour. He's walking there.

He feels good about himself. That's enough.
May 23, 2012, 6:20 am
jb from Fort Greene says:
What is it about hairshirt-wearers and self-flagellation that short-circuits people's reasoning faculties and lets you lend disproportionate credence to what someone is saying?

There is nothing particularly honorable in not using the air conditioner, especially if you have kids, in 100 degree weather in 21st century America. Odd maybe. Elements of masochism, perhaps. Impressive? No.

These are gestures that get him more of what he wants (attention, book deals, speaking tours and admiration) than the thing he chose to announce he was publicly giving up. It's self-serving in the end. What's so great about that? This is what people do now that public announcements of fasting have lost their punch.

Locavore behavior may inadvertently be laudable for indirect effects, but there's nothing particularly environmental about eating food grown within the quasi-arbitrary radius of 100 miles.

His message of corporatism run amok is relevant. What he does to attract attention to his cause disrespects our intelligence.
June 6, 2012, 1:42 pm
Enshane' from Yellow Springs says:
So funny to read negative comments about someone who is literally not impacting ANYONE in a harmful way by his courageous activism. I wish I were strong enough to do the same (baby steps for me).
June 16, 2012, 6:41 pm

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