Colin Beavan, Congressional Candidate, on Occupy Wall Street and Living Without Toilet Paper


Earlier today the Voice brought you news of Colin Beavan. Beavan, who calls himself a “newly self-proclaimed environmentalist,” is competing against Charles Barron and Alan Bellone, amongst others, for a Central Brooklyn Congressional seat on the Green Party ticket.

Beavan became known via No Impact Man, a life experiment/blog chronicling his decision to live in New York without making an environmental impact. During Beavan and his family’s 12-month trial, they definitely did hearken back to simpler times by avoiding paper products (including TP! OMG!) and electricity.

We wanted to give Beavan the chance to talk to us about his campaign and indulge our predilection for potty humor.

Village Voice: So how did you go from blogging and speaking about the environment to running a political campaign centered on it?

Colin Beavan: A member of the Green Party State Executive Committee approached me and asked if I were interested in running. Being in politics had never crossed my mind before but the problem is, we’re in a gigantic emergency in the sense that our economy — the way that it’s set up — doesn’t work anymore.

VV: How so?

Beavan: Oil is running out and yet the Republicans and Democrats keep talking about shoring up an oil-based economy, which will drive us into the ground and they’re not talking about the real issues. There are lots of organizations and people like me who want to lead humanity out of our world crisis. So ultimately, that’s what made me accept the Green Party’s invitation.

VV: Had you always been in the Green Party?

Beavan: I just switched affiliations. I took some time and I very carefully read over the Green Party’s manifesto. What I discovered was that the values of the Green Party were much more in line with most people I know than the other political parties. The Green Party candidates don’t take campaign contributions from corporations. So it’s a party that represents the communities rather than the corporations.

VV: Thoughts on Occupy?

Beavan: I love Occupy. The thing about Occupy is that it’s an expression of citizens who decided the existing institutions aren’t representing their own values. The idea that people without a political party, people without some external leader can come together and self determine how they want their country to move forward is exactly what we need.

VV: You have electricity now! But do you still try to live without making an impact?

Beavan: I ride my bike. I compost. I buy secondhand.

VV: What was the trickiest thing about living without making an impact during that year?

Beavan: Those questions have been discussed so much in the past in the past to go into them is [silly.]

VV: People will surely want to know…

Beavan: I mean, I think the most challenging thing is just the very fact that the culture itself is not built sustainably. The challenge was having to go against that flow.

VV: OK. But there had to be a specific, pragmatic thing that was a problem?

Beavan: The project was five years ago, and I feel like it grew public attention to our climate issue, but it’s a long time ago, and I have a whole bunch of other things that I want to talk about now.

VV: Do you think that people will think of you as that guy who went without toilet paper rather than as a political candidate?

Beavan: Nobody has expressed any kind of concern about that at all. The biggest stigma in politics when I’m out talking on the streets is that the Republican and the Democratic parties are in the pockets of the corporations.

VV: So you don’t think the project will affect your campaign?

Beavan: No Impact Man was five years ago. It was a one-year lifestyle experiment and the main point of it was to point out that consumerism is not serving humanity. Never ever in the book did I suggest that anybody should do anything like this and besides, that’s something that happened five years ago.

VV: How did you blog without electricity?

Beavan: If you saw in the movie, we put a solar panel on the roof.

VV: If you didn’t have toilet paper…what did you do?

Beavan: For five years people have been asking that question. I don’t think people want to assess that anymore. I will tell you a funny story. I got invited to be on the Colbert Report a couple of times. Stephen Colbert, as you know, it’s filmed in front of a live studio audience. He asked me and I said to him: ‘I won’t tell you but I would be glad to take you out back and show you.'”

VV: [Interrupting] Will you show us?!

Beavan: So the whole audience cracked up and he actually laughed too and was out of character, so they cut it from the show. The point here is that it’s been an old, old gag that’s been going on for five years and it’s a little bit unoriginal to still be going on about it. And when journalists go on about it, they’re robbing the public of having a real conversation, and the real conversation is that we’re in the middle of a giant economic and planetary crisis and we need to find solutions.