‘No impact man’ makes impact at Gannon

A man whose claim to fame is that he took a year-long sabbatical from all things carbon emitting to erase his not-so-loved footprint will be at Gannon University to share his experiences with students.

Colin Beaven comes to campus at 12:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, in Zurn Science Center Room 104.

Beaven, who wrote a book called “No Impact Man” about the highs and lows of that year, will be speaking at part of Gannon’s first-ever “No Impact Week.” This week will also include a variety of events – arranged by different Gannon clubs – meant to increase awareness of how to decrease carbon emissions. A schedule of the week’s events will be in next week’s issue of The Knight.

Beaven said he knew he needed to do something after he noticed how dependent the country was on oil.

“We were in two wars, which emerged largely over oil,” he said. “We needed to use oil so much that we had to fight to get it.”

He admitted he was also concerned about the carbon emissions emitted into the air from burning oil.

Beaven said he realized something had to change in order to counteract both the need to fight for oil, and its harmful effects on the atmosphere.

He also noticed that even though people didn’t seem too bothered by their dependence on what he saw as a harmful substance, using it wasn’t making them happier, he said.

“It’s one thing to wreck a place if everyone is having a party,” he said.

Beaven said it filled him with despair that people felt so much destruction to the Earth was necessary even though it wasn’t making them happy.

He said humans ruining the environment without having any joy is what really made him despair.

Beaven didn’t realize how personal a change he had to make until he came home from work and noticed he had left both air conditioners on all day to make sure the house was cool at night.

Once he realized he was part of the problem, he decided to make some changes.

But his personal changes soon became very publicly known when the New York Times published a story on his undertaking after a journalist read the blog he was writing.

He said he found himself in the middle of a massive press explosion. Suddenly he knew he was going to be held accountable.

There were periods during the experiment where he found it difficult to live up to his end of the bargain.

“It’s not like anybody else was going to turn their electricity off,” he said.

“I was starting to feel like a circus freak.” “But I had to learn to keep trying anyway.”

In addition to the book he wrote, Beaven’s trial spawned a nonprofit organization and film.

It also started “No impact week,” which has now had more than 40,000 participants.

Beaven said he started the project after people approached him asking how they could re-live his experience.

Beaven said the best thing he learned from his experience –  or “retreat from consumerism” – was how to be a better father.

Instead of watching TV he would take his toddler daughter to the community garden.

He said having a child actually made the experiment easier to do.

“She saw everything as exciting, and through her eyes that made it better,” he said.

Beaven urges Gannon students to open their eyes to the possibilities that lives less focused on materialism could create.

Students should find out what they want to do in life, so they aren’t stuck doing something they hate, and make up for this by making lots of money and buying lots of things, Beaven said.

He said this lifestyle is a root of unhappiness and environmental problems.

He said he learned what good living a simple life could do first hand.

“Instead of having a lot of stuff as a consolation prize for doing what I do during the day, I actually do what I want,” he said. “I don’t need any consolation prizes.”

TESSY PAWLOWSKI

[email protected]