YERT: The Film

The YERT Feature Film had its world premiere at the 2011 Environmental Film Festival at Yale, where we received the Audience Award, tied with Oscar-nominated Waste Land! You can help us get the word out to friends and family by clicking on the Facebook "share" link to the right of the video (or tweeting about us!). Be sure to check out the synopsis below for a less-quick look at what the film is all about. And perhaps the best outreach option of all: find or host a screening.

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Synopsis (Short)

3 friends. 50 States. One wild year! Called to action by a planet in peril, three friends hit the road - traveling America with hope, humor . . . and all of their garbage for the year - to explore the good, the bad, and the weird across every state in search of the extraordinary innovators and courageous citizens who are tackling humanity's greatest environmental crises. As the YERT team layers outlandish eco-challenges onto their year-long quest, an unexpected turn of events throws the project for a loop in this award-winning docu-comedy. Featuring Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Will Allen, Janine Benyus, Joel Salatin, David Orr, and music by Ben Sollee, Mark Geary and more.

Featured Interviews

Wes Jackson (The Land Institute)
Janine Benyus (Biomimicry)
Jerome Ringo (Environmental Justice Advocate)
Cliff Etheredge (Wind Farmer)
Will Allen (Urban Farmer)
Bill McKibben (Climate Change Author, Activist)
Sadhu Johnston (Chicago Green Roof)
Robert Anex (Biorenewable Resources)
Michael Reynolds (Earthships)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Steve Israel (D-NY)
Felix Kramer (Plug-in Hybrids
John Wathen (Hurricane Creekkeeper)
Wallace J. Nichols (CA Academy of Sciences)
Larry Gibson (Mountaintop Removal Mining Activist)

David Orr (Enviro. Studies and Politics, Oberlin College)
Gillian Caldwell (1Sky)
Scott Brusaw (Solar Roadways)
Carlo Pantano (Penn State, Solar Roadways)
Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm)
John deGraaf (Author)
David Korten (Author)
Bob Berkebile (Architect)
Raven Gray (Transition Network)
Carolyne Stayton (Transition US)
Severine von Tscharner Fleming (Greenhorns)
Tom Szaky (Terra Cycle)
Dr. Evermor (Junk Art)
Roger Duncan (Energy Innovator)
Scott Pittman (Permaculture)
Larry Littlebird (Native American Culture)

Synopsis (Long)

YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip) is a groundbreaking adventure and a celebration of the American spirit in the face of adversity - a thought-provoking, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious, documentary about the courageous and creative individuals, groups, businesses and leaders of this country who are tackling the greatest environmental threats in history. Called into action by the ever increasing threats of planetary catastrophe (from climate change to toxic pollution, from water scarcity to habitat destruction), the three of us - Mark Dixon, Ben Evans, and Julie Dingman Evans - upended our lives, pooled our collective life-savings, and set off on a first-of-its-kind, 50-state, year-long journey of discovery to personalize sustainability and to answer a critical question: ARE WE DOOMED?

On July 4th, 2007, with camera in hand, tongue in cheek, and packing ourselves, our supplies, and our filmmaking equipment like sardines into a used hybrid car, the YERT team set out from the Rachel Carson Homestead in Pittsburgh, PA to document environmental sustainability in every state in the union in a single year. We wanted to find out: What can Americans do to save the planet? What are they already doing? Why aren't we all doing more? Is it possible that doing right by the planet is more economical, joyful, and fulfilling than not?

But this film isn't just about documenting change, it's about living it. We were on a mission to personalize sustainability, and as the National Academy of Sciences pointed out back in 1990, humanity is currently "conducting an uncontrolled experiment with the planet." So as we traveled and filmed, we decided to BE the experiment - we would never turn on an incandescent light bulb, we would radically reduce our water usage by any means necessary, and, above all, we would attempt to generate zero waste, keeping all of our garbage (and recyclables) with us for the entire our packed-to-the-gills hybrid. To pull this off, all of our garbage each month would have to fit in...a shoebox. We scoured the country, conducting over 800 interviews, amassing nearly 600 hours of footage, and bathing ourselves in America's unique approach to environmental sustainability - the good, the bad, and the weird. We found everything from a 92 year-old caveman who's built an entire cave community in the mountains of Idaho to an electrical engineer working to repower America with solar roadways; from outrageous green personalities like Missouri's Eco-Elvis and Florida's Earth Man to incredible new businesses like Tom Szaky's Terracycle in New Jersey that's making a mint turning garbage into almost anything; from the utter devastation of Mountain Top Removal coal mining in Appalachia to the revolutionary agricultural genius of Wes Jackson and the Land Institute in the Kansas heartland.

Several months in, an unexpected pregnancy instantly and dramatically changed life for all of us (particularly Ben and Julie, who had been told they could never have children) and pushed the team to the brink. Facing the potential derailment of the entire project, the team had to grapple with new challenges and questions - How long could two dudes and a pregnant woman survive in an enclosed space? Would we all be able to finish the trip? Would the needs of the pregnancy wreck the team's environmental goals and challenges? Were Ben and Mark up for birthing a baby in the Alaskan wilderness? As both Julie and the garbage expanded, would the car actually explode? And as our personal journeys progressed and we dug deeper into the causes of climate change, it became clear that creating a sustainable world is about much more than simply combating global warming. Everything is tied together, and we began to connect those dots. Efficiency, renewable energy, and technological advances are critically important, but we can't begin to address climate change unless we also address how we grow our food, how we use our water, how we measure our economy, how we approach human health, how we create/protect community, and, ultimately, how we find fulfillment and understand ourselves. Global warming is but the most dire symptom of some very fundamental issues about how our species functions on the planet. As the godfather of green building, Bob Berkebile, reminded us, we must "move beyond the current environmental movement which is about doing less harm. Our responsibility is not to do less bad, but to do something creative, and regenerative, and restorative, and loving."

It's taken more than 150 years to get ourselves into this mess, with America leading the way. The science tells us we have 5-10 years to get ourselves out of it. The question is, will America be leading the way or...are we doomed? You'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Photo: Erika Bowman Photo: Mark Dixon