A different kind of ecotourism


Clean energy solutions abound in the film Yert.

Twelve months, fifty states, three rules.

  1. No more than one shoebox of garbage can be compiled each month, including recyclable materials.
  2. No incandescent light.
  3. Approximately twenty-five gallons of water per day, per person.

This is the basic premise behind Mark Dixon’s inspiring documentary Yert: Your Environmental Road Trip.

Hitting the road

Dixon, along with couple Ben and Julie Evans, embarked on a year-long road trip in 2007 to explore every state in search of extraordinary individuals who could maybe answer some penetrating questions about humanity’s environmental crisis.

The film illustrates just how many possible solutions we can implement to help fix our planet, if we just try. Whether it’s extraordinary but perhaps technotopian  ideas —glass roads that would power the whole world—or simply changing a black-top roof to a green roof to reduce runoff and conserve energy, team YERT kept an open mind to the innovators out there who are tackling humanity’s two biggest issues, climate and energy.

Dixon’s film begs the questions, What aren’t we doing, and Why not? There are so many genius ideas all over the US that would help lessen environmental impact and better everyone’s lives that not getting on it at a bigger scale seems a tragic waste of ingenuity, business prospects and happiness.

The kids are alright

But what’s environmental about a road trip?

Mark, Ben, and Julie come on as eco-superheroes, doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint along the journey, while giving new meaning to the trendy notion of ecotourism.

Every month they each sort through their garbage, separating by recyclables and honest-to-goodness trash everything they’ve thrown into their shoebox over the last month. Their inventories make clear that the choices we make stare us in the face when all we have is a shoebox for carrying around our detritus.

In another segment, Mark tries to fill up his stainless steel canteen with water by going through a fast-food drive through, whose employees refuse to refill it.

At the next stop, he asks politely for a Sprite and a water, but if the employee could please use two of his canteens instead of paper cups. After all, a paper cup could take up some serious real estate in the shoe box. Fortunately, he meets with a cooler attendant. At the second window, this employee fills up his canteens and when asked how much they owe, she responds, “Oh, its fine, just go on.”

“We should do that more often, I guess they’re only charging for the cups.” Mark jokes as they drive away.

Throughout the film, the three friends challenge themselves in various ways. For example, while in Iowa, Ben is only allowed to eat products made with corn, Mark is only allowed to eat corn, and Julie can’t eat anything involving corn at all. Ben rejoices, finding himself able to eat everything inside the grocery store except raw fruits and vegetables. Mark tries to make creative dishes using ears and ears of corn. And Julie eats apples and bananas.

They encounter various communities throughout the States, ranging from small Eskimo villages on the highest northern point of Alaska, Transition towns, and a growing number of people in large cities who shop at their local farmers market, joining in the good feeling of buying and eating within 50 miles of where they live.

American pioneers

This film shows it can be done. It inspires with hope, insight, and humor to illustrate some very important ideas from all over the country. Ultimately it’s a teaching tool that shows that if everyone did their part in their own way, we could drastically alter our way of life for the better, saving our planet in the process.

Instead of weighing the audience down with pessimistic views of the future, it lifts us up with the infinite sense of possibility, of rebuilding and rethinking our future so it can happen.

–Anwyn Cook, Transition Voice

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  1. says

    Thanks for the awesome review, Anwyn! You have highlighted some of our favorite parts from the film and journey– thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful summary about the project. The YERT film was a true collaboration between myself and the film’s director, Ben (who did the lion’s share of the editing, too), with Julie’s support and insights contributed all along the way. I would also add one tiny correction – our second road rule was actually “2. We will never turn on an incandescent light (except car lights). ” There were moments when we used incandescent lights, but we just made a point not to ever turn one on (except for the car). :-) We were trying hard not to rub people the wrong way with our rules, and it would have been difficult to do that if we went around turning lights off everywhere.

    Those tiny corrections aside, this may well be our favorite review to-date!

    Mark Dixon
    YERT Producer (and traveler!)

  2. says

    This really does look like a must-see film! Looks like a journey of a life time. Thanks for the great review, I am always happy to find tips for a movie that truly inspires. And you actually got the author to comment on it !!!


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