The Green Scene

Imagine if you couldn’t produce more than one-third of a shoebox worth of trash per month. Imagine if, every time you used a paper towel to dry your hands in a public restroom, you had to carry the soggy thing with you everywhere you went.

Road trip! From left to right, Mark Dixon, Ben Evans and Julie Dingman Evans — the YERT team — take a breather at an Internet cafe. Their plan is to stay on the road for a full year documenting sustainability initiatives.

For Mark Dixon, Ben Evans and Julie Dingman Evans—aka the YERT team—these seemingly extreme measures are par for the course. Your Environmental Road Trip is a yearlong journey conceived by Mark to document environmental issues and solutions unfolding throughout the United States. Traveling by hybrid (dubbed Rachel “the car” Carson), the trio aims to visit all 50 states, chronicling their adventures with a blog and a series of online mini-documentaries.

A major focus, says Mark, is raising awareness about solutions that all Americans—not just hard-core environmentalists—can feel comfortable adopting. The team’s respective backgrounds reflect that diversity: Julie and Ben were working as actors in New York City before joining the trip, and Mark managed an Internet company in Silicon Valley.

To walk the talk of eco-consciousness, they’ve imposed a few conservation rules. Nothing can be thrown away, and any trash generated must be deposited into that month’s shared shoebox (at the end of the trip, the contents of all 12 boxes will either be recycled, reused or thrown away). To help keep the trash down, trip sponsor Chico Bag has contributed reusable shopping bags that pack into tiny pouches. “It’s amazing how attuned we’ve gotten to the trash that comes flying at us every day,” muses Ben. “Until you start trying to make zero garbage, it’s invisible.” They’re not allowed to switch on incandescent light bulbs, so they have to carry portable LED lights for use in hotels not equipped with compact-fluorescent bulbs. And to conserve water, they rely on quick “navy showers.”

Xpress caught up with the YERT team recently at Malaprop’s Café. Checking in with various local nonprofits, they’d just visited Earthaven Ecovillage and Kleiwerks International, and they were gearing up for a Cessna flight with Southwings, which gives journalists, public officials and others a bird’s-eye view of environmental problems. Other highlights of the team’s week in Asheville included a trash-foraging excursion with local blogger/permaculturist Isabel Crabtree and an interview with climate expert Andrew Jones (better known to Xpress readers as “E-spouse” in Anne Fitten Glenn’s “Edgy Mama” column), who works for the Sustainability Institute. To welcome the YERT trio—and the “YERT squert,” as they call Julie’s unborn baby—another local nonprofit, Sustainable Asheville, teamed up with Crabtree and the New Life Journal to host a potluck at the Pearson Community Garden.

Before embarking on the trip last July 4, Mark pulled together a focus group to help hash out a plan. What he found was surprising: “A lot of people were completely unmotivated by the most profound factoids,” he says. So YERT aims to personalize sustainability by offering on-the-ground glimpses of real people doing real projects. In a nice bit of symmetry, the three plan to wrap up their adventure on July 4 of this year.

YERT also brings some levity to discussions about sustainability, which can sometimes veer into gloom-and-doom territory. While in Los Angeles, for instance, they asked people on the street if they’d heard about those new “smog-powered cars” and “solar-powered tanning beds.”

“It was very L.A.,” says Ben.

“We really are trying to be a light, more than anything,” notes Julie, focusing on positive projects, though certain harsh realities—such as mountaintop-removal mining—must be seen for what they are.

In Utah, the trio encountered Dugout Dick, a 92-year-old cave dweller who, as they put it, lives “more simply than any other human encountered by YERT.”

To date, Vermont has emerged as the greenest state, they report, though Asheville also gets a nod. And state by state, the YERT team is planting seeds and sharing inspiration.

“If you start making little, tiny cracks in people’s awareness,” says Mark, “gradually, everyone will start moving forward.”

Check out Your Environmental Road Trip online at


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

6 thoughts on “The Green Scene

  1. julie

    hey there!
    *YERT NOTE: just wanted to note that Dugout Dick is in Elk Bend, Idaho, not Utah. :)
    and to say thanks again to Asheville for its great hospitality!

  2. Alan Ditmore

    Provincetown MA is by far the greenest town because it has only 8% children. Contraception is 90% of environmentalism. All else is useless flak.

  3. Johnny

    I don’t think I agree with much of what Alan Ditmore has to say, but this time he is right on the money — and the 90% figure could well be an understatement.

    LOL…we need even more Provincetowns, and somehow limit the number of babies gay people can buy from Central America if they are going to raise them to be first worlders like the rest of us…. Hah!

  4. I would say the best way to limit population and stimulate the darwin theory would be to slip contraceptives into Spam.

    At least that was my dad’s humoristic theory.

  5. Johnny

    Puts spam blocker and condom into the same department. I like it.

    “Yes honey, you DO have to use the spam blocker”.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.