The Gore-y Truth About the Environment

Going Green, Now

It’s not easy being green. Just ask Kermit the Frog, or any red-blooded college student trying to balance the best enviromentally friendly intentions with the day-to-day realities of living in I.V. We all know how important it is to live our lives in an environmentally conscious way, but when it comes down to it, remembering to recycle your beer bottles and completely shut down your computer at night isn’t as easy as it seems. Not to mention how hard it is to choose sustainable soy products over a big juicy burger at Deja.

Last night, I had the pleasure and the privilege of interviewing Al Gore — and by interviewing, I mean managing to stutter out one quick question and receiving a stock answer he probably had prepared months ago — on the red carpet at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. 2006_an_inconvenient_truth_001.jpgAfter the red carpet, Gore and An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim did a question-and-answer session in front of a packed Arlington before receiving the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking.

During the ceremony, Gore exemplified the combination of humor and hubris that he has become so good at playing up in the popular press since he began touring to support the now Oscar-nominated film. Guggenheim was, as I expected, the perfect combination of quirky, creative, and caustic wit — the thinking girl’s wet dream to be exact. All in all, it was an inspiring evening. As if seeing the poor polar bear drowning in An Inconvenient Truth didn’t make me want to go green, hearing Gore and Guggenheim speak did.

At least until I walked out of the Arlington. You see, it’s one thing to want to be green, but as Kermit will tell you, it’s not easy, especially in I.V. As I drove my Honda Civic — a car that boasts partial-zero emissions and a gas tank that still only takes about $25 to fill despite being almost as old as my younger brother — home to my apartment, I started thinking seriously about how I could make my everyday routine more environmentally responsible.

I’d love to buy a Prius, but I don’t have the money. I’d love to be a vegetarian, but I was one for seven years until I realized that the college lifestyle is not very conducive to a severely restricted diet — at least not for me. I’d love to change all the light bulbs in my house, but we currently only have a couple of working light fixtures to begin with and those are rather finicky, to say the least. There’s a lot of major changes I would love to implement into my routine, but they aren’t reasonable at this point in my financial and physical life.

I can keep recycling, I can remember to turn off my computer, I can limit my showers and turn the water down when I’m shaving my legs, and I can make my purchases as environmentally responsible as I can afford. I can keep biking instead of driving to campus — no matter how cold it gets — and I can make sure I spend what little money I do have supporting companies that share my values. I can use reusable, recylable, and recycled cups — even when I’m throwing a party — and I can wear warm clothes instead of just turning up the thermostat. I knew my leg warmers would come in handy someday.

These are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head, but luckily there are plenty of resources available to help me make other small changes in my everyday routine, and thanks to the internet (and thanks to Al Gore for “inventing it”) I can even find information that is almost totally tailored to my unique needs. Sure, there’s also the general sources of information on environmentally sustainable living — An Inconvenient Truth has a sister site online (here) that lists loads of ways we can make our daily lives more environmentally friendly. But broad suggestions don’t begin to address the issues we face as college students who are short on time and even shorter on cash.

For more specific stuff on how to live sustainably in I.V., check out the Web site of the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board. This organization is entirely dedicated to helping students have a positive impact on the local environment and they have tons of information about I.V.’s green scene including a helpful Green Guide. If you want to go green but, like me, you have trouble giving up your favorite foods, check out the Isla Vista Food Co-Op. It’s a lot like Trader Joe’s, in that it offers a wide selection of organic and health foods but it has more of an emphasis on local people and products, and it operates in an entirely environmentally friendly manner. The I.V. Food Co-Op’s Web site also has a great section of links to other Web sites with information about local environmentally friendly restaurants, publications, and organizations.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my backyard surrounded by birds, bushes, and butterflies. It’s the middle of winter and yet the sun is shining and the scene is straight out of a cheesy Disney movie. Hell, I half expect a bird to land on my shoulder and start singing to me. Obviously, we live in a beautiful place.

From the mountains to the ocean and everything in between, it’s hard not to appreciate the natural beauty of I.V. and S.B. Even if you live in an apartment where half the lights don’t work. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that going green isn’t just a nice phrase with some alluring alliteration and a few celebrities attached to it. It’s a responsibility. Even if I can’t afford to alter everything about my life, I can do more than just make sure my beer bottles are in the recycling bin — especially since no matter where I put them, the people who make their living recycling manage to find and sell them anyway. When it comes to the state of the environment, the truth may be inconvenient, but making a big difference through small changes to my everyday routine really isn’t. And, if nothing else, at least I always have Kermit to commiserate with.

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