Actress and filmmaker Daryl Hannah has been selected to receive the 2011 Environmental Hero award at this weekend’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival. Hannah’s long past in promoting sustainability as well as her work founding the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance made for an ideal honoree for this year’s Earth Day Festival theme, “Powered by the People,” according to the Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council, which gave out the award. In addition to starting her own Web site dedicated to encouraging low impact lifestyles, Hannah has spoken internationally on environmental issues and has written articles on sustainability for numerous magazines. The Independent caught up with Hannah on her thoughts on the green movement and her past with environmentalism.
How and why did you become interested in the environment?
I grew up in the 42nd story of a building in downtown Chicago, and it was a bit of a disassociating experience for me. But when I was 7 years old, I was sent to a camp in the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. That was a seminal experience, and one that probably saved me from nature deficit disorder. When I was surrounded by the natural world, everything made much more sense. It became like my church. It’s just so awe-inspiring to begin to comprehend how nature works so flawlessly to provide us and all other creatures everything we need to thrive. This led to a deep respect for cultures that have historically held a sort of reverence and respect for nature, and then lived harmoniously within their surroundings.
It always seemed like there was some shocking lack of common sense when I would learn of some of our species’ destructive and shortsighted behavior.
Why do you promote environmentalism as strongly as you do?
Survival instinct, for one, but I’m also like a mama bear protecting what I love. Why would we poison, degrade, erode, and slaughter everything we need to survive? So we can have another T-shirt? So we can eat another sushi meal?
There are truly sustainable ways to address and solve all the crises we are facing — we just need the will to employ them. And many people still are not aware that those solutions are available to us now if we choose, so it’s imperative we share information to empower ourselves to move toward a healthier, livable future.
Are you consciously using your fame to get the word out about environmentalism? Are you working with any organizations to promote the green movement?
I support many organizations that do amazing work, but I’m not a spokesperson for any one. Environmental concerns, humanitarian concerns, and the welfare of other species are all inextricably linked. It’s all one thing. You can’t be a humanitarian without being an environmentalist, and vice versa. We are deeply interconnected, and with the global crisis we currently face, we all need to be proactive and share information as widely as possible so that people know we have wiser, healthier options available to us.
What kinds of energy-efficient technology/practices do you employ, if any?
I don’t use petroleum in my vehicles, my home is solar powered (and soon I’ll have a wind turbine to augment it), I have a gray water system and rainwater harvesting, I studied permaculture last year and will be incorporating those lessons into my land and garden. I hope to change my cook stove soon to burn alcohol fuel.
Do you have any advice to Santa Barbara residents about how to reduce their carbon footprint and live more eco-friendly lives?
Get informed, get off the grid, if you can, grow as much of your own food as possible — you have an amazing farmers market. Encourage your city to work toward becoming energy independent and look into bio-remediating your city’s waste to convert it to fuel.
There are so many things we can all do, big and small; the thing that works best for me is not to think about my carbon footprint or being eco-friendly, but how to protect what and who I love, then think things out thoroughly — and ultimately that will lead to making informed, healthier choices.