Documentary by WKU alumna, husband to be screened on campus

Michael McKay

Julie and Ben Evans had been working as actors in New York City. Ben’s college buddy, Mark Dixon, was working in Silicon Valley for technology startups.

In the summer of 2007, the three teamed up to travel to all 50 states in a used hybrid car. They condensed hundreds of interviews and 1,600 hours of footage they shot into YERT, a documentary about the state of sustainability.

YERT — Your Environmental Road Trip — will be screened in Mass Media and Technology Hall Auditorium on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The film is being hosted by the office of Sustainability.

Evans, who directed the film, said he first started talking to Dixon, fellow road-tripper and YERT producer, about an environmental road trip after seeing Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“I had been looking for a way for a while to marry my passion for performing and creative stuff with the issues that I cared about the most, which were environmental issues,” he said.

He said the group had always been interested in environmental issues, but making the documentary became more important for the two because of events with Dixon’s brother and Ben’s mother.

“His brother was kind of this eco-centered guy, and he was not that at all,” Ben said. “And then in the early 2000s, (Dixon’s brother) said, ‘Everything you know is wrong.’ And for me, it really was the death of my mother.”

Ben said the death “lit a fire” under him and made him want to get more involved with environmental issues.

But, Ben said his wife, Julie Evans, needed a little more convincing to get involved with YERT.

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it if she didn’t do it,” Ben said. “I wouldn’t be married by the end.”

Julie, a 1992 WKU graduate, said she wasn’t involved with sustainability efforts while she was on the Hill. She said when she met Ben, she was becoming more aware and interested in recycling by being surrounded by the trash while in New York City.

“So by the time I met him, he was already in a place of ‘I want to build a house out of old tires,’” she said. “So you know, I think we were both ready to sort of embrace that.”

“She definitely knew what she was getting into when she married me,” Ben said.

Julie said she was able to incorporate an idea for a sustainable practice she saw while at WKU.

During the trip, the group has a rule that they must keep all of their garbage they accumulate in the car, filling one shoebox a month, in an effort to be more sustainable.

Julie said the idea for this came from an assignment given to one of her friends at WKU who had to carry all of her garbage around with her for a week.

“That kind of thing stayed with me, and when we decided to do YERT and we were thinking about projects we could do to make ourselves feel more sustainable, that was the very first thing that came to my mind,” Julie said.

“And it was totally from Kay Madrick’s social science class.”

Conflict on the road isn’t always caused by shared space or the growing number of shoeboxes filled with garbage.

Ben and Julie, who were told they were both infertile, found out Julie was pregnant three months into the trip, with her due date the same day as the official end of the trip.

Ben and Julie said the focus of the film is more about sustainability than themselves. Ben said because the group filmed themselves, they weren’t picking up a camera every time someone there was involved in a conflict.

Filming ended in 2008, but Ben said he and Dixon spent three years editing the film before premiering it on the festival circuit in September 2011.

The YERT team has been self-distributing through their website.

Ben said the team is working to get a wider distribution.

Ben and Julie Evans are participating in a question-and-answer session after the screening at WKU.

Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said WKU paid for the rights to screen the film for a limited number of times. She said WKU could host another screening in the fall.