Shades of Green

THE AUTHENTICS

by Erin Ryan, The Idaho Statesman

Thanks to Brandon Follett and Amy Johnson, Barack Obama may soon share his thoughts on omelets and interstate transportation. The wandering artists teamed up in 2006 to travel, make films, bump heads (and mopeds) with ordinary people and write sociopolitical commentary cleverly disguised as omelet reviews.

Apparently, Obama enjoys an egg white and green pepper mixture in the morning, and Follett and Johnson saw this as a perfect vector to ask the presidential hopeful about his environmental policies as they relate to sustainable agriculture and economics.

All in a day’s work for the creative team behind Boise-based Earthworm Envy, a Web site that offers omelet reviews from around the world, essays, poems, blogs, links to like-minded local organizations and short documentary films on everything from Thai “ice cream” to the Cambodian legacy of John F. Kennedy’s hair.

But there is more to Johnson and Follett than multimedia gold. They are committed to living well, which just so happens to be green.

“I know what a tomato tastes like, so I can’t eat one from the store in January,” Johnson said. She and Follett grow their own or volunteer on organic farms, and what they do buy is as unprocessed, seasonal and socially responsible as possible. Bananas, for instance, are known as the Hummer of the fruit world because of the energy it takes to harvest and transport them, and Johnson refuses to buy them. And even though packaged organics seem green, Follett says they are a trendy offshoot of a deeper problem.

“The biggest thing is consumption. I think people need not to buy into the grand marketing scheme,” he said. “They want to be babysat, for legislation to be made, but you have to start with yourself. Maybe you just need to change your lifestyle … . What if I-84 is full of hybrid cars – does that change anything? And if you’re replacing your eco-friendly clothes every year because of fashion, what’s the point?”

To live as authentically as possible, they try to keep new purchases to a minimum by swapping with friends. They do not own cars and travel everywhere on their touring bicycles. Weather controls their activities to some extent, but neither feels inhibited.

“It’s a mindset change,” Johnson said. “People think I have to give up my freedom, but once you do it’s a different freedom.”

Their love of two-wheeled travel exploded during a six-month trip to southeast Asia last year, where they worked their way through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos as farmers, construction workers and teachers. They found that locals only used big vehicles for big jobs, and community support was integral to individual success.

“It’s about using what you have wisely. It’s just logic, common sense,” Follett said.

Back in Boise, he and Johnson are saving for a bike trek down through Mexico, where they will continue studying omelets and cultures that are closer to the earth.

“Our cities aren’t set up to be green, so it is a bit of a challenge,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a religion, but this is my morality. We have this abundance, so we need to take it upon ourselves to do these things. If I do have the money to buy a Hummer, maybe I’ll buy a park instead.”

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