Earth Saver Interview: Summer Rayne Oakes

Summer Rayne Oakes graduated from Cornell University -an entomologist and environmental scientist by training.

In 2000 in the midst of her studies, Oakes embarked on a journey of cause-related modeling and innovative sustainable design/development projects to push sustainability issues through fashion and media, a position which earned her the name of "The Eco-Model." Now a spokesperson, correspondent and advisor for Discovery's new network, Planet Green, Summer Rayne travels the world to work on sustainable development programs; consults on green issues; and works on a number of other environmental programs. In February 2009, she's launching her first book, "Style, Naturally: The Global Guide to Sustainable Fashion & Beauty."

MR: What does global warming mean to you?

SRO: This is the first time that I’m seeing a unified voice in the environmental movement. It’s as if climate change has brought together a myriad of environmental, social, spiritual, and political concerns all under one roof and has given us an opportunity for unified action.

MR: How is it affecting you at all?

SRO: Environmental issues are my life’s work; the immediacy of the issues has spurred me into action quicker and therefore brought me a lot closer to people and the movement.

MR: What things have you changed about your daily routine or lifestyle that you think make an impact/when did you make the change and why?

SRO: I’ve personally changed a few things that I believe add up. For one, I try to extend my travels or cluster travels if I have to fly somewhere. Secondly, I buy fresh, local food whenever possible. I consider meat more of a delicacy now and when I eat it, I usually stick to fish. Lastly, plastic bottles drive me nuts. I like drinking flavored waters, but I’m cutting those out and making my own tea-infused and fruit-infused flavor waters and putting them in my Sigg bottle. I’m even taking a Sigg when I can to the airport and filling it up from the water fountain. I don’t care for all the waste that comes off the airplane! Plus it’s better than paying $2 for a bottle of water.

MR: Who inspires you into action?

SRO: Van Jones and Billy Parish have always been an inspiration. They are movement builders. It takes a special kind of leader to build movements.

MR: Do you consider yourself an environmental activist?  [more]

SRO: I am an activist first and foremost. Titles like “model” or “consultant” are very one-dimensional and don’t effectively describe why I do what I do. Now, an activist—a person focused on raw energy and real action to support a cause—that is who I am, that is why I am.

MR: How does the movement impact your thoughts and actions on a daily basis?

SRO: Every day is a day of action. I’m restless. I need to be constantly moving and doing. Working with people on a diversity of projects gives me balance and purpose. Anyone who knows me can attest that I can’t remain sedentary for too long; I become like a fish on dry land.

MR: What is your deepest fear about global warming?

SRO: Fear isn’t what drives me, only hope—and assurance that we can and will make a difference.

MR: What do you think stops people from adopting/embracing green changes in their lives?

SRO: I think there are a lot of reasons: Lack of information, lack of motivation, lack of infrastructure, lack of resources, but mainly it’s a lack of empowerment. People need to be empowered in order to change.

MR: If you could ask people to change just one thing about their current lifestyle what would that request be?

SRO: Get politically active—in your community, in your state, and in your country.

MR: Where can you most likely be found on a Friday night?

SRO: If I’m in New York? Home. I work away from home so much that if I find myself there on a Friday night, I usually like to chill in Brooklyn alone or with a good friend.

MR: What kind of car do you drive?

SRO: I have never owned a car. I’m restricted to living in areas that allow me to walk, board, or take public transportation—all which I am more than happy to do.

MR: Favorite website and movie?:

SRO: Websites: Current.tv – I think it is one of the few websites out there right now that is totally reflective of conscious youth culture. It just gets it whereas other sites are still trying to figure out what “it” is. Treehugger.com – It’s my go-to site for all things green

Movie – Motorcycle Diaries

MR: What’s your sign?

SRO: Gemini

MR: What’s the last thought or word of encouragement you would leave our reader?

SRO: The world doesn’t say “No” unless you let it.

For more inteviews of movers & shakers by Monica, visit Earth-Saver Gang Blog

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