Besides propitious weather and sublime terrain, the nice thing about living in Santa Barbara is being surrounded by a shimmering bubble of righteousness.
Shopping at Farmers Markets, championing curbside recycling, and peddling fuel-free bicycles, we fancy ourselves among the greenest citizens in the nation. We hear little rounds of applause in our heads every time we refill our stainless-steel water bottles or toss used coffee filters — and their spent, shade-grown grounds — into the compost bin. Deep down, we believe the use of canvas grocery sacks puts us at the forefront of a heroic global movement and guarantees us admission to a landfill-free heaven.
Travel almost anywhere else in the U.S., however, and we discover that in addition to being reverent and right-minded, we Santa Barbarans are also groundlessly smug. And blissfully ignorant.
Venture away from our commendably conscientious coast and we are shocked by the rest of the country’s apathy for our inviolable eco-ideals: merrily topping off the tanks on their Suburbans, using Ziploc baggies like Kleenex, cranking the air-conditioning just because it’s, you know, daytime.
“I can’t travel anywhere without Cali guilt dogging me,” says my friend Barbara. “In Las Vegas, I ask, ‘Why are you throwing that soda can in the trash?’ In South Carolina, it’s, ‘What do you mean, what’s recycling?’ I want everyone to care about the environment, but they don’t.”