On his 12th birthday (Earth Day), Danny Seo founded Earth 2000, which quickly exploded into the country’s largest teenage activist charity, and he’s been campaigning for sustainability ever since. Today, Seo (now 36) has a syndicated column and an extensive line of eco-friendly home and food products, including nonstick cookware that is free of two controversial chemicals (PTFE & PFOA). He is also the best-selling author of nine books, including the Upcycling series, featuring eco-friendly craft projects. Here he shares his five changes that would have the biggest impact on the planet.
—Gretel H. Schueller, Contributing Writer
Food shouldn’t have more frequent-flier miles than you do. While it may not be possible to find locally grown oranges where you live—I live in Pennsylvania—that doesn’t mean things like milk, cheese and eggs have to come from other states when local options exist for most of us.
I made the switch when I was 12 and have never looked back. Many environmentalists believe this one switch to eliminating meat—even if you do just a few days a week—is the single most significant thing you can do to help with water, air and land conservation.
We each toss about 240 pounds of food into the trash every year, which equals around $2,000 for the average American household. I am a big believer in juicing whatever produce is on the brink of going bad. It’s easy, delicious and good for you.
A refrigerator is one of the biggest energy hogs since you really can’t turn it off. If it’s more than 10 years old, it’s likely using 11/2 to 2 times the amount of energy it used the first day you plugged it in. Replace an old fridge with an Energy Star model and most stores will take away and recycle your old one for free.
Washing by hand wastes more water. According to the EPA, hand washing a load of dishes uses around 27 gallons of water vs. 4 gallons used by an energy-efficient dishwasher. So load up the dishwasher and use environmentally friendly detergents. And don’t pre-rinse too much. Detergents today need some grime and grease to be activated, so if your dishes are too clean going in, the detergent won’t work. (Yes, really!)