Laura Turner Seydel is an international environmental advocate and eco-living expert. She serves on numerous boards and is also the Chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation which promotes environmental education and gardens in schools. Natural Child World was proud to be a sponsor of the 2012 Gala honoring Former President Jimmy Carter and Richard Branson.
NCW: You travel all over the world and have access to thought-leaders from many different sectors. What are some of the things you see happening elsewhere that you would like to see happening in America?
LTS: I would start with most important issue which is energy. Many countries I have travelled to in the past year are really focused on renewable energy projects. I travelled to Scotland and there were wind turbines in the country side. In Rio de Janeiro, they are producing 70% of their fuel from biodiesel made from sugarcane. In Israel, they have solar hot water heaters on almost every residential roof plus they are adding solar panels to generate power for homes. China is now manufacturing the majority of the world’s solar panels. I don’t see the same commitment here in the U.S. to solving some of the tough issues that center around climate and energy that many countries have made.
NCW: In what ways has your father influenced the way you think about the environment and your purpose in life?
LTS: My father empowered us with real-life experiences of being out in nature so we could learn to appreciate the natural world. A lot of children today don’t have that opportunity – which is why my father created so many of the environmentally-focused foundations my family has today. Through these foundations, my siblings and I have been able to learn how to support the non-profit sector in its work to create solutions. We’ve been doing this now for over 20 years and have seen amazing results.
NCW: How have you educated your own children on environmental issues?
LTS: My children grew up in a household that is committed to sustainable practices, and they have parents who try to actively lead by example. Although it can be hard in this country to not pollute our kids really strive to lessen their footprint any way they can. It’s been kind of great to see what we have taught them play out in the way they embrace living as sustainably as possible.
NCW: What has surprised you the most about working with children?
Is there a difference between the knowledge of the kids you work with today and the kids you worked with when you first started working on environmental education?
LTS: Kids today have a lot more access to information through their connections online. You hear them talk about climate change, recycling, and renewable energy. Kids are becoming much more eco-literate and they share that knowledge in a way that activates their peers. And the kids have a can-do attitude, especially when they’re working together, where they can see that what they do makes a difference.
NCW: How do you think Hurricane Sandy has shifted the discussion on climate change?
LTS: We’re at a point now where there will always be non-believers who refuse to accept that our actions have consequences and that carbon emissions are impacting the environment. You can compare it to the 1960s, when people were starting to understand that smoking was bad for you but they operated in a grey area for a while. I think more and more people are coming around to the realization that this is a major issue, and that we need to do something about it.
NCW: You, your father and son all participated in the body burden test. Can you explain your results and what you learned from it?
LTS: When we did the test, it was the first inter-generational study done, and it was fascinating to see how the results differed from one generation to the next. My father had very high levels of lead in his blood, probably from the paint in his house and other items that used to be ubiquitous. I had very high levels of artificial musk (a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor), which comes from all the chemical fragrances and other additives in cosmetics. My son was loaded with the chemical equivalent of Teflon, which comes from the things we cook in (like pans and microwave popcorn bags), but also from the flame retardant chemicals they use to treat children’s pajamas and mattresses. This much is clear: you can’t shop around these chemicals, no matter how much money you have. It has to be legislated and regulated. The chemicals are accumulating in your blood all the time, and you never know when the balance is going to be tipped and you end up with cancer. It’s alarming.
NCW: Who are some of your heroes working on environmental issues?
LTS: Bill McKibben of 350.org, who is helping spread the word about the mathematical realities of the environmental crisis in relation to climate change/global warming, Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute who has written many books (most recently Full Planet Empty Plates about the looming global food shortage crisis), and Dr. Gerald Durley, a preacher at Atlanta’s Providence Missionary Baptist Church, who is a key player in linking environmentalism to the Civil Rights movement.
NCW: You have thrown a lot of charity events and parties in your life. What are some of the ways to throw a fabulous party that is also low waste.
I like to do things like edible centerpieces and live plants [that are not cut flowers], so you can take them home afterwards. And I prefer to send invitations via email, but when I print them I make sure to use environmentally responsible inks and paper with recycled content. When it comes to the food you’re serving, make sure you’re using plates, napkins and silverware that are washable or compostable. Recycle everything! And some caterers will compost the food waste, so I try to support companies that have those types of practices.
See more from our conversation with Laura Turner Seydel in the January/February issue of Natural Child World.