June 27, 2008

County Fair: Danny Seo is ‘Green Martha Stewart’

By Paul Liberatore, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

Jun. 26--When environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo was told that the theme of the Marin County Fair is "The Greenest County Fair on Earth," the first thing he wanted to know is if the Ferris wheel would be solar-powered.

Then he thought about it a moment, deciding whether that's would be one of his famous eco-friendly ideas or not.

"It might not be so great if the sun suddenly went behind a cloud and you got stuck at the top," he joked, speaking from his home in Bucks County, Pa. "Then again, on a really bright day it could be pretty exciting."

That's the kind of amused way of looking at eco-friendly living that has made Seo (pronounced See-oh) a star, most familiar to TV viewers as the "environmental lifestyle contributor" on "The CBS Early Show" ongoing segment "Going Green."

The telegenic 31-year-old, who will be the keynote speaker at 6 p.m. July 2 at the fair, has also hosted the TV special "50 Ways to Save the Planet" for Fine Living and co-starred on the "Red Hot & Green" special on HGTV.

He is the author of best-selling books like his new "Simply Green Parties" and "Simply Green Giving," and co-guest-edited the annual green themed issue of Elle magazine with activist Laurie David, Larry David's wife.

He was named one of "40 Under 40 to Watch" by Crain's New York Business newspaper. And he has to laugh about being picked by People magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World."

"That's the accomplishment my parents are most proud of," he

said, cracking up. "It's because they're completely responsible. It's actually celebrating them."

Seo was born on Earth Day 1977, and environmentalism must have been in his stars. He celebrated his 12th birthday by founding the environmental group Earth 2000 with a few friends and $23. It was a militant time for a radicalized environmental movement dominated by Earth First! and Greenpeace.

"Environmentalists were the crazy ones," Seo recalled. "We were attacking whaling boats and throwing banners on buildings decrying corporate greed. When you're 12 and you see all these images of the rainforest burning down and the ozone layer disappearing, you're sort of scared. So I started an environmental group on my birthday as a gift. My parents thought it was a phase that would last a couple of weeks. But, by the time I was 18, I grew it into a national organization."

After he left home and was living on his own, he was the subject of an article about how he "repurposed" some discarded church furniture to decorate his apartment.

"That's how I accidentally got branded as an environmental lifestyle expert," he said. Or, as Marin Fair Chief Jim Farley jokingly describes him, "a green Martha Stewart."

As such, Seo works with San Francisco-based Method Home, a nontoxic cleaning company. And, last year, he became the "official green living partner" for JCPenney, the exclusive retailer for a his signature line of mattresses called the Simmons Natural Care by Danny Seo.

"We're giving one away to a lucky audience member in Marin," he said.

He got to be a green celebrity by presenting the latest eco-friendly home tips in an entertaining way.

"These are my tricks and secrets to finding the best bargains, the best products," he said. "I've got a lot of free ideas that people never thought of doing in their own home."

Such as?

"If you're painting you're house and there's a strong odor, you can get rid of the smell by adding some vanilla extract to the paint."

What else?

"When choosing the right compact fluorescent light bulbs, pick the yellow coated bug lights. What's nice about them is that the yellow coating actually softens the white glow so you get a nice reading lamp. So go to the outdoor department, get the outdoor lights and use them inside your house."

When he's performing in front of groups, Seo likes to demonstrate his various discoveries by breaking into what he calls his "MacGyver" act, a reference to the extremely resourceful secret agent on TV.

For example, he may show how to use old VHS tapes to make gift wraps and bows for presents.

Or he may take a potato chip bag, turn it inside out and, viola!, wrapping paper.

"The shiny mylar material on the inside makes very modern, elegant gift wrap."

Who knew?

Well, he did. And now you do.

"There are a lot of little insider things like this that, to me, seem like common knowledge," he said. "Because I've been doing this for 19 years, I can usually find really good solutions for people to save money and the environment."

Paul Liberatore can be reached at [email protected]


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