I had the great honor of being on the Martha Stewart Living Show today. A little secret: Through all the years I have been working to educate consumers about "smarter living" -- which by the way is the name of NRDC's new consumer portal that I edit -- I have always imagined that people might see me as the green Martha Stewart. Dream on, I know, but if you could have seen me today, on the set -- with the beautiful kitchens, the green house, and the friendly fans (see the contingent from NRDC!) in the studio audience -- you'll know just what a thrill it was.
Of course, Martha, the gardener and doyenne of home-cooking, is a model of green and healthy living, so it was natural for "the environment" to be the theme of the show. First up was the actor, Ted Danson who talked with Martha about his new book, Oceana, which documents the plight of our oceans -- from the ravages of overfishing and habitat destruction to the devastating effects of ocean acidification. He and Martha each prepared a sea bass in a mound of salt, though before the show Martha hinted that after reading the book, she may stop eating fish for a while. As many fish at the top of the food chain, including tuna, shark and others have plummeted to 10 percent of their 1950s levels, her hope was that they be given a chance to rebound. If you want to learn more, NRDC has a team of experts working to revive our oceans, and Smarter Living offers up ways that you can help.
My friend and colleague, Tensie Whelan, President of Rainforest Alliance, and I were on next and the focus of our segment was: how you can make smarter product choices that are better for the environment and your health and that benefit the producer communities. Tensie spoke about all the many products that are now certified by Rainforest Alliance and bear their "frog" seal -- from coffee and cocoa, to produce, paper and wood. She talked about how important the program has been for producers, who are duly proud of their efforts on behalf of the environment and their communities, and glad when their stories are getting out to consumers.
As we were talking about labels, Martha asked me about Label Lookup, our handy tool available on our web site here and as a free app on your iPhone. "Information is power" I told her, particularly when you are in the store looking at products, and wondering what all these different claims, labels and seals mean, if anything, and whether you can trust them. With Label Lookup, you can check out what a label means, if it is backed up by good standards, and whether an independent organization is verifying those standard. We've researched and rated -- using a zero-to-four "leaf rating" scheme -- roughly 200 different claims so far, including Design for Environment, the EPA program Martha follows to develop her products. By making it easy to sort the labels you can trust from the ones that are less reliable, Label Lookup helps you be a smarter shopper. (As I write this, the updated version of the app awaits Apple Store approval so do note the date when you download it)
Then Martha asked if I had any "bright ideas" and of course I did, in the form of energy efficient light bulbs. We had two to show off -- an all new advanced incandescent that is 30% percent more efficient than your old incandescent and a CFL where the tube is enclosed in a bulb so it looks a lot like an incandescent but is a whopping 70% more efficient. These bulbs represent a great leap forward for lighting. The old incandescent is incredibly wasteful - 90 percent of the energy used in a traditional lightbulb is wasted as heat, only 10 percent goes to produce light. Now you can see why one could bake a cake in an Easy Bake oven with nothing more than a hot lightbulb.
The new bulbs conform to new standards for lightbulb efficiency going into effect in 2012. They'll provide not only the same warm light that you've always enjoyed but keep money in your pocket -- $100-200 annually in savings on your electric bill. Nationally, we will save the energy equivalent of 30 power plants. That's incredible, isn't it?
Martha gave the studio audience t-shirts with "This is the Year I'll..." in green on the front. So to close our conversation, Martha asked us what green goals we've set for ourselves this year. Mine was to shop less (for new clothes), swap more and focus on the basics, like Martha. Smarter Living has suggestions for ways to green your wardrobe as well as to green your pet care and to garden well, which the last two segments of the show would focus on.
All in all, I will never forget my day being green on Martha Stewart.