Environmental lifestyle expert and green design guru Danny Seo has been making waves in the eco-world since he was a kid-fitting for someone who was born on Earth Day. At the age of 12, the Pennsylvania-native founded the organization Earth 2000 with just $23; by his 18th birthday, the grassroots group had grown into the country’s largest teenage activist charity, spearheading worldwide campaigns on behalf of the environment. By his early-20’s Seo had written three books, including Be the Difference, and had been branded a “lifestyle expert” by the Washington Post for his ahead-of-the-curve flair for eco-friendly design. “At the time, ‘green design’ felt like an oxymoron,” he remembers today. “The idea used to be relegated to a certain niche, but I felt that green could still be quirky, beautiful, and resourceful. A home shouldn’t look cookie-cutter, but relevant to the life of who lives there.” Excited by this approach, celebrity design clients followed-as did TV gigs, syndicated columns, and more books-and an empire was born.
Back then, Seo was a maverick when he asserted that “green will be the new mainstream.” Today, he’s helping make that idea into a reality with several affordable lines of eco-conscious products. His recently launched bath and body line, Wholearth Beauty, includes 12 items-from body scrubs to lotions, washes and perfumes-that use certified natural and organic ingredients; one of our favorites is the Natural Body Mist & Room Spray in the creamy lavender Eco-Chic scent.
On the bedroom front, Seo has teamed up with Simmons to create Natural Care, a line of eco-smart mattresses that are available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, the Home Shopping Network and JC Penny, for whom he has developed a few exclusive pieces. “I was never completely happy with the green mattresses I was trying,” he explains. “Some would use elements like horse hair, which is not anti-microbial, and others would just use organic cotton casings-but not disclose what was inside. And they weren’t always that comfortable, or affordable.” For his line, Seo used natural rubber tree-based latex, with materials like rubber tree sap and soy-enhanced foam, to create a breathable, hypoallergenic cocoon. (For more on the mattresses, see our guide on page 73.)
We caught up with the busy entrepreneur-now in the midst of developing a TV show and more products for JC Penny-for his thoughts on creating the ideal green sanctuary.
What are your tips for designing a relaxing bedroom?
We are so wired these days-some people wake-up to their Blackberry-so turning things off in the bedroom is key. Get rid of the TV, any electronics, even the phone. Some of my clients hate when I say that-they’re addicted!-but you can never completely rest with those things around, or get a quality eight hours of sleep a night. It makes a big difference. In terms of design, pick a solid color that you look good in-the color of a favorite shirt or dress-then paint the walls that color. You will like it, and it will be a good association. For lighting, look for bulbs with a lower lumen rating (ideally, in the 700 to 900 range), so that they aren’t too bright. Use energy-saving overhead blubs and supplement those with decorative, low-wattage side lights or fairy lights.
Other than your own mattresses, what are some of your must-haves for an eco-friendly sleeping environment?
I recently did a green home makeover on actress Kerry Washington’s apartment and used a great headboard by Mitchell Gold made of soy-enhanced foam. For bedding we used some pieces from JC Penny’s Simply Green line, but I also like Rubie Green organic cotton sheets, which come in fun, colorful patterns. Bamboo is nice for bedding because it’s both natural and wrinkle-resistant (whereas some organic cottons need to be ironed after washing.) A good mattress pad is also key: look for ones with 100 percent cotton encasement covers, and avoid PVC. For pillows, right now I’m obsessed with the EcoPure ones from WestPoint Stevens, which are made from recycled materials, are hypoallergenic and don’t separate; they’re very affordable, and you can get them online or at Kohl’s stores.
With all the projects you’ve got going on, what helps you relax?
I like the “anti-vacation”-staying in one place and resting. I’m a big believer in getting eight hours of sleep while on vacation, so am less inclined to plan lots of things. I also recently bought a new property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, so have been going through the slow process of decorating it, going to auctions, flea markets, and sales looking for the right pieces. In the new place I do have a craft room, so setting aside an hour a day to do a non-work-related creative project also helps me relax. Recently I did a project with shells I found in Florida-it was very calming to take that hour or two in the middle of the day.