Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse are helping lead the green movement in young Hollywood – both the culture and the industry.
April 27, 2015
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. This is the Hollywood edition of Green is Good, and of course I’ve got my co-host, Debbie Levin, with me here today. She’s the President of the Environmental Media Association and we’ve got beautiful actress and actor next to us, Amy Smart and her husband Carter Oosterhouse. Welcome to Green is Good. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Thank you having us. Good to be here. DEBBIE LEVIN: I want to introduce my special people here. This is like having my children here with me. Actually, it is having my children here. Amy and I have been family for 15 years. I met Amy literally like seconds after I took over EMA and grabbed her. She joined the EMA board right away, and has been the most amazing environmentalist and, honestly, just a role model for the entertainment industry ever since, an advocate and an activist and just one of the most incredible voices for the environmental community. Carter I knew before Amy knew Carter, and maybe had a little something to do with this amazing thing. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Take as much credit as you’d like. DEBBIE LEVIN: I will take all the credit. Carter Oosterhouse, who you know is the greenest. You were People’s hottest guy ever, sexiest man alive. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: That was a slow year in the entertainment world. DEBBIE LEVIN: No, but you are actually are People’s sexiest man alive in our family. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: I’ll take that. DEBBIE LEVIN: My other two sons will not be happy about that. Seriously, you are an incredible voice for the environment yourself. We met before you met Amy. You walked into my office. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: I walked into your office because I wanted to be a part of what you guys were doing because it is truly amazing what EMA does on a regular daily basis. I think the power of EMA is so huge, and I just said I want to be a part of that. I want to get there. I want to do what these guys are doing in and around Hollywood, which is essentially getting out to the masses, which is a great thing. DEBBIE LEVIN: Carter, just very, very briefly, obviously does all of his television appearances and his television shows and is a producer. You founded an organization, Carter’s Kids. You build playgrounds all over the country, which is amazing. I want to talk about your amazing winery that is sustainable and incredible and I haven’t gone there yet, but it’s just been open a couple of months, and it’s in Michigan. John, why don’t you ask a couple of questions? Because I kind of know everything. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We just had Ed on earlier today. Ed’s been doing this for 45 years. He and Rachelle are truly the standard bearers of the environmental activist movement in Hollywood. But you’re the new generation, in terms of power couples, power green couples. How does that look and feel to you now in terms of getting the mantle and moving with it? Where are we in terms of water scarcity and in terms of climate change and messaging to make the world a better place from a Hollywood perspective? AMY SMART: That’s a huge question. Where to start? First of all, one, it’s really hard to follow in Ed’s footsteps because he’s incredible and he really walks his talk. He bikes around LA, which is amazing, which is also quite the challenge. DEBBIE LEVIN: And dangerous. AMY SMART: And not the safest, but he can do it, and he can do it. I just think from our perspective, I just think it’s important to stay relevant on what issues are the most pressing at the moment. When we talk about lifestyle, there’s so many different little things you can do to green your lifestyle, make it more sustainable, the way you live. Then when certain issues come up and become stronger, like fracking, like GMOs, the banning of plastic bags, there’s so many parts to the equation of how we can keep making our lifestyle more in harmony with the planet. DEBBIE LEVIN: And I think another thing is that to talk about what Amy, in particular, the impact that Amy has made is that when we were talking about trying to message and reach the current generation, I think it was seven years ago, we were trying to figure out how to speak more to the younger Hollywood, and we came up with a program for EMA together. This was something that came out of Amy’s passion, and we came up with the EMA Young Hollywood Board, to bring in more of the young talent. We created a program called the EMA School Garden program, where we plant gardens in lower income schools, and we give every school their own celebrity mentor. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I met Amy, but I just joined EMA on your corporate board 10 years ago, and Amy’s been there 15 years, which is amazing. Talk a little bit about that. That’s a 15-year journey that you’ve done with Debbie at EMA. That Young Hollywood board has grown tremendously. Talk a little bit about growing it. How has that been? How does it look today compared to when you both started it? AMY SMART: It’s definitely grown, and it’s so awesome to see. I think a lot of people in the entertainment industry, when they start to become successful, they start to feel this responsibility of giving back and doing something that matters. It’s so wonderful having entertainment, but we also live in the real world where we all have to live somewhat harmoniously, and we all live on one planet. We can’t live anywhere else. These young celebrities want to feel like they have purpose and they have something intelligent to say and something to root for and something to be passionate about. It’s nice to gather this entertainment group that a lot of them naturally feel inclined to want to do something environmental. Some have become parents, and they realize, oh my gosh, this planet needs to survive for my kids to grow healthy on this planet. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Amy, how does it work for you and Carter? Do you have to pick up the phone and call some young up-and-coming stars and say, “Hey, you’re going to be joining us?” Or are they calling you saying, “Hey, I saw what you did. How do I do what you’re doing?” How does that work on the outbound versus the inbound? AMY SMART: I haven’t really cold-called celebrities. Every time we have this award show, I feel like we have this new influx of celebrities that are naturally interested in the environment, in greening their set or in finding new ways of helping out, because our voice is so public, that it magnifies that much greater to a larger audience. To have a real message behind it matters. A lot of people want that, and a lot of people in the industry want to have purpose, is my feeling about it. DEBBIE LEVIN: And it’s very authentic. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: It is very authentic, too. Also, with the younger generation, there are so many issues out there today. The younger generation has more of a conscious awareness of that there are these issues. Where you put somebody like an Ed Begley, Jr., he’s a little bit of an oddity in a good way because you don’t see people that are in his age bracket that are doing what he’s doing. Now, it’s more traditional to see the younger generation having all this awareness of all these things through social media and being able to get online and seeing all these little bits of info of how they can change and what they can do. It now is maybe a little bit easier to grab people’s attention, and say, “Hey, will you help out with this? With EMA, that’s sort of the beauty because you’re able to amplify it through so many voices. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Beyond EMA, though, talk a little bit about your brilliant and amazing Carter’s Kids. Explain how the genesis of coming up with that concept and why you do that. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: What we do with Carter’s Kids, we build one playground a month all across the US. It’s really cool. We started in 2007, and as a builder, I just wanted to give back and work with kids and I thought maybe playgrounds would be the easiest thing, purely to curb childhood obesity. That was the original idea, and to work with kids too, and it was fairly simple and not super complex. What we do is we build a playground in random cities. In a couple weeks we’re headed to Washington, D.C. We’re building one there. A couple of weeks after that, we’re headed to Chicago. We’re building on there. What we do is we go in two days, two-and-a-half, we build a playground, we’re done, and we’re out, and that playground lasts for 20 years. Millions of kids, at least thousands, go through that playground over the years and over the time. But what we’re seeing is not only the individual children, we’re having the effect on those kids, but also the community development because now, say, we live over on 6th Street and you guys live over on 8th Street. We’ve never met, but our kids gravitate towards this playground. Now we meet, and now we say, “Hey, Debbie, nice to meet you. I live over here. Maybe we should talk about that fence over on 8th Street” or something like that. You realize that the communal aspect of this epicenter of a playground, it just works on so many levels. It’s great and again, it’s not super expensive and lasts for 25 years. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s something for the kids. That’s something for the community. Now let’s talk about something for the adults, the winery and sustainability and how did you come up with that? How is sustainability going to play a major role with what wines you’re creating? DEBBIE LEVIN: And why did you name it that? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: I’ll let Amy tell us. You can start off with the name. AMY SMART: OK, you named it. You came up with the name. It’s a primate. DEBBIE LEVIN: Say it the correct way. AMY SMART: Bonobo. DEBBIE LEVIN: OK, because John didn’t say it. He butchered the name, so I wanted to get it out there right. AMY SMART: You want to call it a monkey, hello, but it’s really not a monkey; it’s a primate. They’re an endangered species in the Congo, and they’re highly evolved creatures. Any time there’s anything territorial with them and they want to kill each other, they have sex instead. DEBBIE LEVIN: What better name for a winery? JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s like a Dr. Ruth episode. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Your face is hilarious. AMY SMART: They’re very sexual creatures. They really solve their problems with love and not war. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: They’re the closest to human beings. DEBBIE LEVIN: Except that part. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: They’re the closest in body makeup and their DNA makeup. The cool thing about them is that they don’t fight for their territory issues. They literally make love not war, and this is what they preach. They don’t go attack each other, and they live harmoniously, which is pretty amazing. I thought, OK, nobody really knows what a bonobo is, so let’s call it Bonobo because we want people to come together and relax and have that evolved experience. AMY SMART: And have a playful time. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re going to share that story. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Yeah, and share that story, which is great. We love when people show up at the door, we want people to stay and relax and hang out at the winery. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When does that launch? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: My brother and I started this seven years ago, and we planted five years ago. We just opened four months ago. We have a big 6,000 square foot tasting room, where we invite people to come in and hang out. We have Mario Batali, who does all of the food in the tasting room. It’s pretty exciting. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No way. Where is it located? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: It’s in Traverse City, Michigan, which is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country right now. DEBBIE LEVIN: Oddly enough. Who’d think? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Who knew? From California, we’re talking about a winery in Traverse City, Michigan. That’s amazing. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: With, of course, climate change and the things that are changing, the temperature, obviously, we know that we’re getting a little bit warmer, so in the northern states we have a little bit of a warmer climate up there to do this with. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So you’re already producing wine. Shameless plug. How do our listeners buy your wine? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Go to bonobowinery.com. Go online and call us up, whatever. Call me. I deal with stuff every single day of shipping. DEBBIE LEVIN: He’s got it in the trunk. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Yeah, basically. Please, it’s mainly the chardonnay and the Rieslings that do really, really well. They’re award-winning. But then we have pinot blanc, pinot gris, pinot noir, and cab franc too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So you’re selling B2C online and B2B to restaurants across America? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Not restaurants yet. We’re producing about 8,000 cases right now. We hope to get up to 10,000. Once we surpass that, then we’ll start to get into distribution. JOHN SHEGERIAN: In terms of certification stuff, it’s a sustainable winery? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Yeah, it’s as sustainable as it can be right now. We’re looking to more of the biodynamic practices. DEBBIE LEVIN: Can you explain that a touch, what that is? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Yeah, I’ll let Amy. AMY SMART: I went to this biodynamic conference on vineyards. The whole philosophy behind biodynamics was started by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. It’s a very eco, holistic, spiritual way of dealing with a farm, dealing with the land. It’s the next step of organic. It’s even deeper and even more connected because you’re dealing with the stars. You’re dealing with bringing some more livestock on the farm to play a role in raising these plants. You deal with bringing herbs and different preparations back in the soil with the compost. It creates so much fertility on a farm, and it’s so eco and it really radiates within a 10-mile radius from the farm. The air quality gets better, it brings the predators, it brings all these amazing creatures back into harmony. I’m really looking forward to bringing these biodynamic practices to our farm. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: That’s one step, but obviously the building is a large building, but we made it in the most eco fashion that we could. As a builder, I think it’s extremely important to be conscious. Builders, designers out there, you have to be conscious. It is. It really is. We used as many non-VOCs that we could use for adhesives, for structure-wise, just to make sure that we were as right in our mind when we were building it, and not to escape from that, as well as the fields. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Is that becoming a wine country, so people can go to that city in Michigan and go wine tasting in one day? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: There’s about 40 wineries in the area. Who would’ve known? It’s a big tourist town. I think they get probably about 3 million people annually that run around there. We get a good range of people that come in and out, which is really fun. You’ve been there. DEBBIE LEVIN: I’ve been there. They got married there. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: We got married back on the farm. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right on this farm is where the winery is where you got married. AMY SMART: It’s close by. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Amy wouldn’t let me put it right there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. What’s the next step? Both of you are doing so many things. Let’s be honest. You’re both beautiful, you both have very successful careers. You don’t have to be doing this much. You’re doing more than your fair share. When you guys are alone and you’re thinking, “We’ve got the winery, we’re messaging, we’re doing EMA,” what’s next for you guys in terms of environment activism? What’s on your mind? Where are you taking this? CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: I love working on numerous projects. I have a zillion projects in the air right now. Somebody the other day, who’s a professor out of Northwestern, he said what he teaches his students, it’s a really weird thing to say, but it’s called conscious capitalism. He said to make money is not a bad thing, but to make it in the smart, ideal way so you’re taking care of all of your employees, you’re taking care of the land that you’re on, the building that you’re in, the air quality that you’re breathing, your neighbors next door, your community. If you really take that in a stride, I think that’s very important for people today who are entrepreneurs, who are going out there and working, to really structure what you do on a daily basis. It’s OK to want to make money in life. That’s alright, as long as you are giving back, taking care of, I think that’s a really smart thing. I think that is something that’s important to us in our new various business ventures or whatever. DEBBIE LEVIN: I also think, honestly, knowing you guys so well, you’re so happy and it fulfills you so much when you are doing what you love to do, which is environmental activism in however that looks. This is who you are. This is your life. I think the next steps that happen are what you’re compelled to do, not to answer for you, but I am. I love what you’re saying because I so agree with that. I think when you do good things, good things happen. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Without a doubt. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we go today, Debbie, when she first came on Green is Good five or six years ago, she talked about the launching of the organic garden program. Can you share with our listeners and viewers a little bit what you’ve done with that and how that really works and why that makes such a big impact, a similar impact like Carter’s Kids does, your organic gardening program? AMY SMART: Oh my gosh. I think gardens is one of the best gifts you can give a child because, first of all, it’s what nourishes us. A lot of kids, especially if you grow up in inner cities and you’re not introduced to nature, think food just comes from the market. They don’t realize it’s from the ground, that it’s been nurtured and planted and the sun plays a role and the nutrients in the soil. When kids can get back in the dirt, or you can call it earthing, and you just put your feet on the ground, in the soil, on the grass, whatever, for like a half hour a day, and it lets your magnetic field back into alignment. You get kids in the garden, and from the beginning, and it gets kids back to the basics of what matters, and then they can actually grow something from the ground and eat it and enjoy it and maybe take it to a farmer’s market. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When you’re going and doing this, do they know you’re Amy Smart, or are you just Amy with EMA, with Debbie, showing up and doing the garden? AMY SMART: It depends on how old the kids are. DEBBIE LEVIN: We have schools from K all the way to 12th grade. We love the fact that we’ve got high schools too, because so many of these programs ignore the high schools and they think it’s so great for the little kids. How great are our high schools? Oh my gosh. When you touch these kids, these are kids that people write off because they think they’re done, and they get so passionate about it and you have totally changed their life. They’re going out and they’re not only talking to their parents, but they’re able to go and sell at the farmer’s market because they’re old enough. They have a new direction. They’re 16 years old. AMY SMART: And a new skillset. They can take that for the rest of their lives, grow gardens in their backyard or in a box on their deck. DEBBIE LEVIN: And maybe a new career. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Both of you are touching America’s youth in such a special from the ground up way. I’ve never had a show, ever, in seven years, where people are like both of you. I’ve got to just say, both of you are just amazing people. You don’t have to take that kind of time, but you do. It’s just changing the world and making the world a better place, and both of you are doing it in very unique ways. I want you to share, professionally, what’s going on for both of you? What projects are you working on that are interesting next? AMY SMART: I’m trying to dive back into the TV world. I did Justify last season and I’ve done Shameless, and I really love these incredible TV shows. That’s where I’m aiming right now. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: I think right now the winery has been taking up a lot of the time in the last year. I have a production company. We produce a couple shows that I’m not on, and we have three new shows right now that we’re looking into, so we’ll see. Me getting back on the air, I mean hosting, yes, so that’s kind of fun too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Next time you come on, what I’ll ask you to do is let’s bring some of the wine on. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Definitely. I’m sorry I didn’t bring any today. I feel so bad. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Don’t be sorry. Next time we’re going to bring it and we’ll do a little tasting. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: That would be great. Perfect. I love that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’ll do a little toasting and make it really fun. Again, I just want to say thank you to both of you for all you do to make the world a better place. Thank you, Debbie, for being my co-host today on the Hollywood edition of Green is Good. I just want to tell our viewers out there this is a very special edition, first time we’ve ever had a power green couple on together. I just want to say Amy and Carter, you are truly living proof that green is good. Thank you so much. AMY SMART: Thank you. CARTER OOSTERHOUSE: Thanks for having us.