I met international environmental advocate, eco-living expert, and chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation Laura Turner
Seydel for breakfast at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City. She shared the importance of creating a healthy and sustainable future and how we all need to unite as “Planeteers” to protect our planet.
A Commitment to Activism
“It has been a lifelong progress,” says Turner Seydel on how she be- came an environmental advocate. “Have you ever read Last Child in the Woods?” She explains how Richard Louv’s book showcases how the nature-deficit in children is leading to rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. “Children grow up devoid of nature either indoors or in front of a screen, and they are less likely to be socially adapted well,” she notes. “We grew up always outside, playing, learn- ing experientially in nature, so we developed an affinity for it.” As
a child, Turner Seydel’s father, philanthropist, media mogul and founder of CNN, Ted Turner, had her and her siblings “out on the weekends picking up bottles and trash. You did neighborhood beautification.”
Turner Seydel and her hus-band, Rutherford Seydel, set outto do everything in their powerto lighten their footprint on theplanet. As they constructed aLEED-certified home, they rec-ognized that it was not just aboutwater conservation, but it wasalso about the off-gasses of materials and products that make up the pieces of one’s home. The seriousness of these byproducts culminat- ed for Turner Seydel when she participated in a multi-generational study with the Environmental Working Group. “We became a part of the first generational study on toxic-loads. My son (then 12) and my- self and my father were tested for about 80 chemicals that are pretty persistent in our everyday lives and we all had chemicals of concern. My dad had high levels of heavy metals like lead and mercury. I had high levels of artificial musk, which is fragrance/added fragrance and my son had high levels of flame retardants.”
An Advocate for Information
“It was very eye opening for me. I’m such a huge advocate of sharing information with the chief consumption officers of the home: Moms make 90 percent of the consumption choices, and they do the shop- ping. They don’t really know what’s in the products, because by law, some of the trade ingredients don’t even have to be labeled. So lead in lipstick, formaldehyde in baby products; it’s really difficult to know. But you can go to Environmental Working Group and punch in any product that you have and it will tell you if it’s a safer product or not.”
“The good news is that companies are voluntarily re-formulating their products, because moms have stopped buying them,” Turner Seydel notes. “We need to vote with our checkbooks or credit cards.”
Be a Planeteer!
Turner Seydel reflects on Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the American animated environmentalist television program co-created
by her father, Ted Turner, in the 1990s. Recognizing how children who were watching the show could take what they learned fromthe cartoon and apply it to the real world, the Captain Planet Foun- dation was founded by Ted Turner in 1991 and is now chaired by Turner Seydel. It helps to establish Learning Gardens in hundreds of schools and provides training on outdoor-classroom management, standards-based curriculum, and lesson kits, so children can learn math, science, history, language arts and health in the context of project-based learning in the garden. Turner Seydel explains, “We
are in the stage of establishing curricula. Let’s say if you take tomatoes from the garden and then you cook them and make it a sauce, you are taking a liquid from a solid and that in itself is a chemistry lesson.”
In 2004 Laura Turner Seydel co-founded Mothers and Others for Clean Air when she realized that Atlanta had one of the highest asthma rates in the country. The organization set out to mitigate outdoor pollution by cleaning up diesel school buses and preventing unnecessary exposure to pollution for children, by monitoring which days were bad air pollution days. Today, they are advocates for renewable energy, electric vehicles and public transportation.
Foundation work is nothing new to Turner Seydel. In 1994 she and her husband co-founded Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, when she noticed how much of Atlanta’s lost sewage was overflowing into the river. “The sewage system was a 100 years old,” explains Turner Seydel. “Even though people say they are all about clean water and healthy food, when they get to the polls, they are really voting for jobs and the economy in the short term. But water and soil and bio- diversity and the plants...these should not be partisan issues.”
Turner Seydel has taught her her children well. “My daughter wrote a book about frogs and the plight of frogs when she was 9 years old, so she is really aware of endangered species. My son is working on an app in college to unite students with their legislators and voice their pleasure or displeasure over their votes. He is very interested in the nexus of politics and renewable energy. We have really worked to teach our kids to be responsible. Also, gardening! Kids love to plant in the garden and they love to eat the fruits and vegetables that they grow,” the proud mother notes.
“It’s going to take the millennials to rise up and start voting for their beliefs and start holding the older generations accountable and stop them and say this is our inheritance and it can’t be exploited and ruined for profit,’ Turner Seydel insists. “We have to figure out sustainability, and we are getting there—and a lot of corporations are leading the way, and that’s very heartening.”