Celebrities Green Building — 16 November 2012

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The first thing that strikes you about Meryl Streep is her grace and poise. Like a true royal, she glided into the throng of green designers and architects gathered at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala in San Francisco this week, completely unruffled by the crush of fans; the flash of cameras and smart phones; and the fierce security guards. Yet instantly, like a chameleon, Streep can switch from serene queen of the movies to cozy confidante.  I found myself standing next to her and shook her hand. As you know, she’s renowned for her authentic accents in every exotic role she’s played, so I asked her, “Can you do a good Scottish accent?” She immediately leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I love the way they say murdererrrr!” Rolling those r’s as only a lass from Scotland – or Meryl Streep – can do. Then she laughed with that infectious burst of effervescence. Now that would make even The Iron Lady melt a wee bit.

But enough trivia. The best part is, I found her later that evening and she agreed to a Fresh Dialogues interview. We had a lively conversation about her green design guru and close friend William McDonough; and why she’s become an activist for the environment. Enjoy her hilarious tribute to McDonough below and check out the highlights of her interview…

Interview highlights

Why should we care for the environment?

We’re all part of the ecosystem. We’re all connected. You can’t go around in a bubble…

On why Bill McDonough inspires her

Unlike so many environmental messages which are negative: “don’t this…don’t that!”  Bill approaches things in a positive, restorative, beneficial way…with a focus on abundance. His mantra is a beautiful thing: “Designing a safe, healthy and delightful world for the love of all children, for all species, for all time.”

He’s a fervent optimist. His cup is never half empty or even half full. It’s always full of water and air. We were both profoundly affected by similar things: Silent Spring (the book by Rachel Carson) and concern for the impact of toxins on children. He’s the consummate multi-tasker. He leaves me breathless.

On the roots of her environmental consciousness

It all goes back to being a mother. That’s the most invested relationship. You pay attention, perhaps for the first time. What is going in your child’s mouth? What’s her environment like? What will the future be?

In 1989 Streep cofounded “Mothers and Others” to raise awareness of toxic pesticides used in food production.

On how playing acclaimed chef, Julia Child influenced her green journey

We need to think about the provenance of our food. Where does it come from? Is it produced locally and with concern for the environment?

During her hilarious speech in San Francisco, Streep praised the work being done by Brad Pitt, William McDonough and Tom Darden through the Make it Right Foundation in New Orleans and beyond. The group began building green-designed houses for low income families displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2008.

Does Streep consider herself a green activist?

In an interview with USA Today, she said, “We are all activists every day that we make a purchase. We vote daily with our credit cards; we demonstrate with our dollars.”

Today Streep helps raise awareness of toxins in food and the environment by supporting the work of the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and is known to shop at Whole Foods and prefer locally produced goods. Her home in Connecticut is fueled by geothermal power.

The interview took place at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala at the Bently Reserve, San Francisco on Wednesday November 14, 2012. The institute also announced a $250,000 Product Innovation Challenge to stimulate eco product designs for the affordable housing market; and the incoporation of its C2C certification as part of the new LEED Building Standards.

 

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