Carter Oosterhouse on Building Active Communities and Living Green
Parents caught up with HGTV’s reigning expert on eco-friendly living, Carter Oosterhouse. He now plays host to four TV programs including Red Hot & Green all about eco-friendly design. Having discovered carpentry at the age of 12, Oosterhouse is now an expert, which is why he teamed up with Scott Naturals to launch their new tube-free toilet paper. He shares with us his tips to go green (easily!) in your home and the inspiration behind his youth charity Carter’s Kids.
P: What motivated you to start carpentry so young?
CO: My dad was a farmer and was constantly saying “You gotta work. You can’t just sit around the house and watch TV.” So that prompted all of us kids to always be busy. Something that was easy—a summertime job where you could have fun—was building. I liked doing it. I felt like I was getting outside and being active.
Seeing kids now being so stagnant, I started a non-profit [Carter’s Kids] where we build playgrounds and that’s because you see so many kids who don’t get out. You have to provide something that’s a reason for them to get out. Plus, I’m a big kid at heart.
P: What kind of impact have you seen from these Carter’s Kids playgrounds?
CO: We build one playground a month all over the U.S. in random cities, low-income neighborhoods, schools that really need it. It’s amazing to see how kids will respond when they have something attractive to play on. It’s like you put Disney World in their backyard. You have to remember back when you were a little kid and your world is your little town. When that’s just your world and you put something big and shiny it changes the whole dynamic. This playground becomes the community center point, which makes an even bigger impact. You’re not just changing the lives of those kids who are playing on it, but also the lives of the people who live there.
CO: We usually work with whomever we’re building it for and say “What do you guys need? Are you by the water? Do you like boats? Are you in Iowa with cornfields?” They’re all different, but all awesome. Each playground takes a lot of prep. To build it only takes two days. I love doing it. If you do build one playground for the kids you get that rush that keeps bringing you back.
P: You started on Trading Spaces, and now you have these other shows including Red Hot & Green. How did you get started in the green space?
CO: My parents were big nutritionists. So I thought, Well how else does that translate into other things? And that is: the earth. How could we build without taking away so much? Slowly but surely I got in the TV shows and I thought, I wanna do a show that has to do with eco-living and eco-repurposing and remodeling. Today when people see how they can be more efficient and cut down monthly bills, it makes more economical sense to be green within your home.
P: What are some ways that the average American family can be eco-friendly in their home?
CO: There are so many. It’s cool to buy secondhand stuff and repurpose it and give it another life. Whether that’s furniture or clothes. Around the house, lighting is huge and using CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs. Composting. Recycling is one. When [my wife and I] got married, we actually only had one bag of trash because we were able to compost and recycle. Also, VOC-free paint, and using organic cleaning products. That’s good for you and your plumbing in your house. Oh! And aerators on your faucets. Living eco-friendly is sort of like preventative medicine. This is a better way to provide for your home because in the long run you’re going to pay less, your home will last longer, your bills aren’t going to be as large.
Top photograph: In honor of the launch, Oosterhouse and I posed in front of this 30 foot replica of the Empire State Building made of 14,000 rolls—the amount New York City throws away in only 15 minutes. Annually Americans toss 17 billion rolls, which is enough to fill the Empire State Building twice.
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