Hilary Duff Is ‘Living Cleaner’ for Her Kids and the Planet: 'It Only Takes a Little Time, and Makes a Big Difference’
Uniting a blended family takes work. So does launching an earth-aware business and giving your lifestyle an eco-makeover. Newlywed mom Hilary Duff is up for the challenge.
Hilary Duff couldn’t stop thinking about the fires in Australia while on her honeymoon in January. “We were in Africa, watching free and happy animals, and across the ocean things were burning down,” Duff says of her once-in-a-lifetime trip with her new husband, Matthew Koma. “We were devastated.”
Anxiety about the planet is a familiar feeling to almost any parent. If one form of adulting is thinking, “Someone should do something,” and realizing that someone might be you, the nerve-racking next step is figuring out how you might save the world for your kids, even when parts of it are literally up in flames.
For Duff, thinking of herself as a change agent has been part of a bigger progression. In the early ’00s she played Lizzie McGuire, a basic teen (back when that wasn’t an insult) working her way through sticky situations with teachers, friends, and an annoying little brother. In the ensuing decades between childhood star and adult actress, Duff, now 32, neither got mired in major scandals nor slipped into anonymity like some of her Disney Channel peers. Instead, she’s worked steadily and become a relatable cultural icon. TV Land’s Younger, in which she plays a publishing boss, will soon be in its seventh season and has ranked as the top cable comedy among women 18 to 49. Meanwhile, Duff has been raising Luca, 7, and now Banks, 16 months, in Los Angeles. She handles school drop-off many days and video chats from a set when needed.
The actress and her family have always practiced save-the-earth basics like recycling, but not too long ago, she and Luca caught a viral video of a turtle getting a straw pulled out of its nose. It was the kind of image that’s impossible to unsee. “All of a sudden, we knew what straws do to animals and the ocean,” Duff says. Soon after, she bought silicone straws to reuse and take everywhere. Following that, a hairstylist challenged Duff to swear off single-use drink cups. Duff was up for adding a refillable cup to the rotation, even taking it and her straw to restaurants.
And due in part to that turtle, she took an additional step: becoming co-owner and chief brand officer of Happy Little Camper, a line of earth-friendly diapers and wipes, and also of Veeda, a collection of affordable, plant-based natural cotton tampons and pads.
“About three months ago, we stopped buying zip-top plastic bags,” Duff adds. Her family uses glass containers and reusable silicone bags instead to stash snacks and leftovers. “At first, washing and prepping one more thing seems impossible, but it only takes a little extra time, and it makes a difference.”
Duff got everyone in her family on board, including her mom and her nanny when they come to help with the kids. She tries to think of sustainability as one of those things you tackle gradually, plastic bag by plastic bag, and she accepts a practical “do what you can” attitude. “The more we dive into living cleaner, the more things come to our attention,” Duff says. She now habitually refills the soap bottles in the bathrooms, recycles shampoo bottles, and uses nontoxic cleaners. In the grocery store, she turns down plastic produce bags and improvises with reusable containers. “We’re explaining to Luca why we do all this, and he’s getting more involved. And honestly, he gets a little heartbroken. It’s sad.”
Even when conversations get hard—like when she had to explain to her son what was happening in Australia—Duff takes a real-talk approach with Luca, whom she and her ex-husband, Mike Comrie, coparent. Luca is “such a sensitive guy,” Duff says. In December, she married Banks’s dad, Koma, a singer, songwriter, and producer. Luca honored the occasion with a poem about their blended family that he read aloud at the ceremony held in their yard.
“He wrote something really beautiful,” Duff says, “and it started off with, ‘Our family is a galaxy shooting off of the cosmos.’ He was so brave to get up and talk into the microphone.”
Banks, almost 14 months at the time, was also a part of the festivities. The bride held her daughter as she walked down the aisle, despite a lot of squirming and fussing beforehand. Even singing “Baby Shark” to calm Banks wasn’t working. Finally, at showtime, “I told her, ‘We gotta just make this short walk, we got to get to Daddy,’ and suddenly she was okay with it.”
Later, when Duff and Koma were thanking their guests, Banks tried to wrestle the microphone away from her mom midspeech. Turned out it looked like a karaoke toy she had at home. When Duff finally let her have the mic, Banks let out some primo babble, soaking up all the attention to cheers and applause. Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When planning the wedding, including the kids in a big way was a given. Koma, whom Duff describes as “superinvolved” as a parent, is technically Luca’s stepfather, but Duff says they call him “Bonus Dad.” Back when they were dating, Duff was careful to introduce Koma slowly. “The advice I give girlfriends who are dating and have kids is to always introduce the person in a social setting first,” she says.
Duff and Koma went through a couple of early breakups, but once they were serious, Koma came to trick-or-treat with Luca on Halloween, wearing a head-to-toe Michelangelo Ninja Turtle costume. They’ve been tight ever since.
But Koma also gives Duff space to mom. Friday nights are for a mom-and-son slumber party. Duff and Luca pick out a movie and cuddle up, just the two of them. She says their family also started Couch Time Tuesdays. The rules: no TV, no phone. They do things like play “Two truths and a lie,” and she’ll get the lowdown on who had water coming out of their nose because they were laughing, along with other second-grade dirt. Keeping the phone away also helps engage Luca in one of Duff’s favorite activities, vegan baking, and they whip up treats like cookies and cakes. Getting more plant-based foods on the table is another way Duff hopes to help her family become kinder to the planet.
Duff doesn’t think Luca knows about 17-year-old Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg yet, but she’s excited to “go down a YouTube rabbit hole” about the trailblazer. The teen has been open about her Asperger’s syndrome, which Duff says she finds inspiring.
“To stand up and say, ‘These are the challenges I face daily,’ and being an incredible voice and role model, that’s an amazing story,” Duff says.
Even if they never reach Greta Thunberg standards, Duff knows that greening her family’s life is a worthwhile and doable goal. “At first, saving the environment sounds scary and overwhelming, but as we implement new rules, it becomes easier and easier,” Duff says, maybe sounding just a bit like your friend Lizzie McGuire.