Environmentalist, television host, and author
B orn April 22, 1977 in Pennsylvania; son of ananesthesiologist and a homemaker.
Addresses: Home—Bucks County, PA. Office—Lime TV, c/o GAIAM, 350 Madison Ave., 17th Fl., New York, NY 10017.
F ounded the activist group Earth 2000, 1989; published first book,Generation React: Activism for Beginners, 1997; writer for Vegetarian Times, c. 1998-2002; columnist for Organic Style magazine, 2001-05, and Countr y Home magazine, 2006—; host of Simply Green With Danny Seo on Lime TV, 2006—.
D anny Seo promotes environmentally friendlyhome-décor products and clothing via hisgrowing media empire. The author of several how-to books on using building and design materials that are either less chemically toxic than their standard counterparts or come from renewable-source materials, Seo also hosts a series for Lime TV, the Internet lifestyle network. “There’s a stereotype that the average American is too lazy to be socially responsible, but I don’t believe it,” he told Macon Morehouse in People. “I think they just don’t know how to get started.”
Seo was born on April 22, 1977, which is also Earth Day. His parents were Korean immigrants who raised their three children in Reading, Pennsylvania.
As the youngest son of an anesthesiologist-father, Seo sensed pressure to succeed from an early age in his achievement-oriented family. He first became interested in social issues in 1989, when he stayed up late to watch an episode of the Morton Downey Jr. Show, whose guest that night was Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). When Seo heard Newkirk explain how chickens are raised on factory farms for American dinner tables, he was sickened and announced the following day—his 12th birthday—that he was now a vegetarian.
Inspired by the Earth Day activities, Seo went on to found the group Earth 2000, whose first members were seven of his closest friends. “At 12, I was naive enough to think the world was coming to an end but idealistic enough to think, ‘Perhaps I can change that,’” he wrote in Career World. “I figured within eleven years, I could change the world. My goal was to save the planet by the year 2000.” Earth 2000’s first official action was a tree-planting event, but the youth group eventually swelled to 20,000 members and brought its founder acclaim as a savvy teenage activist. Eschewing college, Seo moved to Washington, D.C., and launched a series of new ventures.
Seo’s youthful energy landed him a $33,000 publishing deal, and he shared tips on staging protests and dealing with the media in his first book, Generation React: Activism for Beginners, which appeared in 1998. That same year, his increasing public profile landed him on People magazine’s annual ranking of the “50 Most Beautiful People.” He was also invited to participate in a challenge by television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, and succeeded in raising $30,000 in 30 days to build a Habitat for Humanity house. He declined to appear at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to meet the new homeowners, explaining to Seattle Times journalist Ann Gerhart that such staged events unnerve him. The beneficiaries “shouldn’t have to show up and give praise. The whole point of being selfless is not to get something in return. I know that’s bizarre to a lot of people—a self-improvement guru telling them to be more self-less and you’ll be a better person.”
Seo’s next book, Heaven on Earth: 15Minute Miracles to Change the World, was published in 1999. He also began to develop his theory of “Conscious Style,” a term that he trademarked. It centered on the idea that consumers could make choices that were both aesthetically cutting-edge but also earth-friendly, and he elaborated this theory in more detail in a 2001 book, Conscious Style Home: Eco-Friendly Living for the 21st Century. Its pages chronicled the renovation project he undertook at his parents’ Pennsylvania home to rid it of toxic materials used in most residential construction. “My job isn’t to convince you to protect the environment,” Seo explained in an interview with USA Today writer Marco R. della Cava. “I’m also not here to tell you this is cool. But I am here to tell you that it’s just an easier way to live, and it helps the environment.”
By 2003, Seo was living in New York City and serving as editor-at-large for Organic Style magazine, writing its “Green Buzz” column that featured celebrities who were committed to following an envi-ronmentally friendly lifestyle. A public-relations expert, Seo was determined to bring his ideas to a wider audience, and knew that celebrities were an excellent medium for his message. One year, he was attending the Sundance Film Festival and wore an anti-fur t-shirt with the slogan, “Club Sandwiches, Not Seals.” Paris Hilton was so intrigued by it that he gave her one, and after she was photographed wearing it, the retailer Abercrombie & Fitch began selling the line. “At the end of the day, if a celebrity can bring something into the mainstream as unsexy as solar electricity or electric cars, I don’t see what the harm is,” he told Michael Learmonth in Folio. “It can only help the cause.”
Seo launched a decorating venture that sourced nontoxic paints and wood from renewable sources. He also participated in an annual W magazine event in which celebrities donate their goodie-bag free-bies—a generous perk for the famous and already-rich—to a yard sale whose proceeds went to a specific charity every year. Oddly, Seo himself was a minor celebrity in South Korea thanks in part to his appearance in television commercials for Samsung. For one spot that aired during the 2002 World Cup soccer tournament, Seo convinced Samsung to make a donation to an organization that was battling human consumption of dog meat in South Korea. With that largesse, the organization was able to open a dog adoption shelter, which was first of its kind in the country.
Seo renovated his own Pennsylvania property, an old farmhouse in Bucks County. He also delivered tips for environmentally responsible living on his series for Lime TV, Simply Green With Danny Seo. Lime TV began as a cable channel aimed at healthy and earth-friendly living, and switched to Internet-only content in early 2007. In interviews, Seo often claims that his biggest single influence is “MacGyver.” He told New York Times journalist Julia Szabo that the fictional hero of the 1980s television drama “is a huge influence on everything I do. MacGyver would be in, say, a Turkish prison, and he’d go through his pockets and find a piece of gum and some lint, then use the rays of the sun through his cell window to make a bomb. That’s what I like: being creative and thinking outside the box.”
Generation React: Activism for Beginners, Braille International, 1998.
Heaven on Earth: 15Minute Miracles to Change the World, Atria, 1999.
Be the Difference: A Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World, New Society Publishers, 2001.
Conscious Style Home: Eco-Friendly Living for the 21st Century, St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
Simply Green Parties: Simple and resourceful ideas for throwing the perfect celebration, event, or get-together, Collins, 2006.
Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrappings, Tags, and Gifts from Everyday Materials, Collins, 2006.
Career World, April-May 2006, p. 17.
Financial Times, October 15, 2005, p. 2.
Folio, September 1, 2003.
New York Times, August 30, 2001.
People, October 11, 1999, p. 93.
Publishers Weekly, July 31, 2006, p. 4.
Seattle Times, September 19, 1999, p. L2.
Sunday Times (London, England), January 26, 2003, p. 12.
USA Today, August 31, 2004, p. 1D; October 27, 2006, p. 5D.