Truly, even though she has two new movies coming out—the thriller Columbus Circle with Selma Blair, Jason Lee and Giovanni Ribisi; and a dramedy called Dylan’s Wake, in which she costars with Rose McGowan and Nick Stahl—she’s more excited to talk about the Environmental Media Association’s (EMA) School Gardens Program that she co-founded with president Debbie Levin (Smart chairs its Young Hollywood Board).
“This is her passion,” says Levin of the program that provides resources for organic vegetable gardens in Los Angeles urban schoolyards. In less than a year, the program has spread to 10 schools, with plans for 15 more in Los Angeles and a national program, too. “Gardens are so educational,” explains Smart. “They can help teach science, reading, math and nutrition. It’s a tangible experience where kids can learn more healthful eating habits while reconnecting with where their food comes from.” Smart believes exposing children to a hands-on experience like picking fresh basil or tasting a homegrown tomato has significant impact. “Powerful change can come from a personal level,” she says.
Smart herself started putting her love of the environment to work at a young age: She was 18 when she volunteered for Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay’s Speakers Bureau, taking a message of ocean preservation education out into the community. Now, she’s one of its youngest board members. Preferring to keep her involvement close to home, Smart leaves the sweeping national campaigns to her friend and collaborator Danny Seo, an eco-lifestyle expert who regularly appears in magazines and on television touting his imaginative brand of DIY green projects. “Danny is amazing at getting the message out by connecting with corporate entities and sponsors. Over the years, we’ve found a balance that has enabled us to work really effectively together.” Speaking of balance, Smart also uses her garden for kundalini yoga, a practice that she says helped her learn how to prioritize. “It gave me a sense of how important my time is and taught me to be discriminating about how I spend it,” she says. “It helped me find my own special purpose: I want to help people around me feel good, inside and out.”
Here are some of Danny Seo’s best eco-friendly tips, no matter the size of your plot. 1. Lighten the load Container gardening is great if you have limited space, but big pots full of soil can get heavy. Fill containers first with Packing Pearls (packingpearls.com), 35-percent recycled Styrofoam balls that keep pots lightweight and also prevent root rot and mildew. 2. Choose high-yield seeds Look for easy-to-grow seeds, such as Bush Snap Bean Heavyweight, Burpee Bibb Lettuce and Large Round Tomato Steak Sandwich. Growing instead of buying these produce items will save you money and provide meals all summer long. 3. Mark your territory Deer and other wild animals are a constant battle for gardeners. If a fence ruins your nature fantasy, try leaving a smelly sneaker in the garden. The strong scent of human presence keeps the deer away. Also plant deer-resistant flowers—like alliums (flowering onions)—as garden borders, creating an “invisible” barrier. 4. Choose organic pesticides Most nurseries stock natural pesticides, but some applications can become a full-time job. EcoSMART (ecosmart .com) is made from essential plant oils that can be sprayed directly on the pesky invaders but is completely safe to ingest.