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Ice caps are melting, coral reefs are shrinking, islands are sinking... What to do? We can go directly to despair—or we can learn how to be a part of the solution. Eco-activists, Laurie David and Matthew Modine, share effective and inexpensive ideas with O writer Aimee Lee Ball that—really!—can make a world of difference.
There's nothing like a visit from a movie star for inspiration to spruce up the house, which is why the smell of fresh paint is apparent as Matthew Modine arrives to meet the Drake family of Montclair, New Jersey. And this visit has special significance: Today Matthew is wearing his well-earned hat as an environmentalist, dropping in on the Drakes to offer simple, gratifying, inexpensive ideas for living greener.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of environmental disaster. As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore said in his Oscar®-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, "People go from denial to despair without pausing at the intermediate step of actually doing something." Cars, factories, and power plants trying to handle the modern demand for energy have created potentially catastrophic global warming, with the release of carbon dioxide literally heating and thickening the atmosphere of the planet it was meant to protect. So what can one person, or one family, do about the melting polar ice caps, anyway? The answer is a resounding "plenty." Operating on the premise that lots of people would embrace some important changes if armed with the know-how, O magazine found two families who agreed to open their doors and their drawers for an eco-makeover.

Our guides for this odyssey are both Hollywood activists and passionate promoters of earth-friendly policies. The genesis of Matthew's green interest was a summer job in the early 1970s, when the drive-in theater his father managed shut down and he earned a little money by collecting copper wire from the speakers for salvage, which got him thinking about what gets thrown away. A veteran of more than 40 films including Birdy, Full Metal Jacket, and Married to the Mob, he is currently in Showtime's Weeds, and his short film about reducing carbon fuel emissions was shown at the World Economic Forum. Two years ago he created Bicycle for a Day (BicycleForaDay.org), a worldwide campaign to promote transportation alternatives.

Laurie David's eco-consciousness was raised as a new mother in the 1990s. Her husband at the time, Larry David, was on a soundstage seven days a week helping create Seinfeld (and later Curb Your Enthusiasm), and as she pushed a stroller around her neighborhood with a colicky baby, she became aware of how many SUVs were on the road. A little research revealed a loophole in the law that classified SUVs as trucks, allowing them about half the gas mileage and double the pollution of regular cars. Since then, she has written books about the climate crisis including The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, created the Stop Global Warming Virtual March (StopGlobalWarming.org), and was a producer of An Inconvenient Truth.

For our home visits, Laurie and Matthew were joined by experts from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a group of lawyers and citizens devoted to safeguarding the planet. Environmental issues are complex, and sometimes the most well-informed people debate the best course of action, but our makeover teams can start all of us thinking about what we might do to make a difference.

  • Laurie David helps the Perez family become environmentally friendly
  • Matthew Modine gives the Drake family an eco-lesson
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