Q. Tell us about your involvement with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
A. I’m a member of the NRDC’s executive forum committee, which works to lobby for issues in front of Congress and the courts. Basically I do everything I can to try to help them in their cause. They’ve been on the forefront of keeping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protected from drilling, and trying to protect all of the [environmental legislation] that was put into place back in the 1970s, from the Clean Water Act, to the Clean Air Act, to the Endangered Species Act.
Q. How did you get your sense of environmental responsibility? Was it instilled in you growing up?
A. To me, the reasons for environmental responsibility or stewardship are self-evident. It’s not like, why did you become a writer or an actor? So I guess the answer is, it’s always felt very natural to me. I never considered it a choice.
Q. What do you consider to be the greatest challenge to the environment right now?
A. Somehow environmentalists have become partisan, when the truth is that health is not a partisan issue, sustainability is not a partisan issue, even the innate aesthetic pleasure and inspiration in nature is not partisan. Yet somehow it’s been framed that way. I think it’s going to be very important for us as an environmental movement, and for us as a planet and as a people, to get past that one and really get to the truths that are at stake. It’s self-preservation, and that’s a very universal need and self-interest.
Q. Can you give us some examples of how you live an environmentally responsible life?
A. I did drive an electric car until a few weeks ago, when I had no option other than to return it. It was a General Motors EV1, which was a spectacular car that GM has basically destroyed and pulled off the market.
Q. What are some other lifestyle things you do?
A. One of the things I’m trying to do—and that I think is a really fulfilling thing to do—is utilize the natural environment to help create a comfortable [space] to live in. Since my family is in Southern California, we have solar heating for our water on our house, because there’s a lot of sun. Because we’re near the ocean, we don’t have an air conditioner; we use doors and windows and let the natural breezes cool off the house. We recycle. We try to buy food products that are sustainably generated. We have an electric blower for the garden. We grow a lot of food right here in the yard. We do what we can. These are solutions for this particular area. Every area has its own solutions. It doesn’t take a lot to make a large impact.
Q. Which is your favorite natural products store?
A. I love Whole Foods. They opened another one near my house, which I am just blown away by. It’s such a journey and it’s such fun. Not only do they have healthy things, but they have great cheeses.
Q. What are some of your favorite foods?
A. I’ve actually decided that I was born at the right time because my three favorite foods have become good for you: dark chocolate, almonds, and wine.
Q. What do you like to do in your free time?
A. Most of the time I’m with my daughters, who are 2 and 5. I used to surf a lot and mountain climb and mountain bike. Now it’s primarily my kids. We have a vegetable garden that we all plant together. And we have a house on the ocean up north near Hearst Castle, and we go down and explore the tide pools there. We’ve found everything from crabs to baby octopus and eels. It just fascinates them.
Q. What’s the one message you’d like to get out to our readers about the environment?
A. I think the issue of global warming is probably the most pressing, the most dangerous, and probably the hardest one to comprehend and be passionate about. Which is one of the reasons it’s so dangerous. It’s not something you experience, and you don’t really run into it on a daily basis. But it’s an alarm bell that virtually every scientist in the world is ringing very loudly. And it’s one that we have to start listening to.