[PROFILE] Danny Seo - Activist, Author, TV Host & Public Speaker
- DANNY SEO'S BIOGRAPHY
Danny Seo, age 23, is an internationally renowned activist, author
and public speaker. Born on Earth Day, 1977, Seo founded the
organization Earth 2000 with just $10 and a few friends. Soon, Earth
2000 blossomed into the nation's largest teenage environmental group,
spearheading worldwide campaigns for the protection of natural
resources and animals. In 1997, Seo retired as CEO to focus on his
life's mission: to show others that they can do extraordinary things
if they allow themselves to reach their fullest potential.
In 1997, Seo wrote his first book, the landmark volume Generation
React: Activism for Beginners (Ballantine) in which he revealed his
unique approach to altruism while giving insight into his life as a
teenage CEO. His new book Heaven on Earth:15-Minute Miracles to
Change the World (Pocket) now has over 100,000 copies in print and is
a bestseller around the world. Sharing his surefire strategies for
creating "mini-miracles" daily by offering concrete examples, Seo
motivates aspiring givers of every age to recognize and maximize
their own unique capacity for making a difference.
A highly sought after speaker on volunteerism, personal empowerment,
and the environment, Seo has won numerous awards and accolades. He
received the 1998 Oprah's Angel Network Award after fund-raising
$30,000 in less than 30 days for an "Oprah" Habitat for Humanity
home. He is also recipient of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer
Reverence for Life Award, as well as Korea's World Leader of Tomorrow
Award from the Samsung Corporation. Profiled in many prominent
publications, including Newsweek, Fast Company and The Washington
Post, Seo was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the
World" by People and "one of the most powerful twenty-somethings in
America," by Swing. He is also a frequent guest on television talk
shows, appearing on CNN, The View, Donny and Marie, Leeza and The
Oprah Winfrey Show.
Currently, Danny is developing a lifestyle television series that
showcases his signature style with a unique marriage of altruism. The
series will "celebrate the very best the human spirit has to offer"
and share lifestyle tips on cooking, gardening, travel, entertaining,
home improvement, fashion and volunteerism. A companion book series,
named Conscious Style, will debut Earth Day 2001. Seo is the founder
of his interactive website, http://www.dannyseo.com, which serves
both his charitable and commercial ventures.
Danny is also the official spokesperson for Netian, Korea's largest
Internet service provider. Starring in a series of television and
print advertisements, the tagline in the campaign reads, "Danny Seo
and Netian: Changing the World Together." More can be learned at his
official Korean homepage at dannyseo.netian.com.
The son of Korean immigrants, Seo was raised in Berks County,
Pennsylvania. He now lives in New York City, NY.
Danny Seo's 15-minute miracles to change the world
In his book, Heaven on Earth, 15-minute miracles to change the world,
Danny Seo lists 100 good ideas that anyone can do to make the world
just a little bit nicer, better and safer. Unfortunately, Danny's
book is all USA-based. if you know of any NZ organisations that
could make use of these tips, let them (and me) know! Here's a
1. Send used greeting cards to St Jude' Ranch for Children, where
they are recycled by and sold for the benefit of needy kids. 100 St
Jude's St, Boulder City, Nevada, 89005.
2. Help a teenager at a youth centre write his or her first resume,
and print out good quality copies for him/her.
3. If your company flies you first or business class, volunteer to
down-grade and donate the savings to charity.
4. Recycle your old fur coat into a teddy bear through McCrory
Bears. The profit goes to support medical recearch. PO Box 305,
Rockport, Massachusetts, 01966.
5. Add a stamp to the pre-paid envelope when you donate to charity -
it saves the charitable organisation the cost of postage and handling.
6. When you read in the newspaper about an inspiring community
service event, clip it out and send it to a company you business
with, suggesting they support it.
7. Donate free tickets or seats from your season passes to a local
school - they can give them to an interested student who wouldn't be
able to go, or raffle them off.
8. Nominate an extraordinary person for a community service award.
9. Donate old books to a library or school so that others can enjoy
reading it too.
10. Collect your spare change for a whole month. At the end of the
month, bank it into your account and send a cheque to the same amount
to a worthy charity.
Life as an 'eco-stylist'
Danny Seo is riding the latest celebrity fad as a lifestyle
consultant to the stars. Recycled cashmere, anyone?
By Gina Piccalo, Times Staff Writer
Danny Seo, the 25-year-old Martha Stewart of the organic set, speaks
softly, but in that rapid-fire tongue so characteristically New York.
He rattles off the eco-friendly elements of his ensemble, which he
has worn to an important eco-friendly gala in Los Angeles populated
by newly eco-friendly celebrities. "This," he says, pointing to his
delicate wrist, "is a solar-powered watch. I'm wearing vegetarian
shoes from England -- Paul McCartney loves these." His tie, he says,
was picked from a clothing designer's trash bin. But the outfit is
just the beginning: "It's all about eco lifestyling."
Seo, the erstwhile teenage environmental activist who won a place in
Oprah Winfrey's heart after writing several books on organic and
altruistic living (including one with Deepak Chopra), is leaving the
East Coast, repositioning himself as an "environmental lifestyle
consultant" and moving to Los Angeles. Here, he's working every
angle, pitching himself as TV-show host, starlet fashion stylist and
celebrity companion. Where better to establish oneself as the last
word in the latest fad?
"A lot of trends start at the upper-income levels," says Seo. "What I
don't want to do is start mainstream and work my way up. It goes the
other way around."
Although ripe for ridicule, Seo's new job title is sure to give pause
to a certain group of Angelenos, those animal lovers who refuse to
eat "anything with a face" but live in that black leather coat, or
those who drive gas-guzzling SUVs while nobly purchasing
biodegradable detergents. Seo believes he can dissolve that guilt and
confusion. "I find resources," he says.
This slight-framed, bespectacled young man with the fresh face of an
adolescent will realign your complicated world, from fashion (non-
animal leather and recycled cashmere) to home design (freshwater
swimming pools and recycled hardwood floors) to altruism,
entertaining, kids, cooking and (pesticide-free) gardening -- all in
an ecologically conscious way. Of course, this kind of expertise
isn't cheap. Seo's styling fee starts at $2,000.
At the Environmental Media Awards on Nov. 20 -- an event that honored
actress Blythe Danner for recycling, living in a solar-powered home
and driving an electric SUV, among other things -- Seo works the room
of activists, organic chefs and actresses.
Sometime-actress Anna Getty (stepdaughter to J. Paul III) wears one
of Seo's hand-picked pieces, a recycled black cowl-neck dress shot
with fine silver Lurex stripes. Her dark hair is slicked back in a
tight ponytail, revealing a tan and flawless face. Peripherally, she
resembles one of Andy Warhol's wealthy satellites, circa Studio 54.
In the last two years, Getty and her friend actress Amy Smart have
started recycling and using biodegradable detergents. Smart has a
freshwater pool. They eat "mostly vegetarian and do yoga," Getty
says. "There's a whole way of life."
Seo's approach is important, Getty believes, because "if we don't
start taking care of the world, we're going to be in trouble."
Besides, she adds, fashion needs a fresh look. She pulls at the
delicate fabric of her dress. "My friends looked at this and
said, 'Oh my God! That's so "Dynasty"!' And I'm like, 'That's the
Seo became image-savvy during adolescence. Born on Earth Day 1977, by
age 17 he was a media darling, featured in Newsweek for his youth
activism group Earth 2000, a national network that spearheaded
worldwide-environmental awareness campaigns. At age 19, he
wrote "Generation React: Activism for Beginners" (Ballantine Books,
1997), an autobiographical take on his approach to altruism that
landed him on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." At age 21, People magazine
named Seo one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World."
During time off from a day job writing for Vegetarian Times, Seo
wrote two additional books, including "Be the Difference" (New
Society Pub, 2001) with would-be business partner Deepak Chopra.
(Their plans for a "personal growth" Web site crumbled with the dot-
Renovated parents' home
But the real catalyst for his West Coast debut was his renovation of
the Reading, Pa., home of his anesthesiologist father and stay-at-
home mother, using organic and recycled materials. Based on that
experience, he wrote "Conscious Style Home: Eco-Friendly Living for
the 21st Century" (St. Martin's, 2001). The book made the rounds in
Hollywood when Kevin Spacey's publicist sent it to all her clients
Today, Seo earns $15,000 per appearance on the lecture circuit. He
also appears in South Korean TV ads as an official spokesman for
Samsung, a deal he justifies with: "It allowed me to make a sizable
donation to a campaign in South Korea to ban dog meat."
Now, Seo is carefully planning his transformation from activist
author to eco-stylist to the stars. He's interviewing talent agencies
here, and seriously considering signing with Cloutier, which reps
celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch. He's also in negotiations with
Hearst Entertainment, which is part owner of the A&E and Lifetime
Television cable channels. When the ink dries, he'll develop
a " 'Mister Rogers' for grown-ups" that targets the active and under-
30 demographic. His ideal audience, he says, spends Friday nights out
and Saturday mornings on its couches, watching Seo's friendly face,
chatting brightly about a "Tajmopolitan," a cocktail made with spices
and vodka distilled from organic potatoes. Or perhaps he'll offer a
lesson on how to transform an empty Altoids tin into "an aromatherapy
energy candle perfect for traveling."
To ensure that he meets the right types of people, Seo has spent a
third of the last year living in the W Hotel in Westwood, courting
publicists, dressing celebrities for public appearances and calling
up old friends like Amy Smart and Santa Monica local Tracey Ullman.
He's also on the lookout for celebrities to profile in Organic Style.
The year-old New York magazine hired him recently as an editor at
large to "add glitz" to its pages, he says. One such feature details
model Shalom Harlow's use of loose pebbles on her bathroom floor "as
an homage to reflexology," Seo says.
"He really exemplifies the new definition of organic," Editor in
Chief Peggy Northrop says, "that it's about being seductive and
incorporating organics into your life in a stylish way .... He lives
Seo started styling clients last year when the magazine's founder,
Maria Rodale, asked him to find an environmentally aware celebrity
for the September 2001 debut issue. He called friend Debbie Levin,
executive director of the Environmental Media Assn., who referred him
to Smart. Two months later, Smart asked him to dress her for the
association's gala in Los Angeles.
"At first, I thought it was a joke.... It's glorified shopping," Seo
says. "All I do is say, 'Try this on. It looks great!' "
Smart introduced him to her friend actress Ali Larter. During
Thanksgiving week, Seo was busy searching Manhattan for "nonconflict"
diamonds -- stones that have not been mined to fund wars -- to drape
on her for a party.
Other celebrities came to know Seo through their managers, publicists
or chance encounters at charity events. Eventually, he was dressing
and consulting with actress Rashida Jones (daughter of Quincy), as
well as Alicia Silverstone and the Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson.
At a recent Chicago charity dinner hosted by Richardson, Seo
persuaded the performer to serve all-organic wine and "make an issue
out of it."
Here in L.A., Seo has been reconsidering the ubiquitous gift
bag. "It's counterproductive," he says. A charity event is "all about
selflessness, and people are complaining about not getting a bag." He
hopes someday to encourage a few celebrity friends to "save
everything they get for free for a year, and then I want to do a
Hollywood yard sale," he says. "I've just been thinking about this
for a week."
Back at the Environmental Media Assn. awards, indie filmmaker Asher
Levin walks in with a small entourage of willowy young women. The
bushy-haired blond carries himself with the immodesty of a 22-year-
old singer in a rock band -- which he is, for Whitestarr.
"Look!" says Seo, "he's wearing one of my jackets!"
"Does it look OK?" asks Levin, touching the deconstructed piece.
"Very cool," nods Seo, looking it over. "Very cool."
Levin, whose mother is the environmental group's executive director,
seems relieved. Later, he explains his affinity for Seo's
taste: "It's really cool."
And for the lifestyle guru of the moment, maybe that's enough.
Danny Seo's Tips for Fund-Raising
Fundraising for your local grassroots group doesn't have to mean
spending hours baking cookies or washing cars. I raised more than
$30,000 for a Baltimore house for Habitat for Humanity using these
five fundraising techniques.
1. Big-name retailers like Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, Wild Oats
Community Markets and Starbucks Coffee host special days when 5% of
their total sales are given to a local organization. Ask a local
store for details.
2. Take old clothing from friends, family, and volunteers to a
consignment store that will sell your old clothing to customers and
split the profits with your group.
3. Most shopping malls donate the pennies left in water fountains to
community service groups. Just contact the mall manager and
request "fountain coins." Bag them in cloth coin sacks, available at
any bank, and have the bank ship them to the Mutilated Coin Division
of the U.S. Mint. You'll get a check for the amount of the coins!
4. Corporations, associations, and government agencies often award
mini-grants to local organizations. Read the local newspaper for
5. Local organizations headed by people under 30 can apply for a Do
Something grant, around $500, for a community-building project. Be
sure to ask about the Brick Award, a competition with $250,000 in
prize money. Write: Do Something, 423 W. 55th St., 8th Fl., New York,
NY 10019; or call 212-523-1175. Danny Seo, a PETA member <div
Danny Seo: Eco-Entrepreneur
By Kamilah Duggins
Danny Seo had felt this sense of impending doom before - this feeling
that something was terribly wrong with the world. He had been taking
notes on the latest disasters that seemed to be popping up
everywhere, from his hometown of Reading, PA to the redwood forests
of California. Between hurricanes on the East coast, earthquakes on
the West coast, Danny was sure the end was near. And he was only 12
What he saw on television later that night reaffirmed that uneasy
feeling. Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA (People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals), was sharing horror stories from a
poultry processing plant, and detailing the inhumane and unsanitary
process of slaughtering chickens.
Within minutes, his brain stitched a connection between his chicken
salad sandwich and the fact that it's trip home from the grocery
store paled in comparison to its journey to the grocery store. As
quickly as he had inhaled the sandwich, he threw it back up. You
could say that was Danny's first outward protest against animal
cruelty. But it certainly wouldn't be his most noteworthy.
Like many 'treps, Danny had found a cause. But instead of being out
to make a buck, he was out to buck the system and save the planet.
That decision led Danny to start his own nonprofit organization and
put him on a track toward a life as an eco-crusader.
Taking a Stand for Mother Earth
The day after his unfortunate chicken salad experience was Danny's
birthday, which coincidentally falls on Earth Day. Awareness had kind
of punched him in the stomach when he wasn't ready, but Danny rounded
up his friends and proposed a plan to save the world. He'd take their
commitment to his revolutionary cause instead of birthday gifts. His
goal was to save the planet by the year 2000, so he named the
organization Earth 2000.
Over the next six years, Earth 2000 quickly grew from a neighborhood
group of six friends to a phenomenal national force of more than
20,000 teens. "I never saw it coming," Danny says. "It seemed natural
that I would have members all over the country."
Danny has staged protests, planned boycotts, lobbied legislators,
convinced such major retailers as Lerner New York to stop using fur,
and helped to save the whales in Denmark. While doing all that, he
has become an excellent organizer who has been able to get 20,000
people moving in the same direction at the same time.
"I think I realized we were gaining influence when Eddie Bauer agreed
to stop using fur in their clothing line," Danny remembers. "It only
took a week of our campaigning to get them to change, which is really
As he approached adulthood, though, Danny realized he needed to take
on new responsibilities. So this successful eco-radical made his
wildest move yet.
Stepping into the Future
After high school, Danny felt he had done as much as he could as
president of Earth 2000. He stepped down in 1995 and went in search
of a grown-up life. "When I was 18, I didn't want to be labeled a
young activist anymore. I was happy with what we accomplished. I
think we accomplished a lot for a youth group."
But without its founder and leader, the organization fell
apart. "They were unable to find someone to fill my shoes," he
explains. Although Danny was disappointed, he had no regrets. "I
needed to grow up and have a career for myself. So I started a
business that would marry my concern for the planet with commerce."
Basically, Danny needed some cash flow, and everything he had done
with Earth 2000 had prepared him for this moment. "I gained a lot of
skills working with Earth 2000 that I hadn't learned in school. I
learned the value of making contacts and the magic of public
From One Green to Another
So instead of going out and getting a job, he did what any 'trep
would do - he started his own business. How'd he do it? Easy. He took
something he really cared about, figured out how to market it as a
product, and made it profitable.
His first project was to convince editors at Ballantine Books that
his experience building Earth 2000 could easily turn into
an "activism for beginners" book. He got a $33,000 advance to write
Generation React - a sweet deal for Danny since it generated income
and educated the public on issues that were important to him. Later,
he wrote a second book titled Heaven on Earth and gave the proceeds
to Habitat for Humanity.
These days, you won't find Danny rallying around a picket line or
lobbying a legislator - he's doing that in his hard-earned leisure
time. Instead, he's attempting to build a fulfilled, yet
conscientious society through his company Danny Seo Media Ventures.
The Conscious Entrepreneur
Danny is designing a "conscious" line of clothing with fashion mogul
Todd Oldham, and he's close to sealing a deal for his own
infotainment show (like Martha Stewart, but with a green focus). He's
also preparing the launch of Danny Seo Home, a line of hundreds of
eco-friendly products from glass cleaner to bedding.
In his proposal for these ideas, Danny wrote, "Green products
(excluding food) have exceeded $100 billion in sales each year since
1996. Yet despite this staggering statistic, there is no clear
authoritative expert in the eco-friendly, cruelty-free lifestyle
field." Danny intends to launch numerous products serving this
market, including clothing, household items, books, television shows -
anything that will deliver the message.
"I realized there was a need when I couldn't find clothes, bedding,
etc. that was cool-looking and green. So I put on another hat and
became a style expert," Danny says.
Touring the World
This spring, he'll be on a book tour in South Korea promoting the
release of his third work, Be The Difference: Strategies to Change
the World. "Everyone likes to talk about what's wrong with the world,
but no one says how we can fix it," says Danny. To help people
understand that anyone can start something good to counter the bad,
he gives about 100 talks per year and does lots of TV interviews. "My
goal is to take the message out there and reach the largest number of
people I can."
He's already achieved some personal highlights such as making People
magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list in 1998, being featured on
Oprah's Angel Network, and meeting her challenge to raise $30,000 in
30 days to build an eco-savvy home for Habitat for Humanity.
Passion for the Cause
Danny's daily routine as a New Yorker sounds more like one of a
corporate executive than an earth-friendly 'trep. "I wake up at 7
a.m. - earlier if I want to work out with a trainer. I spend a lot of
time on the phone and in meetings," he explains.
As much as Danny loves his new life, preserving Mother Nature and
humanity will always be his first priority. It's what keeps him
pounding the pavement in vegetarian shoes and sleeping at night under
a comforter of synthetic down.
"If I can show people how simple it is to just give a minute of their
lives, that would fuel them to take it to the next level," Danny
says. "People who are going to be involved should generally have
passion and desire in their hearts for whatever they 're working
toward," Danny advises. "Just start somewhere."
Rules for Living
Everyone - even the most famous 'trep - faces adversity sooner or
later. When eco-crusader Danny Seo senses troubled waters, he follows
these three rules:
"Believe in yourself no matter what," Danny says. "You really have to
be your biggest supporter. No one is going to believe in or work
harder for your organization than you.
"If you have the tiniest ounce of doubt about it, don't do it. If I
feel like I'm doing something that's not right, I'll leave right
away," he explains.
"Never have a back up plan," Danny advises. "Believe in what you're
doing so much that you know you'll succeed."
Danny Seo, twenty, is the founder of Earth 2000 National, Inc., a
national organization he started with just $10 at age twelve. Under
his leadership, Earth 2000 waged ground-breaking campaigns proving
young people had the power and will to bring significant, positive
advances to the environmental and animal rights movements. From
coordinating successful corporate boycott campaigns to launching
award-winning educational initiatives, Danny earned the
title "America's Most Influential Teen" in 1996 from a leading public
relations trade publication.
Danny has appeared in over five hundred media outlets including
Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Family Circle, and The National
Enquirer, who dubbed him "out to save more animals than Noah." He is
the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including honors from
the Albert Schweitzer Institute for the Humanities and Who Cares
magazine's 1995 "Young Visionary of the Year."
A 1995 graduate of Governor Mifflin High School, Danny frequently
travels the United States speaking at national conferences and
colleges, and serves as a youth issues, public relations, and fund-
raising consultant to political and advocacy organizations. Currently
he is serving as Director of Public Relations for Save America's
Forest and is busy lobbying members of Congress to support the Forest
He lives in Washington, DC. Generation React is his first book.
Danny Makes a Difference
The day you were born might play an important part in your future. At
least, for Danny Seo it might have. He was born on April 22, 1977.
What's the big deal, right? Danny was born on International Earth
Day, which is fitting for the founder of Earth 2000. Earth 2000 is
the nation's largest teen environmental group.
Danny was 12 years old when he started Earth 2000 with a few friends
and only $10. His first battle started in Pennsylvania (also his home
state) to save 66 acres of forest and wetlands. Even though he lost,
Danny didn't let it slow him down. He organized a large anti-whaling
demonstration, worked on banning the capture of wild
animals for classroom displays, lobbied for two major animal rights
initiatives in Pennsylvania, led an anti-fur campaign against two
large clothing companies and promoted vegetarianism for Gen Xers.
"I had my first picture in Newsweek when I was 17," Danny said during
an interview for a story on teen vegetarians. "After I saw it, I
changed my clothes, joined a gym and got a haircut." Not that Danny's
obsessed with his looks. He barely has time to eat, he's so busy. His
first book, Generation React: Activism for Beginners, was written
in '97. His second book, Heaven on Earth: 15-Minute Miracles to
Change the World, is a bestseller around the world. The book
motivates people of all ages to do as the title suggests and change
the world, by recognizing
and using their own uniqueness to its full potential.
Danny is only 24 years old and he's already a popular speaker on
volunteerism, personal empowerment and the environment. He's received
so much recognition over the last couple years that you might want to
keep anything with his signature. In '98 he was given Oprah's Angel
Network Award after fundraising $30,000 in less than 30 days for a
Habitat for Humanity home. He also won the Albert Schweitzer
Reverence for Life Award and Korea's World Leader of Tomorrow Award.
Danny is obviously no stranger to the spotlight. People have read
about him in Newsweek, Fast Company, The Washington Post, People (as
one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World) and Swing, as "one
of the most powerful twenty-somethings in America."
Right now, Danny is working on a TV series about the best the human
spirit has to offer. There'll be tips on cooking, gardening, travel,
entertaining, fashion and volunteering. He currently lives in New
York, where he spends all his time showing others that they can make
Author, designer and soon-to-be television host Danny Seo reinvents
environmentalism for a new generation.
By Greg Zinman
It's not easy being green. Unlike many of his environmentalist peers,
however, 25-year-old author, designer and soon-to-be television host
Danny Seo manages to do it with flair.
Born, believe it or not, on Earth Day, Seo founded a group called
Earth 2000 at the tender age of 12. By the time he retired as CEO in
1997, it had become the largest environmental group for teens in the
world, with over 20,000 members. But as he got older, Seo discovered
that he was becoming less strident in his political views and
increasingly interested in the world of fashion and interior design.
After writing two books on how eco-activism could be seamlessly
integrated into a daily routine, he decided to marry his social and
artistic passions into a philosophy for living well while thinking
"Design was something I had always enjoyed doing, but I didn't want
to become a lifestyle expert, because I've always felt that there was
something creepy about that," Seo says with a laugh. "But I wanted to
stay true to my beliefs and pursue activism. Then what occurred to me
was, if people can change their everyday lives, in what they wear and
eat, that has a far greater impact on environmental sustainability
than me standing on a soapbox and protesting about something." The
result was last fall's Conscious Style Home (St. Martin's), the story
of Seo's chic soup-to-nuts renovation of his parents' Reading,
Pennsylvania, home. Seo made "green" equal "groovy" by utilizing
environmentally friendly materials, like bamboo blinds, recycled
paint, heart maple procured from responsible logging companies,
comforters stuffed with surprisingly soft EcoSpun (made from recycled
bottles), canvas and hemp slipcovers, glass tiles and organic cotton
To his mock-horror and readily apparent delight, Conscious Style Home
indelibly stamped Seo as a bona-fide lifestyle expert, an image
further bolstered by his recent work as brand manager of the fashion
label Imitation of Christ. Created by actresses/designers Tara
Subkoff and Chloë Sevigny, IOC takes Salvation Army castoffs and
reconstructs them as downtown duds, an idea Seo found easy to get
behind. For their recent New York fashion week show, IOC embraced
their ethos of the reusable while thumbing their collective nose at
couture convention. Cheekily touting the display as a "retrospective"
(IOC has only existed for two years), the show featured hotpants-clad
models pushing around vacuum cleaners made by James Dysona design
maverick who Seo claims as a major inspirationwhile videos of
previous IOC shows played on the walls. "I had wanted to get involved
with fashion for a while," says the still-young Seo, "but every
fashion brand that was 'eco' in focus is so crunchy, and everything's
so baggy and unstructured. For me, fashion has to come from a design
viewpoint, and then you can incorporate your social and political
views into the line."
Seo is practicing what he preaches, silkscreening and embroidering
old military neckties, which have been worn by the Backstreet Boys,
among others, and are in increasing demand with his other celebrity
friends. In the coming year, Seo will be rolling out a line of
environmentally friendly products for the home, including hand-cast
recycled glasses, bowls and plates, as well as tabletop grills made
of recycled aluminum. "No one likes to be told what to do," he
explains. "But if you can make a project very sensual and
inspirational and aspirational while still making a social point,
then you sort of leave it up to the person to pick it up on their
own. And at the same time, if they buy it, you're planting those
seeds for change."
As if that wasn't enough to keep the mini-mogul busy, Seo will soon
be shooting a pilot for Danny Seo Reinvents, a lifestyle show to be
filmed at his apartment in New York City. The titular host will
present food, fashion, gardening and entertaining, "with a campy,
casual approach," says Seo. "It'll have cause-related elements, and
we'll have tips on being resourcefulI call it 'finding your inner
McGyver,'" he adds, referring to the action hero known for making
bombs out of whatever ingredients are on hand. Think a hipper,
effusive and more ethical Martha Stewart, and you've got the right
idea about Seo's show. It's about being fun without being frivolous,
being responsible without being a drag. Coming from Danny Seo, being
green sounds just great.
Copyright 2002 Ralph Lauren Media, LLC
Maybe it was in the stars that Danny Seo would become a leader in the
environmental movement. Seo was born in 1977 on International Earth
Day. At the ripe old age of 12, he launched the student advocacy
group, Earth 2000.
Originally founded to save 66 acres of forest and wetlands, Earth
2000 is now the largest student group for animal rights in the
country. Although that first battle in his home state of Pennsylvania
was lost, Seo was encouraged rather than disheartened by the battle.
Youth involvement, Seo says, "changes the generation." And while
national activist groups are sometimes condescending to their young
members, Seo and Earth 2000 intend to empower kids and to gain more
respect for youth.
Seo is a young man in constant forward motion. Since 1989, he has
organized a large anti-whaling demonstration in Washington, D.C.,
provided vegetarian meals to people with AIDS, worked to pass a
resolution to ban the capture of wild animals for classroom displays,
lobbied for the passage of two major animal rights initiatives in his
home state, headed an anti-fur campaign against two major clothing
companies, and promoted vegetarianism for Generation X'ers. His most
recent project is focusing Earth 2000 on utilizing kids' economic
power to influence political and environmental decisions. The group
has already persuaded four thousand retailers to sign a "Statement of
Insurance" not to sell fur products.
While Seo has gained recognition and received awards, such as the
Albert Schweitzer Humanities Institute Award, for his work, he finds
the work itself and the opportunity to get others involved the
ultimate reward. To advance the causes of Earth 2000, Seo does a lot
of traveling and as many speaking engagements as possible. He invests
not only his time, but his own college-fund money in his projects.
He's been described as a one-person army-a publicist, a speaker, and
Kids are not usually educated or prepared for political and social
activism; Seo believes that participation in the real world is
essential. "What we lack in classrooms," he concludes, "is giving
students the freedom to learn in their own interpretative way." Seo
felt he learned more about civics and government in one day of
lobbying than a month in class. Now he's putting everything he's
learned into a guide book for young people that will be published in
Though his schedule is demanding, Seo is ever ready to take on more.
Other kids ask him all the time how he does it, and he simply tells
them his own story. The message, he says, is clear: "If I can do it
as an average kid, so can you...."
Danny Seo is the founder and former CEO of Earth 2000 National. He
has twice appeared on Oprah, and is a recipient of Oprah's Angel
Network Award; he has also been on Leeza, The View, and CNN and
featured in People Magazine, among many others. Named by Swing
magazine as "most powerful twentysomething in America," his other
titles include Generation React, and Heaven on Earth, and soon to
be published Conscious Style Home (St. Martin's Press). He lives in
New York City.
John Lucas interviews author/activist Danny Seo
For his twelfth birthday, Danny Seo didn't want the latest
Nintendo game or a new Swatch. In fact, he told his friends not to
give him presents at all. What he wanted was for them to become the
founding members of Earth 2000, the grassroots environmental
organization he had conceived only the night before. His goal: to
save the world before the end of the millenium. It sounds like an
idealistic, childish fantasy, but Seo proved to be a precociously
dedicated leader. With his unswerving belief that a difference can be
made, and his enviable tenacity, Seo has made an impact, not only on
the lawmakers of his home state of Pennsylvania, but on the 20,000-
odd young people who have joined Earth 2000 since its inception
nearly eight years ago.
Now 19, Seo has just written his first book, Generation React
(Ballantine Books, 1997), which is meant as a sort of primer for
activists. In it, he tells hopeful world-changers how to do
everything from starting and leading activist groups to launching
boycotts, dealing with the media, organizing protests and lobbying
the government. He also gives samples of documents essential to every
activist's arsenal, such as press releases and petitions. In short,
it's a textbook for anyone with a cause.
Seo's own dedication to the animal-rights cause was confirmed on
the night before that fabled twelfth birthday, when he stayed up late
to watch Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals, who was being lambasted on the Morton Downey Jr
show. "I don't know if I necessarily understood the topic, or
understood the problem," Seo said during a recent interview, "but I
just felt awful for this British woman who was being belittled by the
host and the audience and I think, just out of pure sympathy, I
supported her efforts." When Newkirk described, in graphic detail,
the suffering experienced by factory-farmed livestock, Seo rushed to
the bathroom and involuntarily deposited the chicken salad sandwich
he had just eaten into the toilet. An activist was born.
From these humble beginnings, Earth 2000 blossomed into a
nationwide network of young crusaders, a network that has achieved
some concrete results. And it's all been done independently, with
savvy fund-raising methods that don't compromise the group's
goals. "We turned down a ton of grants from corporations, because we
thought it would interfere with some of our corporate boycott
campaigns," Seo said.
One of the organization's most succesful such campaigns was
launched against retailers selling fur. "It wasn't enough for groups
of individuals to protest and scream and yell, and pose naked on
billboards and things," Seo said. "We felt it wasn't achieving
anything. But what we looked at was at our couple of tens of
thousadns of young members. What was the one powerful thing teenagers
possessed? It was our consumer power. And we thought that this was an
ideal way to target retail corporationsbig ones that cater to the
youth marketby using our consumer power to get them to stop using
Sending tens of thousands of letters, faxes, and cut-up store
charge cards had an effect. In 1996, 834 Lerner New York stores
delared themselves fur-free and, citing a lack of consumer demand,
Eddie Bauer also agreed to stop carrying fur. "Even though we were
doing it for animal-rights reasons, it succeeded because we proved to
them, consumerwise, using the great American dollar, that they didn't
have to do it [sell fur] if they wanted our business," Seo said
Because of such successful public campaigns, Seo has earned a
high profile. Through countless newspaper interviews and coverage on
TV and radio, he has become something of an icon for active, aware
members of society. Seo gets about 5,000 letters a year from people
asking one basic question: "How did you do it?"
"A lot of people understand what the issue is, they understand
what the problem is, but they don't understand the simple steps for a
creative or critical process on how to solve that problem," Seo
said. "And so I decided, instead of writing a book about what's wrong
with the world, to write on that has some basic solutions and ideas."
One idea put forth in Generation React that Seo himself has
gotten a lot of mileage out of is the concept of "exploiting
yourself." Any weakness you may seem to have is also a potential
strength. As a teenage activist, Seo had a hard time convincing his
state representatives to take him seriously. On the other hand, that
very youth and inexperience was precisely what made him so
interesting to the press. "I learned how to write a news release,"
Seo recalled. "I would send out a news release saying `Teenager to go
lobbying Pennsylvania reps today" and my subtitle would be something
like `Young person hopes for passage of clean water legislation.'
There's nothing better than going lobbying with the 6 o'clock news, a
newspaper reporter and another reporter from the wire service
following you around for the day, going around meeting with the reps.
The reps aren't going to be mean. The reps have to put on their fake
persona and listen to you. And that's the time when you play
hardball, and you ask them the hard questions, because you can pretty
much get your own way then."
Seo admitted that much of the information in Generation React is
available elsewhere, but said that the abundance of such data in
sources like public relations textbooks can be overwhelming, or just
plain boring, to the average person who wants to get involved with a
cause. "This is the basic information, the basics on how to do simple
public relations, how to do simple corporate boycotts. Where it
doesn't seem feasible for people to say, hold a press conference and
go on a satellite tour or something for a cause, a simple thing for
them would be to do a radio show, or to get the local media involved
in a program. It's things that an ordinary person could do."
Finding heaven on earth in a quarter-hour
August 4, 1999
(CNN) -- Would you take advice from a 21-year-old? How about one who
already has founded a national campaign to save the environment,
received the Albert Schweitzer Institute Award and been honored by
Danny Seo said he did all those things, then decided his true calling
was teaching others how to do them. Seo credits an appearance on the
Oprah Winfrey show with helping him see the light -- and write a book
When he was 12, Seo said he formed Earth 2000 National, a teen
environmental group that now has 12,000 members. But after graduating
from high school, he decided this part of his life was over. Much to
his parents' dismay, he said he also decided not to go to college,
opting instead to pursue what he knew to be his life's mission:
helping others maximize their potential.
Seo won the 1998 Oprah Winfrey Angel Network Award for outstanding
community service after raising $30,000 in less than 30 days for
Habitat for Humanity. He said the response from Oprah viewers
convinced him of the need to teach everyday folk how easy it is to
He shares his strategies in his book, calling his chapters "Angel
Power Rules" that teach how to create "mini-miracles" to save the
world. He says all miracles are doable in 15 minutes or less, thus
the book's title.
Here are some examples of "miracles" from Chapter 1:
Recycle used cellular telephones. Bell Atlantic Mobile will reprogram
the phones to dial 911 to help community safety patrols.
Gather and donate used luggage to foster family agencies. Many foster
kids have to use plastic trash bags to carry their belongings from
one home to the next.
Collect shampoo, conditioner, soap and mouthwash from hotels and
donate it to shelters.
Other tips in the book promise to help readers get hooked on helping
by reaching out to others.