Get Inspired: Outside The Office

Interview by Bonnie Siegler

Though her character, Jan, makes audiences laugh on NBC’s The Office, Melora Hardin takes a serious tone about eschewing consumerism, embracing a greener lifestyle, and bringing back family dinners. Natural Solutions caught up with the actress—and this month’s cover model—who talks about life outside of The Office.

On her children: When my two girls, ages 4 and 7, visited me in New York City, I watched them enthusiastically search for untouched snow to lie in—they needed to connect with nature even in this cement jungle. I want my kids to appreciate the beauty of nature so when they get older they’ll feel like they can contribute and make a difference in preserving the Earth.

On family dinners: The dinner table is a place where conver-sations about changing the world take place. It is the genesis of all great ideas because you have permission to speak your mind or disagree with your parents or siblings. You can say, “No, I don’t think so, what about this?” or “This happened to my friend, and I don’t like it,” or “I don’t want to eat meat anymore.” It’s an open forum where ideas can be tested, and I want to ensure that this neglected tradition is a part of my girls’ daily life.

On greening The Office: I plan to initiate an effort to greenify the Dunder Mifflin set this year because we’re still using some Styrofoam cups and to-go boxes. Scientists say that the Styrofoam cup I used to drink my coffee this morning will still be sitting in the landfill 1,000 years from now. Also, replacing all our throwaway plastic utensils with reusable bamboo ones may cost a little more at first, but it saves money—and the environment—in the long run.

On consumerism and our dwindling resources: It’s easy to forget how buying so much “stuff” contributes to world pollution. I watched The Story of Stuff (storyofstuff.com), and it made me realize the little things I can do to make a difference. This short film taught me that the US makes up 5 percent of the world’s population, but uses 30 percent of the world’s resources and creates 30 percent of the world’s waste. If the whole world consumed at US rates, we would need three to five planets instead of just one. Stats like that have really stuck with me. Three easy things we can do:
Wash out your recyclables. In some states, if you toss a container that’s caked with food residue in to the recycling bin, it’s the same as trashing it. Make sure to wash everything out.
Compost. Put all your kitchen scraps in a bin, let them decompose, and then use them as potting soil or fertilizer for your yard or garden. Composting dramatically reduces waste in landfills.
Bring cloth bags—everywhere. I stash two eco sacks in my purse, and I keep a bunch in my trunk. That way, I have no excuse not to bring my groceries, or any other purchases, home in reusable bags.