Get ready for a must-see season six of “Grey’s Anatomy,” when Jessica Capshaw returns to Seattle Grace as pediatrician Arizona Robbins—the lesbian love interest of Dr. Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez.
An avid environmentalist, Jessica is pictured above with husband Christopher Gavigan, the CEO of the national non-profit Healthy Child, Healthy World, at a recent screening of the environmental film “HOME” hosted by vegan diva Stella McCartney.
Currently shooting 14-hour days—and mum on storylines—the actress, who is the daughter of Jessica Capshaw and stepdaughter to Steven Spielberg, took a break to talk about her four steps to eco-awareness, the importance of greener parenting, and the eco-sin that she just can’t give up.
When did you start getting involved in eco-consciousness?
I owe that completely to my husband, Christopher. I think that probably because of him I ended up being aware of things on the earlier side. There’s been such an increase in people’s awareness of how their actions affect our planet in the past year and a half. I remember when recycling seemed like something that you had to really try to remember to do and now it’s totally normal. Christopher really understands the idea of living as naturally as you possibly can and being conscious of the effect that you have on your environment.
In terms of that, are you also a vegetarian?
I’m not. He is. I have to say that I only really started understanding how much our food choices, especially meat consumption, affect the environment and that was because of my son. I started taking a crash course in nutrition when I started feeding him. I feed Luke in the way that I see as optimal: He has eggs and turkey but no chicken or red meat. I’m going to see how long I can get away with that. As soon as his world opens up and he’s around people who eat all sorts of different foods, I know he’s going to have some questions about who eats what and why.
But I’m a Midwesterner! Not being able to have a cheeseburger once in a while would be torture! A lot of the way you eat depends on how you were brought up. But obviously, I know the reasons to become vegetarian and the more I think about them I know I need to stop eating red meat. I don’t eat a lot of meat; besides the occasional cheeseburger I don’t eat red meat. And I have chicken on rare occasions; I eat turkey and I eat fish. But now with the issues surrounding mercury levels, farming and over-fishing, it’s become more challenging to make the right choice. We all carry around our “safe fish” pocket guides.
My opinion has always been to do the best that you can. You can’t completely change everything at once. We kind of find the little ways we can change things. And any step towards the better is, obviously, better.
The Grey’s storyline involves the only openly gay characters currently on television. Do you feel like you’re now setting an example of social progressiveness in your professional life, as you’re setting an example of environmental progressiveness in your personal life?
I honestly wouldn’t put as much importance on me in that paradigm. I don’t know if I’m affecting change so much as I’m trying to be the best that I can be in my life. If people see that as helpful that’s great. I’m playing a female doctor who happens to be gay. I’ve never at the beginning of a scene thought to myself, “I’m playing a gay person.” I’m playing a character and she is a gay woman.
Okay, let’s get to the frivolous stuff. What are your favorite green fashion labels?
I love everything in the Mr. Larkin collection. Can I just wear that line every day? I also love the Leila Hafzi knits.
Do you wear eco-friendly makeup?
I remember the first Green Expo that Christopher went to a while back—that was the first time he saw what was in makeup and he was horrified. But I don’t really wear makeup in my every day life so I don’t think about it all too much. I use a combination of natural and regular makeup when I’m wearing it.
I felt much more strongly about those choices when I was pregnant. When I wear makeup, I’m aware of my contact with Luke and how much is absorbed by the skin. I wouldn’t put on a big old mouthful of lip gloss and give him a kiss.
To be honest, makeup is a big part of what I do for a living. I use only essential oils for perfumes. I gave up the artificial shampoos that were supposed to make my hair look like Gisele’s and I have to tell you, my hair looks the same using the organic products as it did using the ones crammed with chemicals. But there are certain types of makeup that I’ve used forever that I just can’t replace with natural makeup. Mostly in the concealer and foundation areas.
I heard a rumor that the makeup artists on Grey’s Anatomy are only using eco-friendly makeup now. Did you have something to do with that?
Ellen [Pompeo] is pregnant. And she’s only using all-natural makeup. But I can’t imagine the entire cast is that way. I hope that at some point there will be all-natural makeups that can achieve the effects you need on camera, but right now they just can’t. I think it’s okay to mix and match.
Sonya Dakar’s Organic Omega-3 Complex is the best thing ever. I can’t wait to see Josie Maran Cosmetics new and improved line because I’m always looking for makeup with a wider range of colors. I’ve used Josie’s lip glosses and they’re really great.
Those you can kiss your son with. And they taste like dulche de leche!
There you go! Even better.
How important do you think these kinds of changes are for you, personally? What about for the planet?
I think that the first step is consciousness. When people become open to the idea that what they do has some impact—whether it’s on themselves or others or the planet—that’s the first step.
The second step is taking action. That’s on a sliding scale because people can find different choices or sacrifices that they find more palatable. For example, I’ll use mineral makeup but I’ll never give up my Dior mascara that makes my lashes five miles long, if I’m really being honest about it.
The third step is some sort of resolution that whatever choices you’re making, you’re making them in the most honest way that you can, the best way that you can. There are so many different people in the world, and all different kinds of answers to those levels and stages of action. For me, it’s really important to understand that I need to take the steps that I can, and be okay with the ones that I can’t.
The fourth step is being aware of new things, new developments. And always checking in with organizations that you trust and can give you reliable information, like Healthy Child, Healthy World.
No, seriously! They can do the research for you, so you don’t have to do it.
Your son is almost two, right? How has motherhood changed your perspective?
I’m more aware and purposeful in my actions. I’m much more conservative. If the word “if” is before something, like “if you use this is might not be so great,” I just don’t use it! The fact that I could use something that might harm him just brings the whole thing home. And we’re so aware of the harm, thanks to people who’ve been standing on chairs and yelling to be heard. We’re all now trying to undo a lot of the damage that’s been done.
What kinds of things do you avoid?
We don’t use anything where we can’t identify the ingredients. Ingredients should not read like a chemistry experiment! And nothing with parabens in it. We’re so blessed that we are living in a world where we can buy food for him that’s organic. That’s a huge gift.
It’s hard because then you get into the whole local versus organic question. But you do what you can. I try not to buy off-season vegetables—I’ll buy frozen organic peas over the off-season organic peas from the market.
And I’m very aware of water quality. I’m very aware of pollution. We live near the ocean so we have a minimal effect in terms of that.
It’s summertime right now and it feels like he’s been naked all summer. As cute as baby clothes are, I do try to keep a lid on consumption. I try to buy less. And that’s the other thing with the economy and our values and principles in mind, we try to buy less. That doesn’t mean doing less, it sometimes means doing more.
What’s the biggest green change you’d like to make in your life—even if it’s impossible right now?
I totally outsource this to my husband because it’s too overwhelming. I say, “Okay, what’s next?” I know he has dreams of composting.
What’s your favorite eco-friendly tip our readers should know about?
I swear everyone I know brings their little reusable water bottle; no one uses plastic bottles any more. But living in L.A., a big one is your car. Take public transportation! My Luke loves taking the Santa Monica Blue Bus. And think about your car, if you’re buying a new one. Even though the greedy side of me wants to buy a fancy car, I just got my second Prius and nothing makes me feel better than looking down at the gauge and seeing that I’m getting 51 miles to the gallon.
What’s your worst eco-sin?
I don’t do anything horrible. But like I said there are some times that I don’t go 100% pure. Most pointedly in cosmetics. I just haven’t made the whole transition to that yet.
Who’s your eco-idol and why?
Christopher Gavigan, of course! But also I would say Stella McCartney. Cameron Diaz has really been walking the talk in terms of environmental issues. To use her status in the way that she has is really remarkable and truly commendable.
What’s the best green advice you ever received—and who gave it to you?
I think the best green advice was given to me by my husband when I was pregnant. All of a sudden I did everything better. I ate better. I was better to myself. Everything from eating organic food to eating every three hours rather than waiting out six, to not only cutting out things that were toxic but also things that might be toxic.
At the end of my pregnancy I felt really good, my energy was good, my clarity of thought was good, everything was good. As the guardian of Luke’s life I made all the natural choices. That gave me a huge nod as to that’s the way to be.
And as an emotional being on the planet. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, my husband would say, “Just think: Love and light, love and light.” He’s right. You have to protect your well being in terms of your thoughts, too. It’s not just your body; it’s being pure of mind. That also has an effect.