As part of the celebration of our second year partnering with the SAG Awards®, American Forests chatted with Elizabeth McLaughlin, actress and member of the SAG Awards Committee. McLaughlin is known for her roles in shows like Pretty Little Liars, First Day and Betrayal, and has a recurring role in the upcoming series Grand Hotel.
American Forests (AF): What inspires your commitment to environmental issues?
Elizabeth McLaughlin (EM): My personal commitment to environmental issues is inspired by knowing fighting for the betterment of the environment isn’t just for me. My generation will definitely continue to see the harsh realities of climate change in our lives. However, it’s inspiring to know that it is also my generation that will be able to turn it around, making true changes toward sustainability and putting the protection of the natural world where it belongs: as a priority. I hope that the activism I’ve seen in the last few years continues so that our children can enjoy the natural joys our planet so wonderfully and effortlessly provides.
AF: How do you practice your environmental commitment at home?
EM: I take living a greener lifestyle as an exciting challenge. It can often be overwhelming and feel like it’s too much at once. I’ve decided it’s easier to tackle living a greener and more environmentally friendly lifestyle by focusing on a single area. In my home, we focus a lot of that determination towards changing our habits in the kitchen. It was our 2019 resolution to cut our plastic use as much as possible. For example, we are trying to not buy products with plastic packaging, and reusing them if we have to. Also, we just ordered some reusable, compact straws! We try to shop for organic and sustainably produced food, as well as cutting back our meat and fish consumption, as that has more of an impact on the environment than most of us realize. We also try to compost as much of our food waste as we can. Another goal for the next year is to start growing some vegetables in our yard with our compost mix!
AF: How do you think people in the film and television business could serve as important leaders in rising to meet today’s environmental challenges?
EM: I think a lot of people hold themselves back on making changes towards a greener lifestyle because it feels daunting, inaccessible and like everything has to change all at once. Most people really dislike change, myself included, especially when there is so much taking our attention these days. The easiest way to combat those apprehensions is to see how truly easy it is to make simple changes that ultimately really help the environment. The film and television industry’s public platform provides a unique opportunity to lead by example, big and small; from the studios and networks leading in large industry, to actors and talent leading personally. In fact, the last job I worked on, ABC’s upcoming show Grand Hotel, had a strict ‘no plastic bottles on set’ rule, which made the cast and crew bring their own reusable water bottles. Just that small action probably eliminated hundreds if not thousands of plastic water bottle waste. Social media is a great resource to get the ‘green’ message out and show just how easy it can be to make sustainable and impactful choices. If people can see how easy and cool it is to make a difference, it becomes a contagious, all-encompassing movement, which is key to making the kind of change that our planet really needs.
AF: What role has the natural world played in your and/or your family’s life? Do you have a story about a special forested place that affected you or left an impact on you?
EM: Most of my favorite memories throughout my life have been set in the natural world. When I was a kid, we had a small wood behind our home that I would often use as the setting for all my imaginative play, playing as characters from my favorite books, or pretending to be an explorer through uncharted land. I’m so thankful that my relationship to the natural world has remained sacred through being an adult. One of the best trips I have ever taken was a road and camping trip from Los Angeles to Glacier National Park in Montana. Seeing a wide scope of our country all at once, and most of it beautifully preserved and untouched, was deeply inspirational to me, and something I think everyone should do often. I’ve found that I need to give myself those moments to get out of town and be a part of nature as almost a reset button towards a better self. There is something so profoundly grounding to walking in a forest or standing in front of the sea that gives you an opportunity for a deep breath or wiping any slate clean. Once you truly have an awe-inspiring experience out in nature, you can’t help but feel the call to protect it.
AF: Do you have a favorite tree? Which one? Why?
EM: It’s surprisingly difficult to pick a favorite tree! I’d have to say my favorite trees are very old trees, especially great oak trees or redwoods. I love trees that make you feel like you are a small piece of its own history. I love few things more than feeling tiny next to a massive tree; I think it incites that childlike wonder again. As a kid, I used to go to my small town park which had these massive low hanging oak trees that were easily over a hundred years old. For a long time, our park didn’t have a jungle gym because those trees so graciously provided natural ones. Even after we got our exciting, new jungle gym, you’d still find me in the trees. I would spend all my time at that park climbing and conquering those oak trees. In fact, the scar I’m proudest of is from a humbling moment on one of those trees.
AF: Anything else you’d like to share?
EM: I just recently learned a new beautiful word!
KOMOREBI: The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees. (Japanese, noun)
Isn’t that wonderful?
The 25th Annual SAG Awards ceremony will be nationally simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 at 8 p.m. (ET) / 5 p.m. (PT). Follow along at #SAGAwardsForForests before the ceremony!