Photos of former model Carter Oosterhouse plaster the walls of many a dorm room. His pinup looks notwithstanding, Oosterhouse's real talent lies in knowing how to swing a hammer. A carpenter by trade, he caught attention after appearing on TLC's redecorating show Trading Spaces. HGTV then nabbed him to host Red, Hot & Green and Carter Can, both of which emphasize eco-friendly design. He's a regular on Oprah, showing viewers how to gussy up their homes in the greenest of ways. His nonprofit, Carter's Kids, builds parks and playgrounds in low-income areas. Oosterhouse took some time to answer our questions.
Q: How did you get into carpentry?
A: It started out as a summer job in the town I grew up in, Traverse City, Michigan. It was just something to do to make some money. My two older brothers taught me, and a neighbor took me as his apprentice. I would have never guessed that what started as a summer job would take me so far.
Q: What made you an environmentalist?
A: I blame my dad. He was always preaching. Whenever we'd have to wash a car or boat, we had to use biodegradable soap. In Michigan we have such big bodies of freshwater—they're among the richest commodities we have—so that's why my dad was so adamant. We didn't realize that it would, but stuff like that got stuck in our heads.
Q: What’s the greenest thing people can do when remodeling a house?
A: Going to a secondhand store and repurposing something. People toss things out without a second thought, and there are so many great items at secondhand stores. It’s easy and fun and helps keep the cycle of life for inanimate objects going. Think about all the objects filling up our landfills—granite, for example. It takes a little more effort to get from a secondhand store, but we would save a ton on landfill consumption by using it secondhand, as well as a good amount of money.
Q: What do you tell people who say that eco-remodeling is too expensive?