Laura Turner Seydel and her husband moved into the United States' first LEED-certified gold residence in 2007

By Rachel DeSantis
April 09, 2021 11:00 AM
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laura turner seydel
Laura Turner Seydel
| Credit: Erik Voss/ Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

For Laura Turner Seydel, being a champion for mother nature runs in the family — her dad is, after all, media mogul Ted Turner, or as she calls him, a "real-life Captain Planet."

"Taking care of the environment is in my DNA," Seydel, 59, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "We composted, weeded the yard instead of using chemicals, and my dad took us around our neighborhood to pick up trash. We learned from him that you take action. You don't let other people do the work for you."

After a childhood spent taking quick showers, turning off lights and adventuring in nature as much as possible, Seydel has taken those lessons to heart with a series of organizations and initiatives all meant to help out the planet.

Her first job out of college was with Greenpeace, and since then, she's gone on to found Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Mothers and Others for Clean Air, while also serving as the chair of the Captain Planet Foundation, which dad Ted, 82, started in 1991.

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"It's hard to focus on just one thing, there are so many holes in the dike," she says.

Seydel and husband Rutherford first launched Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in 1994 as a means of cleaning up the waterway near their home in Atlanta, and today, the group runs several cleanups per year.

laura turner seydel
Laura Turner Seydel
| Credit: Ben Rollins

She's also the head of Mothers and Others for Clean Air, which she was inspired to launch in 2004 after Atlanta topped the list of the worst cities for asthma.

"I just was thinking about how polluted air and water affected our children and frontline communities, and those that don't have a voice, like nature and animals," she explains. "That really pulled at our heartstrings, and we just had to do something about it."

As if her plate wasn't full enough, Seydel says she and her family are also dedicated to conservation, and have 15 ranches on which they're using bison to help regenerate soil.

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Their everyday home, however, is just as impressive: Seydel and her husband moved into the first LEED-certified gold residence in the U.S. in 2007, complete with geothermal heating and wallpaper made from recycled newspapers.

"I think it was really our way of saying, 'We all have to do everything in our power,' because we're at an inflection point," she says. "It is an imperative that we not just switch to reusable bottles and bags and eliminate plastic straws. We have to do everything, and everybody can do it."

Just as her family taught her the importance of not letting anything go to waste, Seydel is passing her efforts on to her three children: John R., 27, who works as the sustainability director for the city of Atlanta; Vasser, 25, the campaign director for the Deep Seabed Mining Project; and Laura "LE" Elizabeth, 23, who works in the music industry.

"You pass it down to the next generation. It's such a great feeling to have the next generation become very passionate and active as well," she says. "We need to really consider what we do, what actions we take, what decisions we make, and how it will affect our children now and future generations."