Mark Steines' mission to conserve water
'Home & Family' host's new book benefits the fight for clean water in Africa.
Thu, Nov 01, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Mark Steines, co-host of Hallmark Channel's daily talk show "Home and Family," reveals his environmental concerns in his own home and family. "We think about the environment in our daily lives. We recycle our cans, paper, clothes, et cetera. We changed all of our light bulbs to eco-friendly bulbs and avoid using appliances during peak hours. We shop for organic products and food. We try and take our kids to the local farmers markets for our fruits and vegetables," says Steines, whose sons are 8 and 10, and are taught about the environment at school "so it helps with our ongoing conversations about how to be good to the planet. We were talking about what type of recycled bags they can use for trick-or-treating. They help us fill our blue recycle trashcans at home."
Water conservation is a major concern for Steines. "I changed all our showerheads to be eco-friendly, dialed back our sprinkler usage and built an eco-friendly irrigation system. We remind the kids to only use water when necessary," he adds. A landscape and portrait photographer, Steines put that talent to use in his book "See The Light: A Passage to Sierra Leone," which has raised $80,000 for Lighthouse Medical Missions and the fight for clean water in the African country ("which goes extremely far in Sierra Leone").
"It is a crime against humanity that all of us don't have clean drinking water on this planet. And I wanted to give something back," says Steines, who learned his family's pediatrician was going on medical missions to Africa with Lighthouse, "and knew my photography could help." He spent 10 days in Sierra Leone in 2009, visiting Freetown, Makeni, Kenema and Lunsar. "I had been to third world countries before, so I was mentally prepared for this trip. What I wasn't expecting was when I returned home and saw how the photographs affected my family," he relates.
"I took more than 10,000 photographs and as I was building the book, the images were all over my office. My sons would come into my office and ask me why the people were injured, what was wrong with them, why did they look like that? Why did they have to get shots? It was a completely different corner of the world that they were seeing. I hope when they are older I can take them there with me. The trip is something I will never forget. Seeing people with missing limbs; smelling gangrene and rotting flesh from simple wounds that became infected; and experiencing the unsanitary conditions that these people have to live in changes you forever. It is a terrible fallout from the war, and I hope these images would bring additional light to their horrendous living conditions." You can view his photo gallery and purchase the book at marksteines.com.
Subjects on his to-photograph list include the Omo tribe in Ethiopia and elephants in Botswana "to stop the slaying of these beautiful animals for ivory and to assist the organization Elephants Without Borders with their cause."
Meanwhile, after 17 years on "Entertainment Tonight," he's enjoying his new daily talkfest. "I love that we have an assortment of topics all within one show. Every day we get to experience and learn something new. One minute we are cooking in the kitchen and minutes later we are tackling serious issues such as bullying or dealing with addiction. The show brings a new variety to my day and allows me to think creatively during the process. While I am learning something new, I have to remember to continue thinking of ways to make the segments entertaining and informative for the audience. It is the ultimate 'app for life' show," he says.
Compared to "ET," "It is a complete flip side of the coin. 'Home & Family' is live and unscripted. The interviews are long form and I get to have an in depth conversation verses at 'ET' where they were edited into six-second sound bites. 'ET' is an extremely polished show. 'Home & Family' airs all of our flubs, bloopers and blunders. Everything that happens on the set is fair game. It is like what happens in real life at home. At 'Entertainment Tonight' I was an interviewer and newsreader. Now I get to expand in completely different ways." Not traveling for interviews allows him to enjoy his weekends at home with his family. "It is really a nice change."
The two-hour format is a challenge. "I have to really flex my brain muscles differently. I have to think 'now and in the moment' more than I ever had. There is so much to consider throughout the day: are we making this funny, interesting, educational, incorporating the guests appropriately, what am I learning, is the audience getting what it is supposed to from the segment, et cetera," says Steines, who finds the casual clothes he now wears to work "more my style" than his wardrobe of suits on "ET."
He hit it off right away with co-host Paige Davis, and favors the craft segments. "I'm learning how to make things that are less complicated than I thought and can save a lot of money if I do it myself. I am a do-it-yourself kind of guy and enjoy working on my house. On the show I have learned so many crafts, from making ice sculptures to how to flip your porch for the holidays — how to decorate for Halloween and then flip the decorations around for Thanksgiving. Also, the cooking segments are wonderful. We have had some amazing dishes."
David Arquette, "Home & Family's" first guest, "was fearless — he tops the list" of Steines' favorite guests. But he also mentions "Glee's" Dot-Marie Jones, with whom he had "an authentic conversation about bullying. It doesn't matter who the person is as long as the subject matter is authentic." His wish list includes Charlize Theron, Halle Berry and Julia Roberts, "doing whatever it is they love to do" rather than formal a sit-down chat, and some of his "ET" favorites, including Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Cher and Olivia Newton-John.
In the crowded daytime TV marketplace, Steines believes "Home & Family" stands out, because the Hallmark brand, behind the scenes segments and left-in blunders sets it apart. "It's completely different from other talk shows," he says. "The audience gets to learn a lot of new information that is relevant to their lives, their home, et cetera." Naturally, there's a bit of in-house promotion. "We had Kellie Martin and Catherine Bell, who starred in Hallmark movies. It makes sense for Hallmark to use our show as a promotional vehicle, but we have a lot of segment flexibility for all sorts of guests."
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