What work do you do?
I am a home-improvement TV host, master plumber, columnist, author, and how-to expert for Kohler Co.
In my work for Kohler, I travel across the country to green building shows, consumer events, and industry trade shows to demonstrate new high-efficiency toilets that use less water without sacrificing quality or performance. My main title as of late — though not official — could be green builder and crusader for water-conserving toilets!
How does it relate to the environment?
When wearing any one of my many professional hats, I help spread the word about easy do-it-yourself projects that help people spruce up their homes in ways that don’t use a lot of resources — financial, environmental, or otherwise.
With Kohler, I host presentations that show the technology behind high-efficiency toilets and demonstrate how they deliver strong flushes and still use less than 1.3 gallons per flush (which is significantly lower than the industry standard of 1.6 gpf mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 1992). Once builders and the public realize they can have high performance and still save water, it’s a pretty easy sell to get them to think “green” about toilets. To sum it up, we help the public accept new water-conservation products and ideas.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a very good reputation in the media business as a master contractor and plumber in the how-to home-improvement industry, and I am the only home-improvement expert with a reputation for working with professional contractors as well as do-it-yourselfers. Because of this, I receive calls from media outlets like HGTVPro.com, Scripps Howard News Service, Penguin Publishing Group, and DIY Network to provide services for their organizations to attract contractors, do-it-yourselfers, viewers, and readers and educate them about home improvement.
And my first book, Ed Del Grande’s House Call, was released this month. I’m also planning another year of projects and live events with Kohler Co. We just finished up the National Kitchen and Bath Show in Las Vegas, and in early June I’ll be in San Francisco at the Pacific Coast Builders Show to continue spreading the word about water conservation.
In addition, we’ve recently had eight Kohler and Sterling toilets independently tested and approved to bear the new WaterSense label launched by the U.S. EPA, which means the toilets use at least 20 percent less water than standard 1.6-gallon toilets while still meeting strict flushing performance guidelines. WaterSense, similar to Energy Star, promotes the value of water and helps Americans make smart decisions regarding water use and water-using products, in part through partnerships with manufacturers. In short, WaterSense offers consumers a simple way to choose products that use less water without sacrificing quality or performance.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
A lifetime of work in the construction industry as a contractor and plumber, plus a 10-year career as a professional comedian. When I combined the two in 1990, I became one of the pioneers in building the television how-to home-improvement industry. I helped build HGTV during the ’90s, then moved on to help launch and build DIY Network in the late ’90s to the present. Now I’m moving on to help Scripps Networks launch HGTVPro.com for the broadband media market of the future!
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Rhode Island, and though I get to travel extensively around the country, I still call Rhode Island home.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
Long ago, when I was a full-time plumber working for my father’s company, I was under a lot of pressure for a kid in his late 20s with a wife and an infant child. Every day I had to deal with the stress of running the family business and dealing with my father, who had pretty exacting standards. My worst moment was realizing that I had no other option but to start my own business and give up the family business.
What’s been the best?
That same event!
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Litter. There is no excuse for it. If I see anyone litter, I lose all respect for them.
Who is your environmental hero?
Anyone that does something to help the environment is my hero, whether you clean up a park, install a water-saving toilet or low-flow showerhead, or whatever.
What’s your environmental vice?
No matter what I do, I try to be conservative and cut back on any waste, so hopefully that helps out across the board whether I’m driving, boating, or using my woodstove.
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Read any good books lately?
Funny you should ask! I just read my new book again, and without sounding one-sided, I think it’s a wonderful book for those tackling do-it-yourself projects!
What’s your favorite meal?
I live by the ocean, so naturally I love any type of seafood.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I drive a small practical vehicle that is good on gas.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
The ocean. I love boating and I work hard here in Rhode Island to help protect our bay.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
I would like to see tougher fines for littering and have them strictly enforced. I believe most people litter because they are uncaring and feel they can get away with it.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
I always liked James Taylor‘s songs, and I still enjoy his music today.
What’s your favorite TV show?
Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Replace your present toilet with a new bulk-flushing water-saving toilet with less than 1.6 gallons per flush. Kohler offers several models of water-conserving toilets with varying levels of water savings. This simple change can save thousands of gallons of water each year. Anyone can do this or have it done for a reasonable cost and still have a powerful flushing toilet. If everyone does their part for water conservation, the impact on our water supply will be incredible!