In the 1970s, Cheryl Tiegs was a pop culture icon, reigning supreme as a
supermodel and gracing the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue multiple times. Today, however, the model would rather be known as a bag lady—make that a bagless lady.
"I was asking [celebrity and environmentalist] Ed Begley, Jr. whether I should choose paper or plastic and he said neither, so I haven’t used either since," says Tiegs. "If I forget a reusable bag, I’ll pay for the groceries and put them in my coat pocket and walk out that way."
The woman whose poster was once a common find on the walls of most adolescent boys would now prefer that the paparazzi photograph her with pockets stuffed with groceries, especially if it means that others will go bagless as well. Although Tiegs taps into the knowledge of others, like Begley, this farm girl-turned-model has been environmentally conscious for most of her life.
Growing up on a Farm
"I grew up on a farm in Minnesota with my feet on the ground, picking corn from the fields, making homemade bread and all that, so I think that influenced me all of my life," says Tiegs. However, she admits becoming part of the throw-away society years ago but says that she began to reevaluate what she was doing when consumer recycling programs were introduced.
"My values were so different when I was growing up, and throwing away a toaster when it doesn’t work just to buy a new one made me feel lazy and uncaring," she says. "When recycling became available, I really started to change my lifestyle again."
Recycling was the catalyst for more changes in Teigs’s personal life. "I looked around my 5,000-square-foot house and I knew I couldn’t tear it down and start from scratch, so what could I do?" she asked herself.
When she purchased the Los Angeles, Calif. home, it was what she called a “tacky, Hawaiian teardown,” with only two rooms, low ceilings, aluminum doors and no light or view. She remodeled it in a Balinese style—which captures nature with wide open spaces and natural, organic features—and also included some French Colonial and African architectural features. The home now includes a great room, fireplace, seating area, 35-foot ceilings supported by large elaborate columns and souvenirs from her five-year stay in Africa.
To “green” her home, Tiegs started by simply changing her incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones and then added insulation. A bigger change came in the kitchen. Although she loved the room, the Italian tiles were an environmental nightmare. “If a drop of lemon or anything was on the tile, it would absorb the stain, and I would have to spend thousands in chemicals to have the tiles cleaned and sealed,” she explained. “It wasn’t healthy.” She removed the tiles and installed a Cambria countertop, a greener alternative that provides points toward green building certification and uses only water and a little soap for cleanup.
Continuing on her path, Tiegs recently appeared on Begley’s HGTV show, Living with Ed, where he performed a “green audit” of her home. On his advice, she converted her pool to be a saltwater, chemical-free pool. She is now researching solar panels and windmills to help power her home and reduce her electricity costs.
“[The solar panel companies] want to put a football field-sized solar panel on my grassy area, so I just can’t do that right now. I believe there has to be a better system,” she says.
Tiegs takes the one-step-at-a-time approach to green remodeling. “You can’t do it overnight,” she says. “I have a luxury in my house—a massage table—and when I needed new sheets I chose organic instead, but it’s not as if I have to throw away all my fine cotton sheets right now.”
The Next Generation
At 61, Tiegs still maintains her beauty and continues to work, appearing in movies such as Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and as a spokesperson for various health and beauty products.
Tiegs says she is very proud of her home, where she lives with her 17-year-old son who shares her awareness of the environment and took a particular liking to designing his own room. “When I told him he could decorate his room, he laid down on the bed and said he wanted a red, white, blue and black room,” she says. “I thought, ‘oh my, it doesn’t go with the house,’ but I didn’t say a word. My decorator brought in a zebra rug and my son drew a dragon that an artist took and put it on his ceiling so when he lays down he sees this dragon. It’s just a wonderfully brilliant, creative idea.”
Tiegs knows what it takes to look good and be healthy. Today, she knows what it takes for her house to be same way and she’s encouraging others to follow her lead.
Credit: Renovate Your World