Growing up in rural Louisiana, “The Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder and his family made a habit of living off the land. “My family taught me [there was] a balance between nature and humanity. You have to preserve the environment or you can’t live,” he tells us.

Preserving the environment through daily habits has always been part of Somerhalder’s lifestyle, but he has gone above and beyond by creating his own environmental foundation and last year he was anointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Program. This year he’s teamed up with Metro to raise awareness about what we can do in our every day lives to make a difference. Listen in on our conversation here.

What sparked your passion for the environment?
I grew up in the super delicate ecosystem of southeast Louisiana. My family taught me [there was] a balance between nature and humanity. You have to preserve the environment or you can’t live. My family really lived off the land, water and air. Understanding that provided a very solid basis for knowing that in order to be healthy, you have to maintain a healthy Earth.

What issues in particular get you really heated, things that you’re frustrated people just don’t understand?
My greatest frustration is that up until now, our government hasn’t taken the steps that it should have to protect our environment and it’s caused such wild detriment. It sets a super bad example for the rest of the world. Money, politics and oil are inexplicitly linked and the environment falls secondary to these things — which in all actuality, it should be paramount.

How will this affect the economy in the future?
If you want to talk economics, look at the true value of conservation verse doing nothing. You’re looking upon trillions and trillions of dollars to make up for the droughts and the storms and all these things. Earth Day is not just a celebration of our beautiful [world], it’s a call to action.

Voting for political issues that affect the environment is one way people can make a difference, but what about little habits in our daily lives?
There’s a really great understanding that to think globally, you have to act locally. Think of all the power New York City is pumping out. What you need to realize is that you’re part of a force. Little things like turning off the lights, not wasting water and recycling save a ton of power and oil, especially in big cities.

Does living a “greener” lifestyle affect how someone spends his or her money?
We have the most incredible power and that’s the power of the consumer. Every day we go out and vote with our dollars. If you don’t buy from companies who are not good stewards of the environment, on a local scale or global scale, they get the message.

What about in your daily life? What are some steps you take every day in an effort to live a greener, cleaner life?
Very much every single thing that I put into my shopping cart I think about where it came from, how it was made, how it’s packaged and how I can recycle the packaging.

It’s hard to buy organic, locally-made food is too expensive, but instead of complaining you did something about it.
It absolutely breaks my heart that organic apples are more expensive than non-organic apples. Good food is expensive — especially in New York — and that’s not fair. That’s exactly why I started Thrive Market. It’s a membership-based company that costs $59 to join, but it provides access to wholesome, organic, non GMO, thoughtful products in place of ones at Whole Foods that are too expensive to buy. We sell them 25 to 30 percent less and you get them directly delivered to your door. And for every order you place, an order goes to a family in need, one of the 29 million Americans who lack access to healthy, affordable foods. This is going to change the game and I’m so excited about it.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence