Andrew Toth/Getty Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder
At Shiseido's annual beach clean up on behalf of their Blue Project in Huntington Beach, California on Wednesday, the Vampire Diaries alum opened up to PEOPLE about how embracing a quieter life allowed him to further implement the couple's sustainable efforts.
"[It's been] magic," says the actor, 43, about moving to a farm outside of Los Angeles with Reed and their daughter, Bodhi Soleil, 5, on Wednesday. "It's really the way it's always supposed to have been. I think now you're seeing a lot of people who were working in corporate offices, and you can see it now from a societal standpoint. People are having a really hard time getting back to work."
He adds, "People have realized that their time and the value of their time and the value proposition of time has shifted a bit. Be more engaged, be outdoors more, spend more time with one another."
Emma McIntyre /VF20/WireImage Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder
Somerhalder — who says he doesn't "plan on being on screen for a long time" — also shared what he's learned during the last few years.
"I think what the pandemic sort of did was show us that moments matter. Birthdays matter. Holidays matter. These small little granular moments with one another really matter," he says. "And that is why Nikki and I find that rural or even urban/rural lifestyle — which I think a lot of people are getting into, whether it's permaculture, building food forests — we're past the point of just thinking that we're going to stop all this by not using plastic straws and driving electric cars."
While he's hitting pause on acting, the star is busy as ever with Brother's Bond, his bourbon with pal Paul Wesley.
"We are moving away from just the word sustainability, 'cause at the end of the day, sustainability means maintaining the status quo, which doesn't work," he says. "At Brother's Bond and in our household too, we use the 're' words: regenerate, reuse, reclaim, reconstitute, rejigger, re-everything. It's regenerative — not just sustainable."
The Twilight actress, 34, previously spoke to PEOPLE about her own experience during the pandemic.
"It was a turning point for me," Reed said in May. "I made a conscious choice to give my child the most normal life possible."
That meant moving to a farm "very far outside the city" where they raise animals and grow lavender and rosemary alongside cucumbers and peppers. "It felt like a relief, moving out of the city," she said. "I promise that if anybody wants a feeling of ease, of peace, of calm, the answer is nature."
She also revealed how much it impacted her mental health.
"Nature is the best form of therapy," she said. "And it's instant — you don't have to spend six months in nature before you feel it. Go on a hike and release endorphins. Look at a tree instead of the blue light on your phone. All of our souls need a dose of that kind of medicine."
Jennifer Johnson Ian Somerhalder
During the Shiseido Blue Project event in partnership with World Surf League and WildCoast, Somerhalder rolled up his sleeves and cleaned the beach with the team. He also discussed in detail his passion for ocean preservation.
"The idea is that it's not just about driving awareness. Awareness is great, but awareness is nothing without action," he says.
"That's the big thing, and I think that's what people sort of miss. What I love about this is there's an actionable component, which is getting on the beach, people seeing this being clean, and driving home the fact that there's seven and half billion of us here," he adds. "So if we each do one little thing, we do our part, the world changes."