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For all the criticism lobbed at Hollywood over "greenwashing," there are a few true champions of nature among the rich and famous – and these 15 exemplify that.
We trawled through celebrity track records to see how involved they have been in eco causes in recent years, and weeded out ones who have not actively participated in the movement lately. We looked for people who weren’t happy just donating time or money to environmental charities, but those whose work (and name) had as profound an impact on the drafting of a bill or the success of a project.
We singled out celebrities who were honest about their limitations and consistent in their actions (Harrison Ford may have been the vice chair of Conservation International, but he also reportedly owns seven private aircraft).
What these stars have done is used their fame and wealth to raise awareness about the various conservation issues of their choosing—and, more importantly, set an example—such that thanks in part to them, support for environmental causes has never been as high as it is today.
Click ahead to find out who is on our the list and why they made it.
By Regina Hing
Posted 13 April 2012
The mega-model was hailed the Best Green International Celebrity in December, winning the online poll by a large margin, thanks to her work in ecological conservation and education. Through her eco-friendly flip-flop line — Ipanema Gisele Bundchen — the supermodel has raised funds for conservation efforts in the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest.
She also launched the Clean Water Project with her family, whose mission is to restore vegetation and the microbasins in her hometown of Horizontina, Brazil. In 2011, Harvard’s Center for Health and Global Environment named her the year’s Global Environmental Citizen, and in January this year, she made her first official visit to Africa as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program.
As an environmentalist, DiCaprio is best known for having co-written, produced, and narrated the global warming film “The 11th Hour.” But long after the credits rolled, his own Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation continued to lobby hard for a variety of environmental and humanitarian issues, including forest preservation, healthy oceans, clean water access, and renewable energy.
DiCaprio actively serves on numerous environmental boards including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Global Green USA, World Wildlife Fund and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. On top of sizeable donations he’s committed over the years, the superstar actor has also pledged to forgo private jets and drives a Prius.
As co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theater Company, the actress and her husband, Andrew Upton, were key proponents of Greening the Wharf, a project that oversaw 1,900 solar panels being installed in The Wharf Theatre at Sydney's Walsh Bay. This now provides 70 percent of the theater's electricity requirements and, together with a system for rainwater harvesting, will eventually turn it fully carbon neutral. Under her guidance, the theater also started reusing and recycling costumes and props.
Although the Oscar winner and face of Australia’s “Who on Earth Cares” program recently came under fire for appearing in the Australian government’s carbon tax ads, Blanchett says she will “not be deterred from spreading the message about climate change”.
Another Grammy-winning band committed to green touring. Since 2008, the Environmental Media Awards of 2006 honoree has been using biodiesel-powered tour buses, promoting recycling at its concert venues, and donating a portion of ticket sales to Global Cool, an environmental charity that works with entertainers. Maroon 5 has also played at Live Earth and headlined the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo last year. The bestselling artists are also strong supporters of the Environmental Media Association, Kiva, and Teen Impact.
The “Incredible Hulk” star flexes his green muscle in a broad range of initiatives, starting with his work as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. At his designation ceremony in 2010, Norton spoke about how environmental issues are the “defining challenge of this era”.
Norton is widely recognized for his work on the BP Solar Neighbors Program, which matches each celebrity purchase of a solar-energy home with solar panels for a low-income family home.
The 42-year-old has also been vocal with his support of The Wilderness Society and Earthjustice, and lent his hosting talent to a National Geographic series called Strange Days on Planet Earth. He has also been an active board member of Friends of the High Line, a group that campaigns to save and rebuild green space in New York City.
Apart from his well-documented humanitarian efforts, the “Moneyball” star is also a longtime environmentalist. His Make It Right Foundation is on track to finish 150 homes in New Orleans, where all the new residences will not only sport environmentally sound features, but they will also use advanced engineering to withstand strong winds and floods. The U.S. Green Building Council lauded the star for his role in establishing "the largest and greenest single family community in the world."
Pitt has donated more than $5 million to this project alone and, through the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, also helps oil the engine for various other natural resources and wildlife conservation campaigns.
The former vice president needs no introduction when it comes to his green credentials, which include leading the first Congressional hearings on toxic waste and global warming; winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize (and donating the $1.5 million prize money); co-founding Live Earth, a series of benefit concerts that raise funds for sustainability projects.
His work on the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” however, earned both critical acclaim (an Oscar) and criticism. Still, the founder of the nonprofit group Alliance for Climate Protection soldiers on; these days, he’s mostly on the road, speaking about his most cherished cause and rallying volunteers—that is, when he’s not getting called back into politics to testify on environmental policies and regulation.
Through their very own Bama Green Project, the Grammy-winning band continues to champion green touring. At every concert, generators are powered by biodiesel, and recycling and composting stations are ever-present backstage. Emissions from air flights and hotels are offset, with the proceeds going to tree plantings and wind turbine construction.
More recently, the band has commissioned logistics provider UPS to devise more efficient ways to transport their equipment. The band also founded Green Music Group, a large-scale coalition of musicians, fans and music industry leaders seeking to bring about lasting change in the industry. Members include Linkin Park, Sheryl Crow, and Willie Nelson.
Hailed for her role as the menacing Elle Driver in “Kill Bill,” Hannah proved she can be just as fierce in real life when it comes to issues close to her heart. For one thing, she has been arrested no fewer than three times in the name of the environment: First for a 23-day tree sit-in in 2006; then again in 2009 for protesting against mountaintop mining in West Virginia; and finally, for joining demonstrations against the Keystone oil pipeline in front of the White House last year.
When not running afoul of the law, Hannah also produces a weekly video blog on green lifestyles called DH Love Life, and runs an online business selling eco-friendly products. She also grows her own food.
It’s all well and good to be nicknamed “Best-Dressed Environmentalist” by the Sustainable Style Foundation, but Brosnan takes his activist role very seriously.
Brosnan has dedicated a large part of his life to environmental causes, serving on the boards of numerous groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, California Coastal Protection Network and Sea Shepherd. Together with his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, Brosnan has been inducted into the Environmental Hall of Fame for his efforts in raising awareness about and campaigning against illegal whale hunting and wetlands protection.
The Bond star, who says he’s proud “fighting for the forests and the oceans,” also lent his voice and name to environmental films and documentaries such as “Oceans” and “Lethal Sounds”.
The surfer-turned-singer/songwriter popularized EnviroRiders (riders are the contractors bands use for specific functions while on tour), drafting a set of stipulations requiring venues and tour operators to purchase renewable energy for 100 percent of the amount used at his shows, recycle at least 50 percent of the total waste generated, change all lights to efficient compact fluorescents, and, of course, compost and recycle.
Once called the Jolly Green Giant of the music business by Billboard magazine, Johnson and his wife, Kim, started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to environmental education in Hawaii.
Although the Naked Chef is well-known as a health and environmental campaigner in his native England, it wasn’t until he waged a war against school lunches in America that viewers here understood what he meant by “living as close to the source as possible.”
Through his TV shows “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” and “Jamie’s American Road Trip,” the popular chef advocated healthy eating and the sustainable farming and sourcing of food. “American Road Trip” also became the first fully carbon neutral TV show in the U.S., as audited by carbon companies Best Foot Forward and Green Party. Proceeds were distributed to various initiatives worldwide, including solar energy projects in India and wind power schemes in China.
Back home in London, Oliver installed wind turbines at his restaurant to halve its power consumption.
The 35-year-old actor recently picked up awards from Global Green USA and Opportunity Green for his work on SHFT, a website advocating green living through traditional and social media. A far cry from his role as large-living Vincent Chase in “Entourage,” Grenier hosts the show “Alter Eco” on the channel Planet Green, speaking out about the little changes people can make to be kinder to the environment.
He also drives a Prius and has a solar-powered home in Brooklyn, New York.
Known for sometimes turning up at Hollywood events on his bicycle, Begley has been long been considered an environmental leader in the Hollywood community. Today he continues to serve actively on the boards of various green groups, including the Environmental Media Association, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Tree People, and Friends of the Earth.
Begley and his wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, star in their own reality TV show called “Living with Ed” on the Planet Green channel, which chronicles the couple’s quest to live with a small carbon footprint. Begley also raises funds through a line of eco-friendly cleaning products called Begley’s Best and uses the profits to assist other local green organizations.
A pioneer among celebrity environmentalists and a former “Time” magazine “Hero of the Environment,” Redford founded Sundance Preserve, a non-profit organization working to protect the North Fork Canyon in Utah. He also produced “The Green,” an eco-themed TV program that tackles issues such as solar energy and wilderness preservation.
In 2009, the Sundance Kid was honored with Duke University’s lifetime environmental achievement in the fine arts, LEAF, award. More recently, he has written op-eds calling for President Obama to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline project, citing severe environmental damage from extracting crude oil from tar sands. “The environmental tipping point has been reached,” Redford told MSNBC in a recent interview.