8 Environmentalists Who Rule: The Globe's Greenest Royalty


Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan buying nuts from a street vendor. Photo via Queen of Jordan's Official Web Site .

From the House of Windsor in Britain to the Alawi dynasty in Morocco, members of royal families around the globe aren't just playing polo and lolling on the French Rivera--some are using their famous names and hereditary wealth to do good for the environment.

Yes, royals have massive (and multiple) homes, jet around the world, and generally live lavish lifestyles with carbon footprints to match, but their high global profiles mean when they power their castles with renewable energy, grow organic vegetable gardens, or champion environmental causes, people take note. Get your best bow or curtsy ready, you're about to meet eight princes, princesses, and queens from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who know that "green" is more than just a color on a flag or family crest.

1. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan


Known for her humanitarian work on women's rights, Queen Rania Al Abdullah has also long been active on green issues; her Jordan River Foundation, established in 1995, works to, among other things, boost employment and conservation through eco-tourism projects. But the queen stepped into the environmental arena in a big way last year, founding the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group to encourage a kind of triple-bottom-line thinking in the region. In May, the group released the results of its first major project, the 2009 "Responsible Competitiveness in the Arab World" report, which identifies ways companies can succeed financially while becoming more transparent and environmentally responsible. "A new architecture for a sustainable global economy must be designed now; it must guide new business practices today," the queen wrote in the report's intro. Around the same time, she also launched a project to help Jordanian farmers go organic, calling it a way to provide health, environmental, and economic benefits while also helping to address the serious water shortages in the region.

2. Charles, Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales at a recent event. Photo via the Royal Household.

By far the world's most prominent and outspoken royal environmentalist, Prince Charles has campaigned for rainforest protection and better green architecture and against genetically modified food. An avid gardener, he has established an organic garden at his 37-acre country estate, where water is cleaned by a reed-bed system and recycled, sheep and cows naturally graze the meadow and overhanging trees, and even the labor is locally sourced.

The prince has also purchased 1,000 rare British apple varieties to help preserve biodiversity and has started up a line of organic and eco-friendly products, Duchy Originals, that includes sustainably sourced wooden outdoor furniture, organic ale, and gourmet sandwiches. Sales help fund his charitable foundation and each product is labeled with information about its carbon footprint. The prince even uses white wine-based bioethanol to fuel up his Aston Martin. What will he think of next?

3. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan

Prince El Hassan bin Talal calls for an "adjustment from energy dependence to energy intra-dependence, from a fossil-fuel civilization to a solar-energy civilization" at a June conference in the Dead Sea region. Photo via Majlis El Hassan.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) named Prince El Hassan bin Talal a "Champion of the Earth" in 2007--the same year as Al Gore--for "his belief in transboundary collaboration to protect the environment and for addressing environmental issues in a holistic manner." Queen Rania's uncle (by marriage) is a chief proponent of the Desertec project, an ambitious plan to build solar-power stations throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. Using concentrating solar power to generate electricity, the project could supply enough juice to meet one sixth of the European Union's energy needs--while also desalinating water to supply the dry desert countries where it would be based.

Desertec would create "secure, clean, and affordable power from the largest, but least tapped source of energy on earth, solar radiation in deserts," the prince wrote in a piece for the May 2009 issue of the UNEP's environmental magazine, Our Planet. "Providing people with practical means of combating climate change should be associated with giving them hope for a better future."

4. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand

Princess Maha Chakri and some of the beneficiaries of her development work. Image via HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Personal Affairs Division. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn brings intellectual heft to her environmental activism with her doctoral degree in development education and long experience working on projects related to health and hygiene, education, agriculture, and water-resource development. According to her official bio, even before completing her education, the princess was advising her father, the king, on issues of development, nature conservation, and the environment, engaging personally in research studies about the potential uses of remote-sensing technology and efforts to protect genetic resources. She made the news recently by setting up an organic vegetable garden at her residence in the northern province of Nan, where it serves as both a model for local residents and a source of funds for future green projects. Says an agricultural officer who helps tend the garden: "Sometimes the princess cuts vegetables in the backyard herself."

5. Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco

Princess Lalla Hasna (center) with young participants in her foundation's eco-schools program. Photo via the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.

The sister of the Moroccan king and a mother of two, Princess Lalla Hasna has been outspoken about the need to protect children from the health effects of pollution. As her country's main green emissary, heading up the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment since 2001, she has been involved in various areas of sustainable development work, including efforts to clean up Morocco's 3,500 kilometers of Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline; plant trees and create gardens and other green spaces in urban areas; modernize bus fleets; and encourage environmental awareness among children and teenagers. The foundation sponsors student research on environmental issues, has planted more than 430,000 palm trees in and around Marrakech, is installing energy- and water-saving equipment at schools, and is working to bring the European "Green Key" eco-label for sustainable tourism facilities to Morocco.

Meet More Green Royals on page 2.

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