How to Go Green: Like Celebrities


Image credit: Getty Images/Nicholas Monu

Celebrities, and their various efforts to go green, can be a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's great that high-profile, highly-visible folks are affecting positive change by both reducing their impact on the planet, but inspiring others to do the same. They have the resources and connections to start progressive, world-changing organizations to bring publicity to causes that might otherwise go unnoticed, and a permanent soapbox to make sure that millions of people know about them. We love to pay attention to them, as a culture, and, in the best cases, they can use that power for good.

Green celebs: An Inconvenient Truth?

It isn't all sunshine and red carpet glamour photos, though--there are a few celebs still in need of a sound eco-education. And, because they're under the watchful eye of many a paparazzi and the public at large, it isn't that hard to find inconsistencies between what they say we should do, and what they do--usually with thousands of pounds of carbon emissions in between. Remember all that hullaballo about Al Gore and his electricity bill (until he got a solar roof)?

Go Green Like Celebs

While it can be easy to cast the first stone, there is no denying the tremendous reach and potential to affect positive change among the A-listers, rock stars, and other celebrities who are doing more than their part to help our planet be a better place. As long as there are movies, there will be stars and starlets; as long as there is music, there will be rock stars and groupies. Celebrities aren't going anywhere, and, let's face it, we don't want them to. And there's some good news: There's a lot we can learn from them.

In this guide, we'll take a peek at some of the good green efforts put forth by a handful of the planet's most committed celebrities. Learn about Leonardo DiCaprio's passionate activism, Brad Pitt's efforts to rebuild a city, how Ed Norton helped start a revolution, and how you can do some of the same things in your life, starting today. Read on to get started being more like your favorite green celeb.

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Top Green Celebrity Tips

  1. Brad Pitt
    Though the actor was going green all the way back in 2004, purchasing hybrid cars and calling for energy independence, he's made the biggest green mark on the world of green building and sustainable design through his support for the rebuilding projects in New Orleans. He's teamed up with Global Green USA for a sustainable design competition and a handful of other projects totaling millions of dollars and countless hours spent on making the Big Easy a greener city from the ground up. Pitt has also found time to host a public broadcasting series on green design, help design a green hotel in Dubai and purchase an eco-friendly winery with wife Angelina Jolie.

    To emulate Brad at home:
    Engage in some green home improvement and efficiency upgrades to make your home as green as his designs and projects around the globe.

  2. Daryl Hannah
    A passionate activist and proponent for sustainable fuels and transport, Daryl Hannah walks (or, perhaps more accurately, drives) the talk. Last year, she sold her beloved "Badass Biodiesel El Camino" in favor of an all-electric version of the Trans Am her character drove in "Kill Bill," but she couldn't stay away from biofuel. She picked up another El Camino and converted it to run on biodiesel, saying, "My car loves to drink vegetable oil, especially if it's from waste. I only use sustainably-sourced biodiesel." She remains actively involved in the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance and, in between supporting eco-tourism in Egypt and raising awareness about the damage done in the Amazon by the oil industry, Hannah has time to narrate IMAX films about dolphins and whales and host her very own green vlog, DH Love Life. Whew!

    To be more like Daryl Hannah:
    Get smart about alternative fuels like biodiesel and reduce your dependence on fossil fuels.

  3. Leonardo DiCaprio
    The guy known simply as "Leo" to hordes of fans is at once patron saint for green celebs and a passionate, committed, educated environmental activist. With worthwhile green accomplishments too numerous to list -- from global warming documentaries to green charities to producing Greensburg for Planet Green and starring in films condemning conflict diamonds -- one of the original "eco-celebs" is still one of the most active (and best).

    To channel Leo in your life:
    Recognize it may be the 11th hour and learn all you can about global warming and how to stop it. Leo would probably like it if you saw his global warming film, too.

  4. Ed Begley, Jr.
    There aren't many people -- celebrities or otherwise -- who couldn't learn a green thing or two from Ed. The guy who has a whole TV show dedicated to his green life -- Living with Ed -- has been doing it all for years, from taking his home off grid using solar panels and wind power, to riding his bike all over Los Angeles, to growing his own food> and cooking it with a solar oven, to creating a line of non-toxic green cleaners. And he's busily spreading the word about living green everywhere he goes, whether it's on his bicycle for an energy-saving campaign or for a piece in the New York Times. Ed's a real inspiration, both as an example of someone living really green and doing it for all the right reasons.

    To be a true eco-stud like Ed:
    You have a seriously tough act to follow. If solar electricity is too spendy (as it is for many of us), consider buying green power from your utility, which helps reduce or negate the carbon emissions of your home. Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs helps, too, and while you're at it, take up gardening, ride your bike as much as you can -- even in the winter -- and clean your house with green cleaners. Whew!

  5. George Clooney
    Featured with (buddy Brad Pitt on an episode of Planet Green's "Hollywood Green", George Clooney has earned a prominent place among his fellow eco-celebs for his support of more sustainable transport. Clooney has been an electric car fan ever since he laid eyes on the Tango, a svelte electric two-seater with killer acceleration and super-easy parallel parking (it's only as wide as a motorcycle!). One of the first to place an order (hey, it takes two...), Clooney's Tango got the paparazzi's attention at a film set in 2005. Since then, he's added another sexy electric ride -- the Tesla Roadster to his stable, and continues to plug battery-powered transport when given the chance.

    To get plugged in like George: 
    Read up on electric cars, including how they affect your health and what difference they make and consider a buying a plug-in hybrid or even < a href="">building your own when four-wheeled transportation needs surface next.

  6. Ben Harper and Jack Johnson:
    Though both worthy of their own section, these guitar-playing pals have both put their individual and collective voice behind something they're both very passionate about: clean oceans. Both surfers, they've seen firsthand the damage and pollution clogging our oceans, and have supported organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and their efforts to clean up the best surfing spots (and the rest that have been polluted) around the planet. And neither stop there; both musicians have actively worked to go green on tour, including biodiesel buses, recycling programs, and, in Johnson's case, a new program called All At Once to bring green non-profits to his shows to spread the good word.

    To 'hang 10' like Ben and Jack:
    Support organizations like Oceana (a Planet Green non-profit partner) and the Surfrider Foundation, and vote with your ears by supporting these and other green musicians with your record-buying and concert-going dollar.

  7. Cameron Diaz
    Known by some as "Professor Diaz" for her guest-lecture for William McDonough at Stanford University, Cameron has been one of the more vocal, visible proponents for Momma Earth over the past few years. From her own reality show on MTV to her work with sustainable designers like McDonough and Cameron Sinclair to her support of a green video club, Diaz does it all without fanfare (but with lots of style) and showcases how going green can be fun and educational.

    To follow Cameron's lead:
    Help her make Earth Day every day by supporting green films that support our common humanity and continuing a global dialogue about a better world and a greener way to do everything.

  8. Matt Damon
    Like many of his celebrity brethren, Matt Damon got started down a greener path by buying a hybrid car a few years back, but he certainly didn't stop there. Damon co-founded the H20 Africa Project to raise money and shine a spotlight on the need for clean drinking water in the poorest regions in Africa. He's putting his big name to good use; 80 percent of all illness, disease and premature death in developing countries is the result of poor or lack of drinking water.

    To be a little like Matt every day:
    Green your water use at home and support clean water efforts around the globe.

  9. Adrian Grenier
    Though loyal Planet Green viewers recognize him from the show "Alter Eco," Grenier and his green entourage have had eco-cred to spare, whether he's making eco-fashion look good or rolling up to the red carpet in his Toyota Prius. He's not just another of Hollywood's pretty faces, though; he recently hosted the 2008 Charity:Water Ball in New York and greened up "Entourage", all while overseeing the LEED Platinum-rated renovation of his L.A. pad. This guy even makes composting look good>.

    Be more like Adrian: Embrace green wherever you go, and whatever you do. Learn how to spot green wine, commit the ins and outs of a green wardrobe to memory, and incorporate green into every aspect of your green remodel.

  10. Ed Norton
    This leading man has been leading the way for green celebs since 2003, when he helped create the BP Solar Neighbors Program. Here's how it works: Each time a celeb has a solar electricity system installed on their house, BP donates a system to low-income family. Norton was the first to do it -- he thought it up when having solar installed on his home -- and has convinced other big names like Will Ferrell, Robin Williams, and Tom Hanks to do it; fellow list-mates Brad Pitt, Ed Begley Jr., Jack Johnson, and Daryl Hannah are also proudly on the list. A great example of how celebs doing good helps everybody win.

    To power up like Ed:
    Adding solar panels to your home would be a great first step, but, since it's often cost-prohibitive, supporting alternative energy And your communit are a good start.

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Green Celebrities: By the Numbers

  • 150: Number of new green homes being built thanks to Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation.

  • 3.2: Units of energy gained from biodiesel--the stuff Daryl Hannah loves using in her car--for every one unit of energy used to produce it.

  • 4 seconds: Time it takes George Clooney's Tango electric car to go from zero to 60 miles per hour.

  • 6.5: Kilowatts of electricity the solar panels on Ed Begley Jr.'s house can generate.

  • 90 percent: The amount of Ed's energy that's provided by those solar panels.

  • 250 tons: The amount of trash collected by Living Lands & Waters--one of Ben Harper's favorite green organizations -- from the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Anacostia, Potomac, Illinois and Rock Rivers.

  • $18: Cost for a membership in Earth Cinema Circle, where you'll receive four eco-themed films every other month, including Cameron Diaz's documentary, "Power Shift."

  • 1.2 billion: People in the world who don't have access to clean drinking water, something Matt Damon is working to fix with H20 Africa.

  • $2,000: Annual utility bill savings expected to be realized by a recent BP Solar Neighbor Program installation.

Sources: Make It Right Foundation, DH LoveLife, Grassolean, Commuter Cars,, TreeHugger, Earth Cinema Circle, H20 Africa, BP.

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Green Celebrities: Gossip From the Archives

Dig deeper into green celebs in the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.

Use our handy View and Vote interactive feature to vote for your favorite green celebs.

Brad Pitt
Learn more about Brad Pitt's green philanthropy in this episode of Hollywood Green, and check out his efforts with architecture in Dubai and in New Orleans. The fruits of his labors are now being built and his public television series on green design is in full swing. Pitt has also lent his voice to e2 Transport and has been spotted on a bike with the fam.

Daryl Hannah
She's loved biodiesel for a while now, but Daryl Hannah has adventured elsewhere to explore Egypt's eco-tourism, take a sobering test of the water in Ecuador and chat with TreeHugger about it, and still has time to work, hosting the Sierra Club Chronicles and narrating an IMAX film presented by Jean-Michel Cousteau. There's not much rest for a true eco-celeb.

Leonardo DiCaprio
When he isn't making documentaries about climate change and talking to Oprah about it, Leo keeps busy and working with Global Green and taking the train across the Atlantic Ocean--he'll need those skills for his eco-island resort. Between all this and his outspoken advocacy, we'll leave it to you: Who's the more timely eco-hunk: Brad or Leo?

Ed Begley, Jr.
The star of Planet Green's Living with Ed has been a popular interview over the years. We've chatted with him about green celebrity, the ins and outs of his own green TV show and the importance of walking the talk, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg. Almost every green lifestyle choice is covered: We've seen a video of him riding his bike around New York, the details of the green energy smackdown between he and science guy Bill Nye and the details about his super-green cleaning product.

George Clooney
The star of Syriana, the carbon-neutral geopolitical thriller, is most known in the green world for his attention given electric cars, especially the Tango. The diminutive two-seater, first spied on a movie set, can do 0-60 in 4 seconds, but so can the Tesla Roadster; he signed up to get one of the first production models to add to his stable of green cars. While his coffee choice could be better, we think George made up for it with his donation to the Make It Right Foundation, saying of pal Brad Pitt's New Orleans org, "Brad went there, builds houses...he can do a lot of other things with his time. He and Angie really put their money where their mouth is." He's also on board to promote the electric Smart Car in Italy. Hey, when in Rome...

Ben Harper
TreeHugger interviewed Ben in a four-part series; check out videos about urban renewal, the "nobility of finding the solution," the importance of clean water (and surfing), and what hugging trees is all about. We also tracked him down for his tip about a few things that can be done daily to make a significant change, and spied him helping the effort to save the largest U.S. urban community garden in L.A. He's lent his signature to the No Nukes petition against the 2007 Energy Bill and rocked a green music festival in San Francisco. Keep representin', Ben!

Jack Johnson
In a whopping 12 part video interview, Jack dishes about songwriting, surfing, and fatherhood. He's also well-known for his green touring habits--which includes all the backstage stuff and is a fan of collecting rainwater with rain barrels when it comes to eco-actions in the home. All this adds up to a well-earned spot on one Planet Green writer's top 5 green musicians list--is he on yours?

Cameron Diaz
She used to be "Trippin'" but these days Cameron Diaz spends her time as "Professor Diaz," filling in as a guest-lecturer at Stanford. The quotable star has also put her green stamp on a handful of projects, including global film screenings on Pangea Day and a green film club that helps keep you up on the latest in eco-filmmaking.

Matt Damon
The co-founder of the H20 Africa Foundation was driving hybrids before it was cool and talked up "Green 101" with TreeHugger and Oprah. When he isn't using his brain for green good, Damon has lent his bod for green goodness and helped the film Syriana boost the carbon offset brand and made the film itself carbon neutral.

Adrian Grenier
Hosting Alter Eco is hardly Adrian Grenier's only gig. Aside from his TV and movie roles, the sustainable living activist walks the talk at events like Charity:Water's 2008 Ball--check out our exclusive pics--and gets into the green nitty-gritty overseeing the LEED Platinum certification on his home in L.A. that recently went on the market for $3.5 million. Yikes; we hope you get what you pay for...

Ed Norton
The trend-setting solar activist, whose work with BP has spawned an imitator or two, has popped up in a variety of green spots, like Global Green's Oscar soiree, San Francisco's Green Apple Festival, and even Vanity Fair's 2006 "Green Issue."

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Further Reading on Green Celebrities

Check out these other worthwhile sites for more dish on green celebs.

Can't get enough celeb? Check out HowStuffWorks Celebrities Channel for tons of info on the lives of the rich and famous.

Ecorazzi has the latest and greatest (and even the not-so-great) in all things eco-celeb.

Grist's list of 15 green actors covers lots of ground in the eco-Hollywood game.

The Renewable Planet has a (solid list of green celeb biographies) covering those who are busy making eco-consciousness the next big thing.

Gawk away at Gawker's green section.

For a long list of just about everyone who's green in the celeb game, check out the All American Talent & Celebrity Network.

All green celeb moves aren't so grand; has 7 examples of some green slip-ups by the celeb crowd.

How to Go Green: Like Celebrities
Celebrities, and their various efforts to go green, can be a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's great that high-profile, highly-visible folks are affecting positive change by both reducing their impact on

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