At a rock concert the other day, waiting for the opening act to come on, I watched the video screens on either side of the stage. In between ads for upcoming shows and concessions available at the venue, the screen would show facts about musicians who were taking environmentally responsible actions! Very cool, I thought. Some were driving biodiesel buses or insisting on locally grown foods while on tour. In fact, the venue itself –Livenation’s Ascend Amphitheatre — was focusing on sustainability by prominently featuring recycle bins, and offering straws only by request (They’re one of several concert and event venues that are aiming to “green” their operations).
When celebrities and other public figures take on environmental initiatives, it can be a win-win situation. Their own image is elevated in the eyes of fans, and their considerable influence, as well as, often, their considerable bank accounts, can help promote important causes and can convince others to follow their example.
I’ve read about many actors, musicians, writers, and other audacious public figures who contribute to causes, take action in their own lifestyles, or even start eco-responsible companies. Here are some of my favorites:
1. David Sedaris
On a recent Fresh Air interview, author David Sedaris told Terry Gross that he spent hours each day walking around the English countryside collecting trash and litter. His efforts have been so impactful that he was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace (where he was reportedly aghast to see other guests littering on the palace grounds with their empty ice-cream cartons!) and has had a garbage truck named in his honor.
2. Adrian Grenier
The actor, best known for his role on Entourage, has built up a following of his own for his work on reducing single-use plastics. The incubator he co-founded, Lonely Whale, works towards protecting the oceans and its “Strawless in Seattle” campaigned reduced the city’s use of plastic straws by 2.3 million on one month alone!
3. Natalie Portman
The Star Wars actress was a vegetarian for two decades, but became a vegan and an activist after reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Some of her reasons include poor animal welfare on factory farms and the detrimental impact of livestock farming on the environment and on human health. Safran Foer’s book made such an impact on her that she even served as narrator for the documentary film version.
One of my husband’s favorite bands has long been conscious of the huge carbon footprint of the concert tour industry, and has been trying to reduce their own impact for more than a decade. The band encourages fans to take public transportation to shows; purchases renewable energy from local providers to power their concerts; and has upgraded its lighting and sound equipment, as well as its transportation vehicles, to be more energy-efficient. Radiohead once famously declined to travel to perform on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, citing the waste of resources for such a short gig, and performed via satellite instead. Now that’s smart!
5. Will and Jaden Smith
If you’ve ever chosen the brand Just Water, which comes in a paper-based bottle with a sugarcane-derived plastic lid, you’ve had your own brush with celebrity. The company was founded by Jaden Smith and his dad, Will Smith, after Jaden, at age 10, started learning about plastic polluting the oceans. Now 20, Jaden is intent on educating his fellow generation about environmental issues, even traveling to schools to speak about pollution and climate change.
6. Ed Begley, Jr.
When a friend told me that during a recent visit to Atlanta, Begley declined a ride from the airport and instead hopped on a bike to make the 10-plus mile trip downtown, I had to learn more. It turns out Begley’s been an activist since attending the very first Earth Day in 1970, and among his many accomplishments in sustainability are a reality show about his eco-friendly lifestyle, a line of all-natural cleaning products, and a net-zero solar-powered home.
7. Shailene Woodley
Among the more famous protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline was actress Woodley, who begged political candidates to take action to protect the environment, and was part of a group that was arrested during the protests. She’s received industry awards for being so outspoken about climate change.
8. Jack Johnson
It’s no surprise that the sweet singer, Jack Johnson, has a deep appreciation for sustainability. Having lived in the beauty of Hawaii, and with a background in surfing, protecting earth’s natural beauty and resources is obviously important to him. Like Radiohead, Johnson tries to reduce the impact of his tours, in part by offering bike valets and incentives for using public transit at his concerts. He also started a foundation that awards grants to environmental causes, as well as for art and music education.
9. Bonnie Raitt
In 2002, the country singer’s Green tour provided solar- and wind-generated energy to each city on the tour, offsetting the equivalent amount of power used during performances. Her Green Highway organization continues to educate concertgoers about environmental and social issues. And her longtime work in the environmental space inspired environmentalist Lauren Sullivan to start Reverb, along with her husband, musician Adam Gardner. The nonprofit works with musicians, performing arts venues, and festivals to increase sustainability through actions like service projects, environmental education villages at concerts and festivals, water-refilling stations, farm programs, and more.
If a famous figure like newly minted Royal Meghan Markle has the power to cause apparel items to sell out shortly after she’s seen in them, then hopefully we’ll also see some of these environmental moves become just as fashionable!