Celebrity culture goes green?

Hollywood film stars all live lavish, environmentally destructive lifestyles, right? Wrong, say the celebrity spotters at Ecorazzi. Dan Hancox talks to the green gossip bloggers, and finds out how cutting carbon became cool.

Fame is a global currency. Celebrity culture fascinates people the world over, and the behaviour of famous actors, singers, musicians, and TV presenters is scrutinised in microscopic detail for our amusement – what are they wearing? What are they eating? What are they driving? Who are they dating? People want to know the answers to these questions because they look up to their favourite rock star or actor: “if Madonna is drinking carrot juice and doing yoga, maybe I can look like her if I do the same.”

In the late summer of 2006, Rebecca Carter and Michael d’Estries, two enthusiastic environmentalists from the US, noticed two trends exploding at once: first, that celebrities were all clamouring to jump on the green bandwagon (a bandwagon that uses biofuel, of course). Secondly, that celebrity gossip websites were some of the most popular in the world, drawing huge amounts of internet traffic. So it was that was born, the world’s first site to concentrate exclusively on “green gossip.”

Since launching in September 2006, Ecorazzi has acquired more than 500,000 global visitors, drawn in by its exclusive news and humourous style. As the word has spread, more enthusiastic green-celebrity spotters have joined the Ecorazzi team, including special “field reporters” on the red carpets of L.A. and New York, and writers from Canada to the Philippines.

chinadialogue got in touch with the site’s co-founders to find out who’s hot and who’s not in the world of eco-friendly celebrities. They certainly gave us the “green carpet” treatment…

chinadialogue: If you were to award prizes right now, who would be your greenest three celebrities and why?

Rebecca Carter: There are so many celebs doing such a great job right now. And there are many that are probably being so quiet about it that we have no idea. Actor Ed Begley Jr. has been a leader for years on this topic, and it has finally become fashionable. I can’t get away without mentioning Leonardo DiCaprio [film star and director of forthcoming environmental movie The 11th Hour], who is also a leader in bringing attention to the environment. I’m also really impressed with [film star] Daryl Hannah’s “walking the walk” and educating the public at the same time.

Michael d’Estries: I like to use “green” to also cover people making a difference for the world — whether through humanitarian works, charity, or the environment. In that case, I would consider [film stars] George Clooney for his work in Darfur, Woody Harrelson for his environmental initiatives, and Orlando Bloom for offering a “practical” lifestyle of living green while having fun.

cd: Conversely, which celebrities have been most disappointing recently – i.e. who presented an eco-friendly image, but got busted for poor practices?

RC: I was really disappointed with Liz Hurley recently: the actress that was quitting to become an organic farmer was something out of an Ecorazzi dream. A few months later she had the most environmentally destructive wedding that one could imagine. That was a real shocker to us all. [Hurley and husband, software tycoon Arun Nayar, embarked on a series of lavish celebrations across India, at one point covering an entire fort in decorative lights.]

MD: [Film star] John Travolta is a bit of an enigma. I personally really enjoy him as a person, but his actions lately towards the environment have been highly hypocritical. The guy owns several 727 Jumbo Jets – which has always been a point of criticism for environmentalists. Just recently, however, Travolta lectured people on taking to task changes they can make in their lives to stop global warming. All the while, he’s flying these massive planes, releasing obscene amounts of emissions, and burning fossil fuels. 

cd: Have you had any feedback from celebrities who are especially pleased or upset with their write-ups?

MD: Our site has received positive talk throughout Hollywood; mainly because it’s one of the few sites actually talking about celebrities in this light. We don’t often point fingers or put people down unless there are serious reasons to do so.

cd: Do you think celebrities should be greener than green? Or are we all a little hypocritical about the way we treat the environment?

RC: Celebrities are just people. I know people that are über-green, and people that throw their cigarette butts on the street. It’s the same with celebrities. We can say that celebrities have a responsibility to be a role model, but really, don’t we all?

MD: In my opinion, everyone is a hypocrite. What’s positive is that 90% of the celebs out there are making genuine changes to their own lifestyles. It may be as simple as riding around in a Prius [the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car] – but attention is paid to these people and even little touches of green can inspire many people to follow.

cd: Do you think environmentalism is finally becoming “cool”? Are celebrities playing a role in this? 

RC: Yes, environmentalism is cool right now. It’s a bit of a concern that it’s so cool: it might cool off too quickly. Celebrities always have and always will play a role in bringing awareness to issues, and if you read Ecorazzi, you can see that there are hundreds of them that are doing a great job.

MD: Celebrities are definitely doing a great job of making green “cool”. After all, they’re kings and queens of entertainment – they know how to reach out there and make people pay attention. Furthermore, they wield a great deal of clout when it comes to bringing important issues into the spotlight of mainstream culture. I remember someone telling me that all the marketing money in the world dulls in comparison to grabbing the endorsement of one celebrity.

cd: Do you think fans should boycott or pressure their favourite bands/actors/etc into being more environmentally friendly? There are still an awful lot of private jets about right?

RC: There are an awful lot of private jets around. Celebs will say that sometimes it’s necessary. Maybe it is – I don’t have the kind of schedule these guys have. Of course, we all should fly commercial, but look at your fave bands and celebs and see what they are doing in their lives. How many homes do they have? What kind of cars do they drive? Do they seem to do everything over the top? I don’t know about boycotting. I think people are fans of celebrities that they typically admire, and if you find that your favourite actor isn’t really leading a responsible life, then maybe they aren’t your favourite anymore.

cd: Do you have future plans for the site? It seems to be growing at an exponential rate and getting a lot of attention – it must take up a lot of your time as it is!

RC: There are always future plans! There is so much we want to do in terms of multimedia, and we’ll get there little by little. We also signed with a production company a few months ago and hope to bring Ecorazzi.TV to a television station near you! It’s currently being shopped around.

MD: We really want to keep expanding our coverage and providing that alternative angle to awards events and after-parties. The past few months have been excellent steps for us because we’ve finally gained a large enough reputation as a media outlet to get access to the red carpet for many high-profile events. Our hopes are to continue to incorporate more video, audio, and any other fun interactive features we can come up with. Our overall mission will remain: to inspire, entertain, and inform.

cd: Ecorazzi, we salute you.

Dan Hancox is a London-based journalist and blogger, writing for The Guardian, New Statesman, The Word, and a variety of music blogs.

Rebecca Carter is also the founder and editor of environmental blog, Greener Miami

 Michael d’Estries is thefounder and editor of the popular online eco-magazine, Groovy Green.

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