Industry Market Trends

The Sexiest Environmentalists and the Ugliest Truths

Apr 27, 2012

Recently Rodale compiled a list of "The 50 Sexiest Environmentalists." Evidently writers for Green & Clean were ineligible for consideration. Nevertheless, we did our journalistic duty and carefully perused the slides.

The list certainly rewards study. It runs from #50 Salma Hayek -- entrants were evidently rated more on their environmentalism than sexiness -- to #1 Gretchen Bleiler, a pro snowboarder who could probably scratch out a career as a model when her knees are shot.

Along the way there are the usual suspects -- George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts -- as well as some real people, such as Zeb Hogan. That's Dr. Hogan to you, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno who is Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society and is quite easy on the eyes.

According to Rodale, Hogan "travels to some of the most critically endangered aquatic habitats in the world in search of the world's biggest fish, which are under threat from fishermen who can reap huge profits off their sale" and "works with local fishermen to help them continue their livelihood without endangering these valuable species." He's the one guy on the list I would like to have a beer with, frankly.

The Dreaded "Strongly-Worded Letter"

Some entries on the list raised eyebrows for reasons other than pulchritude. Not that we have any issue with the pulchritude of #33 Zooey Deschanel, an actress who abandoned a vegan lifestyle but whose environmentalist chops seem a bit weak: Evidently, in an effort to keep her green street cred after ditching veganism, she added her name to a letter to McDonald's by nine other celebs, including #5 Ryan Gosling, demanding that Mickey D's "start sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs." No word on how successful the plea was, but Rodale did note that it was "a scathing letter."

One of the more interesting inclusions is #41, The Eco-Tulips Duo, the husband-and-wife team of Keriann and Jeroen Koeman, founders of Eco-Tulips. The business is described by Rodale as "the only certified organic flower bulb company in America," selling tulips and other flower bulbs "free of the toxic pesticides that have been linked to colony collapse disorder in honeybees."

We're guessing Jeroen, no doubt a nice guy with a great personality, was noted for the eco part, since Keriann takes care of the other half of the qualifications for inclusion on the list.

Still, the majority of the list consists of actors who do little more than, well, act concerned about the environment, while jetting around the world in private Learjets, SUVs and stretch limos -- not exactly the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world -- and living extravagantly consumptive lifestyles with huge carbon footprints.

One would coin the phrase "celebrity greenwashing" to describe it.

One exception to this seems to be #44 Woody Harrelson, who probably would have ranked higher on the list if the "sexy" part wasn't included. So few Hollywood celebs practice what they preach, but according to Rodale, Harrelson is -- still -- a vegan and lives in a solar-powered community. Granted it's in Hawaii, which is not exactly northwestern Indiana, but, still, it's more than most on the list do. Rodale on Harrelson: "He and his family use biodynamic farming methods to grow most of their own organic food." Hats off to Harrelson.

And there's Summer Rayne Oakes at #15, described by Rodale as "the world's first eco-model." She earned degrees in environmental sciences and entomology from Cornell University and is "a published scientist turned green model," Rodale says, "behind MODO's line of recycled sunglasses."

Far more common, unfortunately, are celebrities who either lend -- or lease -- their names and images to environmental causes for good PR. They narrate an eco show or two at less than their usual fees, attend events hosted by green causes and cash in on "being green" by marketing products advertised as green friendly.

Exhibit A here is Sophia Bush, ranked #37 on the list, whose major contribution to green activism is listed as tweeting about how bad the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was and helping the Environmental Protection Agency launch eMission, which Rodale describes as "a Facebook game in which gamers compete to lower greenhouse-gas emissions through everyday tasks."

Canonization Can't Be Far Off

Others are even more blatant in their greenwashing. Number 31, Jared Leto, is listed by Rodale for the fact that for his 40th birthday, "his fans donated 71,000 trees through a project launched by Timberland and Trees for the Future, a reforestation and agricultural training project that trains Haitian farmers to raise and plant trees."

His fans donated the trees. But evidently they're not as sexy, so Rodale doesn't include a group picture. And #30, Rachel McAdams, is cited for starting a Web site named five years ago. Site updates appear to have lapsed.

She is rather comely, however.

Then there's the downright loopy selections. Portia de Rossi, #16, claims publicly that being vegan is tougher than being gay. Adrian Grenier, #27, insulates his Brooklyn home with reused blue jeans. Natalie Portman, #14, designs vegan footwear. Leonardo DiCaprio, #24, reportedly avoids showering and considers deodorant "unnatural." Number 17 Jake Gyllenhaal "works with" at-risk kids by teaching them to grow their own organic food. Alicia Silverstone, #4... well, let's not even go there.

"Loopy" Isn't So Bad -- It Gets Worse

Leading this crazy subgroup on the list is John Travolta. According to Britain's Daily Mail, when Travolta visited Britain in 2007 to promote his awful movie, Wild Hogs, he told the press that global warming is "a very valid issue -- we have to think about alternative methods of fuel."

He'd like it if you did, since Travolta, a licensed pilot, is just fine burning through the fuel we have left today all by himself, with his five private planes. Returning from the promo jaunt in Britain, he landed his Boeing 707 in Ireland, where he reported zero passengers -- he was flying solo in a plane built to carry 150 passengers. Calculate the carbon footprint on that one.

Chris Martin, frontman for wuss rockers Coldplay, was noted for flying home on a private jet between gigs. Greenie crank George Monbiot is quoted in the Daily Mail estimating that Martin's practice would cost at least 100,000 air miles every year. Not that we have any problem with a guy who can afford the jet, the fuel and the time doing whatever he wants with all three, but Martin stamped himself as an insufferable hypocrite when he claimed that it was okay to have such a mammoth carbon footprint since he paid for 10,000 mango trees to be planted somewhere in the Third World.

The Daily Mail reported that most trees have died.

Of course no account of Hollywood eco-hypocrites is complete without the undisputed queen, Barbra Streisand. Noted for such fatuous pronouncements as that people shouldn't run dishwashers unless they're full and should clean the condenser coil on their refrigerators -- no doubt Babs nicks her fingers every time she does this -- when Streisand toured the UK and Ireland in 2007 she demanded "120 bath-sized towels immediately upon arrival" and requisitioned 13 -- count 'em, 13 -- 53-foot semi-tractor trailers, four rental vans, 14 crew and band buses and a limo for her private use.

We'll wait while you add up the environmental damage there. Need a bigger calculator?

Thirteen seems to be a recurring number among eco-hypocrites. In 2009 Sheryl Crow, who decreed that everybody should use one square of toilet paper per stall visit -- such is her concern for the resources of Mother Earth -- used 13 gasoline-powered vehicles when she and her band were on tour.

The eco-hypocrite attitude is exemplified perfectly by film financier Dame Trudie Styler, described by Richard Cochrane as an "in-your-face global-warming campaigner." She, along with her hubby, Sting, in 2009 owned seven homes and traveled between them in private jets and a fleet of cars.

In 2009, Cochrane recounted, Styler hired a private jet to "take her and an eight-person entourage from New York to Washington, DC, for the White House correspondents' dinner, even though there are dozens of scheduled shuttle flights she could have taken, not to mention fast trains." Justifying her behavior, Styler said, according to Cochrane, "Yes, I do take planes. My life is to travel and to speak out about the horrors of an environment that is being abused at the hands of oil companies."

I have to fly to tell people not to fly, and to warn them of those darn abusive oil companies. Of whom Dame Styler is no doubt in the top one percent of private customers.

And, yes, the king of eco-hypocrisy title has been retired by Al Gore, whose home energy use is many times higher than yours or mine, for pioneering the art of jetting around the world and traveling in SUV fleets to tell people to travel less and cut our energy bills.

But that Gore made millions of dollars off a fear he himself furiously pumped up for the purpose of making millions of dollars is our fault. Honestly, we never should have fallen for his scam in the first place.