10:32 27 July 2006
You know summer is in full swing when reports start popping up about the damaging impact of global warming and what we as humans are doing to accelerate the process.
And Hollywood stars are usually among the first to be accused of their selfish use of the planet - critics pointing to their fur coats and gas-guzzling Hummers.
But while the rest of us sit here complaining about the fumes and sweltering in the heat, there are generous tree-hugging celebrities out there who have recognised they can use their name for a greater cause and are doing their bit to save the planet
Only last week Brad Pitt used his eco-warrior image to promote a competition to choose eco-friendly designs in the rebuilding of New Orleans, following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The Fight Club actor told a press conference he was "not prepared" for what he saw, after driving through the city and seeing miles and miles of devastation.
He added: "There's a big opportunity here, to rebuild the city using energy efficient building materials and appliances that would improve quality of life, particularly in low-income communities."
The star collaborated with the environmental organisation Global Green USA on the project, which he not only lent his name to, but also financially backed.
As spokesman for the project, Pitt headed up the jury consisting of architects and city residents, who were given the task of picking design finalists from more than 100 entries.
One of Pitt's former co-stars has also jumped on the green bandwagon in impressive style.
Last Tuesday (18.07.06) it was announced that Julia Roberts - who starred alongside Pitt in Ocean's Eleven - has joined Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman and country singer Willie Nelson as a spokesperson for Earth Biofuels, a company which promotes the use of renewable energy.
The flame-haired actress will chair their new Advisory Board and help promote the use of biodiesel fuel in 500,000 diesel school buses in the United States.
Roberts said: "It's very important that we expand our use of clean energy and make a long-term commitment to it.
"Biodiesel and ethanol are better for the environment and for the air we breathe."
There must have been something in the water on the set of Ocean's Eleven because Matt Damon has also stepped over to the eco-friendly side - albeit a relatively small step.
Like his Hollywood peers, Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks, the actor decided to go for a greener choice in cars and now drives a hybrid.
He revealed: "You don't need all that car. I don't need a Suburban to drive myself around. It seems to be common sense to me.
"My father drives one, my brother drives one. They're like, 'Why would you ever drive a regular car?' There's no reason to. These cars are just as good, they're just as fast and they use less gas, so I don't understand why everyone isn't driving one."
But while Damon seems perhaps uneasy about been labelled a 'green' - insisting going 'hybrid' was just the sensible thing to do - Woody Harrelson has openly embraced it, and even written a book and recorded a documentary about his experiences.
Although the 'Cheers' actor once described himself as "corporate drug-addict", he is now widely regarded as one of Hollywood's most tireless environmental campaigners, and in 2001 he decided to spread the word about simple living.
Along with a group of his closest friends, including a yoga teacher and a food chef, Harrelson embarked on a mammoth 1,500-mile bicycle ride down the Pacific coast, called the Simple Organic Living Tour.
They were accompanied by the 'Mothership', a bus fuelled by hemp oil and powered by solar panels.
The whole journey was filmed by award-winning director Ron Mann and made into the movie Go Further.
Harrelson writes in the accompanying book How To Go Further: A Guide to Simple Organic Living about his own personal transformation.
He states: "I believe the way I choose to live my life is more considerate, kind, and ultimately fulfilling than the way I lived in the past. When I started my transformation, I don't think I believed I could incorporate the changes I've made into my life. But I was open to the ideas and made the changes I could, ok, you can find other ways to do things."
However, not all Hollywood names are ready to give up their lavish lifestyles for the sake of mother earth, and for every environmental saint there is a sinner.
Action hero-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger has topped the environmentalist hit list since becoming the Republican Governor for California, when he controversially decided to oppose the Clean Alternative Energy Initiative.
The proposed landmark ballot would see an imposed tax on oil finance research and development into alternative energy sources.
His decision is somewhat at odds with his election campaign, which presents him as California's most environmentally friendly candidate - he even drove through the state in a big green bus to highlight his commitment.
Critics believe the reason for his opposition is his wealthy oil-loving campaign donors.
Arnie has received over $2 million in donations from oil-companies, $600,000 specifically from Chevron - who just happen to be the number one donor to the group opposing the Clean Alternative Energy Initiative.
While his reasons may or not be to do with money, there is no questioning the fact that he owns seven - that's right count them - seven gas-guzzling Hummers.
A spokesman for his opposition, Phil Angelides, said: "The California Republican Party running ads about the environment is as absurd as a Governor with seven Hummers being an environmentalist."
Politicians aside, the truth is many stars are prepared to go the extra mile for a good cause - albeit in their Versace suits and Channel sunglasses - and protecting our environment seems as worthy a cause as any.
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