Celebrity influence in green living

Right or wrong, celebrities have the power to influence decision-making
By Ron Kotrba | April 19, 2012

Like it or not, celebrities hold major influence over many of our lives. As much as I would like to think I am immune to that strange phenomenon, I am not.

The music my father enjoyed in my formative years has had a tremendous effect on me. The only music I ever remember him listening to was Outlaw Country—you know, the greats from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, George Jones and others. Since I was a child, I’ve held a high reverence for these hard-living honky-tonk heroes. I just saw the Charlie Daniels Band in concert last week. Ol’ Charlie is in his 70s now, but I’ve never seen someone sawing on a fiddle like that before. Even at his age, it was amazing. George Jones was scheduled to perform this Friday, and I had tickets to see him as well. Unfortunately George, now 80, has been recovering from an upper respiratory infection, and the show was canceled.

Having been a fan from such an early age, you can imagine the thrill I felt in 2005 when one of the first feature article assignments I was given for Biodiesel Magazine was a profile on Willie Nelson and his own brand of biodiesel, BioWillie. My father, deceased by then, would have been proud. I had a phone interview set up with Willie but he pulled out at the last minute because he was sick. I still wrote the story, titled Willie and Friends Market BioWillie, and talked with his partners, including Carl Cornelius, longtime friend of Willie and proprietor of Carl’s Corner truck stop in Texas, the one-time Taj Mahal of fueling stations. Since then I’ve seen Willie at a few biodiesel conferences—before he stopped attending them that is.

In 2007, at the National Biodiesel Conference in San Antonio, Texas, another great highlight in my biofuel career was interviewing Merle Haggard in person. At the time Merle, who was 15 days sober he said, was filling up his tour buses on biodiesel. He held a concert in San Antonio and the National Biodiesel Board arranged a pre-concert interview session for the media. Afterwards, Merle rocked the house.

These thoughts of celebrities and their power to influence came to me this morning when I saw that Rodale.com has assembled its inaugural list of the 50 Sexiest Environmentalists

Here’s the top 10. For the full list, click the link above.

1. Gretchen Bleiler: This Olympian snowboarder works tirelessly to combat climate change in Congress alongside Protect Our Winters, a non-profit organization leading the fight against climate change. As if that's not enough, Bleiler also launched Nice Reusables, a family business that features the easy-to-clean, award-winning ALEX reusable bottle.

2. Jessica Alba: The actress and mother of two founded The Honest Company—offering everything from plant-based diapers and wipes to organic baby balm—to take green parenting to a whole new level. She will release a book on natural, non-toxic living in 2012 entitled The Honest Life.

3. Matt Damon: The actor is a longtime advocate for clean water and in 2009 launched Water.org, a non-profit that addresses issues of water sanitation in the developing world. Damon will also star in the upcoming film The Promised Land, which he co-wrote about the dangers of natural gas drilling.

4. Alicia Silverstone: The actress and author of The Kind Diet has been instrumental in opening up the national dialogue about vegan living.

5. Ryan Gosling: The Drive star and ultimate dream boat is always on the lookout for chicks; he promotes more humane slaughtering methods for fast-food poultry suppliers and speaks out against factory farms (after all, “Gosling” means “baby goose”).

6. Kate Middleton: The Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William brought a fresh perspective to the royal family by asking wedding attendees to make donations to conservation and environmental organizations instead of giving gifts.

7. Will Witherspoon: The linebacker for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans turned a hobby farm into a full-blown “Animal Welfare Approved” haven.

8. Adam Levine: The Maroon Five front man and host of “The Voice” works with Global Cool to encourage people to kick their carbon habits.

9. Alexandra Cousteau: The granddaughter of the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau founded Blue Legacy, a nonprofit that inspires people to take action on critical water problems.

10. Jack Johnson: He may be mellow, but he is a tenacious defender of the planet. The singer-songwriter strives to make his music sustainable from start to finish; he records in a solar powered production studio and takes his music crew on tour in a biodiesel bus.