Here are some well-known celebrities as well as some lesser known people who make it their business to challenge the status-quo in order to make a difference in the world. Please vote for those you think have had or are having the biggest impact. Also, comment and tell us why.
Lead the first congressional hearings on toxic waste and global warming. Won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and donated the $1.5 million prize money. Co-founded Live Earth, a series of concerts that raise funds for sustainability projects. Founded the nonprofit group Alliance for Climate Protection. His documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” earned an Oscar and criticism. These days the ex-vice-president travels the world speaking about his most cherished causes and spends most of his time serving as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.
Alicia is a dedicated campaigner for AIDS causes. Together with Leigh Blake, Alicia has been the driving force behind Keep a Child Alive (KCA) which has been able to raise millions of dollars to care for AIDS patients in Africa and India. Her work includes high profile media initiatives, such as the “Spirit of a Child”, “Drug Dealer” and “I am African” campaigns. In a 2008 interview for CNN.com, Alicia said “Helping keep a child, or mother, or father or brother or sister alive means turning the worst epidemic of our lifetime into the greatest victory of our generation.”
Ashley uses her fame to bring global attention to issues she cares about, including HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and reproductive rights. She has been an outspoken, well-traveled activist for feminist and humanitarian causes, including gender equality, public health and alleviating poverty. In an online essay for The Daily Beast she asserted that complaints about women’s bodies represent a subtle form of violence and she later spoke on the same topic at a Nashville fundraiser in April. Judd took on the role of delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. in 2012; is a member of the Tennessee delegation and served as a campaign surrogate for President Barack Obama, speaking to supporters on his behalf.
Bill established the Clinton Foundation to address a number of humanitarian causes including HIV care, treatment, and prevention programs. The Clinton Global Initiative is also funded by the Clinton Foundation attempts to address world problems such as public health, poverty and religious as well as ethnic conflict. The Foundation's Climate Change Initiative also provides resources to encourage and support cities to conduct energy-saving product purchasing as well providing technical and communications support. Altogether, the Clinton Foundation is believed to support over 50 charitable causes.
Bono is known for his activism focusing on the African continent, which has provided the inspiration for his involvement in the DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) initiative which he co-founded; EDUN the fashion brand he co-founded with his wife Ali; the ONE Campaign and Product Red which he also co-founded. Bono has organised and played in several benefit concerts and met with influential politicians to rally political support for his causes - particularly African debt relief. His humanitarian work has been recognis with a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II and in 2005 he, together with Bill and Melinda Gates, was named Time Person of the Year, which is just one of many awards and nominations bestowed on Bono since his contribution to Live Aid, when he traveled to Ethiopia to work in a feeding camp with his wife Alison and the charity World Vision, an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organisation.
Brad is well known for his humanitarian efforts and is also a longtime environmentalist. His Make It Right Foundation built 150 homes in New Orleans that not only incorporate environmentally sound features, but are also engineered to withstand strong winds and floods. Pitt has donated more than $5 million to this project alone. Through the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, the couple are dedicated to eradicating extreme rural poverty, protecting natural resources and conserving wildlife. Apart from donating $1 million to Doctors Without Borders which provides aid in nearly 60 countries. Angelina has also served as Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR since 2003 and received numerous awards for her humanitarian efforts including the plight of refugees. She and is known to support the work of over 30 different charities. How their work will continue now that they've split up remains to be seen, but at least that serves to remind us that they're still only human.
Cate and her husband, Andrew Upton, were key proponents of Greening the Wharf, a project that installed 1,900 solar panels in The Wharf Theatre in Sydney, which now provides 70 percent of the theater’s electricity requirements. Together with a system for rainwater harvesting, the theatre will eventually be fully carbon neutral. Under Cate's guidance, the theater also started reusing and recycling costumes and props. She is also the face of Australia’s “Who on Earth Cares” program and in spite of criticism for appearing in the Australian government’s adverts for carbon tax, Blanchett says she will “not be deterred from spreading the message about climate change”.
Daryl has been arrested three times for her involvement in environmental protests. In 2006 she was arrested for a 23-day tree sit-in and in 2009 against mountaintop mining in West Virginia. Then again for joining demonstrations against the Keystone oil pipeline in front of the White House. When not running afoul of the law, Hannah also produces a weekly video blog on green lifestyles called DH Love Life, and runs an online business selling eco-friendly products. She also grows her own food and drives a car that is fueled by recycled cooking oil.
The band champions green touring through their Bama Green Project. All of their concerts are powered by generators running on biodiesel. Recycling and composting stations are present backstage. Emissions from air flights and hotels are offset by tree planting and wind turbine construction. They have even commissioned their logistics provider UPS to devise more efficient ways to transport their equipment. They also founded Green Music Group, a coalition of musicians, fans and music industry leaders - that includes the likes of Linkin Park, Sheryl Crow, and Willie Nelson - to bring about lasting change in the industry.
Begley has long been recognised as an environmental leader in the Hollywood community - sometimes turning up at Hollywood events on his bicycle. He is an active member of the board on numerous green groups, including the Environmental Media Association, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Tree People, and Friends of the Earth. Begley and his wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, host their own reality TV show called “Living with Ed” on the Planet Green channel - chronicling the couple’s quest to live with the smallest possible carbon footprint. Begley also raises funds through a line of eco-friendly 'Begley’s Best' cleaning products and uses profits to assist other green organizations.
Ed is involved in a variety of initiatives including his work as the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. During his designation ceremony in 2010, Ed spoke of environmental issues as the “defining challenges of this era”. He is widely recognized for his work on the BP Solar Neighbors Program, which matches each celebrity purchase of a solar-energy home with solar panels for a low-income family home. He has also been vocal with his support of The Wilderness Society and Earth Justice, and hosted the National Geographic series called Strange Days on Planet Earth. He has also been active as a board member of Friends of the High Line, which campaigns to save and rebuild green space in New York City.
Eva served as on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and is a passionate advocate for Latino causes through her eponymous charitable foundation. She says, “I do all of my civic work because I was raised in these communities and they gave a lot to me. I started giving back to the special-needs community because my sister benefited from so many programs that were in our community. I grew up with the Boys & Girls Club and LULAC and National Council of La Raza and applied for scholarships. So these are the organizations and communities that helped me evolve and grow as a person."
In an online poll this high flying model Giselle was once voted the Best Green International Celebrity - by a large margin, which is largely attributed to her work in ecological conservation and education. Through her eco-friendly flip-flop line 'Ipanema Gisele Bundchen' she has raised funds for conservation efforts in the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforests. She and her family also launched the Clean Water Project which aims to restore vegetation and the micro-basins in her hometown of Horizontina, Brazil. In 2011, Harvard’s Center for Health and Global Environment named Giselle the year’s Global Environmental Citizen, and she has since made her first official visit to Africa as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program.
Surfer turned singer/songwriter Jack popularized EnviroRiders, drafting a set of stipulations requiring venues and tour operators to purchase renewable energy for all of his shows as well as recycling at least 50 percent of the total waste generated and changing all lights to efficient compact fluorescent, as well as compost and recycling. Jack and his wife, Kim, started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to environmental education in Hawaii.
Jamie is well-known as a health and environmental campaigner in his native England. He has waged a war against school lunches in England and America promoting the idea that we should all be “living as close to the source as possible.” Through his TV shows “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” and “Jamie’s American Road Trip,” the popular chef has advocated healthy eating as well as the sustainable farming and sourcing of food. “American Road Trip” became known as the first fully carbon neutral TV show in the U.S. and proceeds were distributed to various initiatives worldwide, including solar energy projects in India as well as wind power schemes in China. Oliver has also installed wind turbines at his London restaurant to reduce its power consumption.
Co-founder of The Honest Company, which states: “We created this company because we care passionately about helping families … from our employees to our community, we believe that it is our job to make a difference in the lives of all families around us. That’s why with every product you purchase, The Honest Company makes a donation to families in need. … we are working to solve critical health and social issues in the community… providing essential baby supplies for families in need or monetary support to advance childhood health research, we recognize that the numbers on our financial bottom-line are not the only measure of success.
Kelsey makes it his business to follow the labels on his food and clothing straight to their source – the people who sew his family’s clothes and grow the food on his kitchen table. His books include ‘Where Am I Wearing?’ and ‘Where Am I Eating’ for which he traveled the globe to tell the stories of the food and clothing economies – including human rights, rural poverty, the loss of cultural diversity and biodiversity, climate change, and fair trade – through the lives of the workers he met along the way.
Leonardo is recognised as an environmentalist. He co-wrote, produced, and narrated the global warming film “The 11th Hour.” His own Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation lobbies for a variety of environmental and humanitarian issues, including forest preservation, healthy oceans, clean water access, and renewable energy. He also serves on numerous environmental boards including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Global Green USA, World Wildlife Fund and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. He has made sizeable donations over the years and has also pledged to forgo private jets. Leaonardo drives a Prius.
Maroon is another award-winning band committed to green touring. Since 2008, the group has been using biodiesel-powered tour buses, promoting recycling at its concert venues, and donating a portion of ticket sales to Global Cool, an environmental charity that works with entertainers. They have also played at Live Earth and headlined the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. They are also strong supporters of the Environmental Media Association, Kiva, and Teen Impact.
Oprah’s activism has rounded on many issues that have been addressed through her popular television show, and her influence extends to the realm of politics, having helped to get President Obama elected in 2008. She’s also an keen advocate for education and founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007. The mission for the academy is “to nurture, educate and turn gifted South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country’s future leaders.”
Named “Best-Dressed Environmentalist” by the Sustainable Style Foundation, Pierce takes his activist role very seriously. He has dedicated a large part of his life to environmental causes, serving on the boards of numerous groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, California Coastal Protection Network and Sea Shepherd. He and his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, have been inducted into the Environmental Hall of Fame for their efforts campaigning against illegal whale hunting and wetlands protection. He says he’s proud “fighting for the forests and the oceans,” and has also lent his voice and name to environmental films and documentaries such as “Oceans” and “Lethal Sounds”.
Roberty is a pioneer among celebrity environmentalists and is a former “Time” magazine “Hero of the Environment”. He founded Sundance Preserve, a non-profit organization working to protect the North Fork Canyon in Utah and produced “The Green” - an eco-themed television program tackling issues such as solar energy and wilderness preservation. In 2009 he was honored with Duke University’s lifetime environmental achievement in the fine arts, or LEAF award. He has also written op-eds calling for President Obama to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline project extracting crude oil from tar sands. In an interview with MSNBC he said “The environmental tipping point has been reached”.
Russell is an outspoken supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This pioneering hip hop mogul has also been an ardent political activist and is recognized for forming the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, an organization devoted to using hip hop music as a catalyst for education and political advocacy and youth employment. Together with his brothers Danny and Joseph, Russell founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation which is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with exposure and access to the arts, as well exhibition opportunities to under-represented artists and those of color.
Vivienne has donated more than £1 million to Cool Earth, a charity that is focused on protecting Amazon and African rain-forests. According to the Cool Earth website, Vivienne has "galvanised her friends to join the cause - including Kate Moss, Lily Cole, Sadie Frost and Stella Tennant and has dedicated two of her fashion shows to Cool Earth". Vivienne is also a very hands on supporter who has not only traveled to the Ashaninka rain-forest project that she and her husband funded and lobbied the Peruvian government. Vivienne has also designed a range of T-Shirts exclusively for Cool Earth with proceeds going towards rain-forest protection.