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Question of the Week: Do celebrities who champion the environment influence your decision making, and if so, how?

2008 August 11

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Many people feel that protecting the environment is important. Celebrities sometimes use their high public recognition to raise awareness for causes they support: for example, things you should do (or not do) to protect the environment.

Do celebrities who champion the environment influence your decision making, and if so, how?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Muchas personas consideran que la protección ambiental es importante. A veces las celebridades usan su renombre público para crear conciencia sobre causas que ellos apoyan, por ejemplo, las cosas que se deben hacer (o no hacer) para proteger el medio ambiente.

¿Las personas que abogan por el medio ambiente influyen la toma de sus decisiones? ¿De ser así, cómo lo hacen?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

176 Responses leave one →
  1. george permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Celebs, no influence. Their main focus, is to keep their celebrity Q score high as a “brand”. Since they are selling in effect the time we spend listening to them as a spokesperson, the message is disingenuous.

  2. Emily F permalink
    August 11, 2008

    While I agree that most celebrities are far removed from reality and often do not themselves practice the means of living that they claim to support, they are still bringing awareness to an issue that, frankly, not enough people know or care about. Although their hypocracy certainly brings their credibility into question, their support of green methods puts the spotlight on the environment- and there’s definitely something to be said for in that!

  3. bill permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Celebrities invoke a negative conotation from my point of view. They often promote a ’cause’ more to gain personal attention than to promote some beneficial action. Further, it is often learned they are in reality some of the worse ‘offenders’ simply from the fact they can monitarily afford to be.

  4. Greg Joyce permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No! In most cases, the celebrity responses appear to be scripted and do not seem to be genuine. Generally they come across as “just another paid advertisement”.

  5. Lily permalink
    August 11, 2008

    They certainly do not influence my decisions. While my family and I have long tried to do our part to recycle, re-use and conserve, I find the opinions of a bunch of egotistical and usually ill informed “celebrities” to be insulting, sanctimonious and patronizing. From Al Gore on down, they are invariably using that bandwagon to bully others into a certain way of life while themselves using ore resources and energy in a year than many families would use in a lifetime. They would have more influence with me if they’d practice what they preach, and in fact preach a whole lot less.

  6. David permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No…. Celebrities only read what is given to them to read on air or TV. They are looking for the PR they might receive from this promotion and what good it will do for them. Celebrities and politics is a good example. They really do not have the background to support or deny what they present. They are just a celebrity due to some other matter and not the environment.

  7. August 11, 2008

    Sure they do. As with any product or idea, we look to who are the initial users or promoters. If those people convey a positive image, as many celebrities do, it will help. Obviously, it depends on both the audience and the celebrity.

  8. DownToEarth permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Not in the least, but knowing that others are influenced by them, I am glad to see more celebrities promoting environmental causes – much more worthwhile than the latest beer or phone.

  9. Jim permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No, it does not affect me in a positive sense, but it does affect me if I do not care for the spokesperson. I’m glad they are interested, but I don’t know if they know what they are talking about. In some cases, I question their motives.

  10. Dwayne Caldwell, REHS, PEM permalink
    August 11, 2008

    In a word “No”. I have spent 15 years as an environmental health specialist protecting the public health and the environment. I have a BS, many certifications and more training hours than you can shake a stick at. It is my unenviable task to find the sensible middle ground between those who would exploit the environment and those who would elevate the earth to deity status.

    When a health or environmental issue arises someone will call me and I will try to help them find a solution or correct a problem. Yet the information I give is often met with “but Suzie Starlet said this……” My years of education, experience and training simply can not stand up to what someone who makes their living pretending to be someone else read on the internet or heard at a rally.

    Celebs using their notoriety to raise awareness of issues, hey I’m all for it. But leave the science and enforcement to those of us who are qualified. Your role as a scientist in “ The Day After Global Warming Knew What You Did Last Summer With Erin Brockovich” didn’t prepare you for that.

  11. Lorettalu permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Much of my thinking aligns with the two prior posts. When I read, or hear of a celebrity actively supporting a worthwhile cause I’m reminded that there are bright, concerned citizens in Hollywood, but they don’t influence my environmental thinking.

    What I don’t like about celebrity involvement? Across the country there are many people solving environmental problems. Intelligent, everyday citizens doing nitty-gritty research, organizing meetings, and writing letters to their congressional representatives. They inspire me to act. Celebrities look pretty and entertain us, but they have little to do with what happens where we live.

    Environmental change happens locally: in our schools, churches, and municipal governments. We can learn from the citizens who lead us to make changes, – the mothers who campaign to stop school bus idling; communities that stop the building of dangerous landfills; or activists halting the flow of chemicals into our shores; they are heroes.

  12. sharon permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No, celebrities don’t really influence my decisions, I have to see for myself. If, on the other hand by the power of their voice they can say, “Let there be light,” and there is, then it matters.

  13. Eric S. permalink
    August 11, 2008

    I assume you mean the jet setting, energy gobbling celebrities. NO WAY! Why would anyone be influenced by celebrities for any reason. Make your own judgements and decisions for the right reasons. Not because some hypocritical celebrity says it’s cool to do so. Of course there are the few celebrities that certainly do thier part in conserving, but the Al Gore’s of the world…. they stand on thier soap box and preach while flying around the world, driving in SUV’s and living in huge mansions. Yuck!! I am the first one to go and watch these celebrities act in movies or perform their craft. But take environmental advice from them. No Way!!

  14. tomcat permalink
    August 11, 2008

    none one bit to say the least…

  15. Dale Watts permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No. In fact, most celebrities “championing” an environmental position would probably have a negative effect.

  16. August 11, 2008

    Celeb influence, no matter how many sheep may follow, will have minor impact on the environment unless we have policy change. Maybe they should start giving their money to lobbyist groups instead of trying to be green role models.

  17. Zeke permalink
    August 11, 2008

    They neither affect my view of the issues, not my liklihood of seeing their next movie or concert. But I’m sure glad they’re doing it, and a lot of them raise money for public awareness, which sure can’t hurt.

  18. Daryl permalink
    August 11, 2008

    I think a few celebrities may have an understanding of complex environmental issues but, as a group, I look at them as merely entertainers with a wish to have their faces in the news. They are one of the last groups I would look to for leadership on any subject.

  19. Jim in Crugers permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No. Unless the person speaking is an expert on the
    subject, they will not influence me. For the most part,
    celebrities are simply regurgitating something that
    someone told them.

    Celebrities also endorse politicians. So much for
    credibility!

  20. Marie permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No, the celebrities are not research experts or scientists, there is no reason to trust their judgment.
    They tend to be self righteous and melodramtic; that does not render them credible experts.
    I have seen the press make many mistakes and not do the research to back up statements about the environment.
    I look at every view as an opinion until I have looked at many points of view, on the same issue.

  21. Jamie permalink
    August 11, 2008

    You see celebrities homes on TV. I would like to see one celebrity home with solar or wind power, recyled water for their yards and how they recyle their garbage.
    You see celebrities with their expensive water in plastic bottles, but what do they do with the bottle when they are finished?

  22. Jim permalink
    August 11, 2008

    I usually think celebrities don’t know much about the “real” world, because they are rich and famous. I am swayed more by what I see and hear in my own part of the world, as well as scientific and economic studies that seek for practical solutions to environmental problems.

  23. Jeff permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No, I do not let celebrities influence my decisions on anything. They live in a different world than the average person. I think we should let the scientific experts make the decisions on the environment. Let the scientific data speak for itself.

  24. Tyler Durden permalink
    August 11, 2008

    “A big THANK-YOU to all the environmentalist foot soldiers who have been lobbying the summer tourists in D.C. about helping the environment..”

    WHAT? “LOBBYING” is being a “foot soldier”? You gotta be kiddning me. If that is your idea of “getting things done” you need a different perspective.

    Look at what the “Boys” did from EPA at Libby, Montana. Paul Peronard and crew (Aubrey and Chris) literally “moved mountians” and their biggest foe was not “W.R. Grace”, but the EPA. That was the biggest stumbling block, the agency where they received “resistance from the inside”.

    LOTS of people have been doing yeoman environmental work from cleaning up sites, removing asbestos, abating lead, ENFORCING REGULATIONS, and getting the bad guys.

    There are far too many here making the participation in “Environmental Activities” meaning only ones they deem “green”. It is some of the most vacous stuff I have ever seen.

    As for the Celebs, they are in this club as well. It seems as if EPA is in the “celebrity issue green de jour”, but then when Paris Hilton makes much better sense than either Obama and McCain, and the enquier scoops the MSM, you know something is wrong in the way reality is perceived.

    As far as “foot soldiers” they are all around, but recognized, particularly by many within EPA.

  25. Bobby M. permalink
    August 11, 2008

    I think Celebs do influence people a lot. Most people like to do the same as someone famous.

  26. Joe F. permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Absolutely not!

    Most of the celebrities who comment on the Environment are doing so because it’s “fashionably appropriate”; and they know little about the subject. They usually have rezounding revelations that speak to whatever is currently popular with little (if any) factual data.

    However, a lot of people will agree with them because of their celebrity status, and waste a lot of good energy on the wrong things.

    I don’t know how the media ever decided that celebrities have the intellectual insight to impart wisdom on everything from “Environmental Excellence” to “how to have a great marriage”! They should stick to acting and entertaining or whatever else they do well, and leave the rest to people who have the expertise in their related field.

  27. Claire permalink
    August 11, 2008

    i believe that making your own decision is the best policy but celebrities do infulence people which i think is good, there famous for entertaining and get so much so why not make the most of it and give a little back, personaly i made my own decision about being aware and wanted to help the enviroment since i was a small child and no one will change my way of life, i do think that celebrities opinions on the evriroment do make a strong difference to certain people.

  28. Regina permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Celebrities have the power of influence on their side. If a celebrity understand current political facts and issues relating to world wide concerns, then they have as much a right as anyone else to voice their opinions. After all, as americans we all enjoy the privilege of freedom of speech.

  29. August 11, 2008

    No.

    And what if it did? Doesn’t seem to be relevant to whether the EPA is doing its job or not (i.e., finding fact and following the law.)

    Strange question to ask on this blog.

  30. Greg Magnus permalink
    August 11, 2008

    No. Celebrities don’t influence my view on the environment. However, I have worked in the field as a professional environmental consultant and publisher for decades. Most of the time, the celebrities lack a true understanding of the topic and the facts, which is apparent when they are questioned by reporters.

    Politicians can be worst than celebs. Take Al Gore for example, his views are so far off of the facts that it is almost comical to listen to his responses when an educated party questions him.

  31. Scott permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No, celebrities do not influence my actions. But I think they can help draw attention to an issue. I believe that tax credits and other incentives that would effectively lower the prices of high fuel mileage, and electric vehicles, would have much more influence on buyers decisions than actions by a celebrity.

  32. Steph permalink
    August 12, 2008

    When was the last time you saw a celebrity pull up to an event in a Prius or other small hybrid car? They couldn’t fit their personnal driver, champayne bar, and reclining seat in there. The next time you see one ask them if they know what hyper-miling is. Do they live in “green” homes? Have you seen any solar panels or wind farms along Hollywood Boulevard or in Beverly Hills? Check their refrigerator for bottled water — I bet it’s in there. Give me a break!

  33. Blossom Hoag permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Having a celebrity endorse an environmental, or any issue for that matter, brings attention to it. It may not always be good, but in the main scheme of things I believe most of them want a healthier world. While a celebrity may not sway my opinion, I am thankful for the discussion and disclosure it can cause. Certainly take Princess Diana’s work on land mines and Al Gore’s movies. Without Gore’s movies the candidates would still have their heads in the sand and still be skirting this most serious of problems. Both of them brought credence to the issues.

  34. Richard permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Yes. But not directly. I don’t care whether so-and-so drives a hybrid or recycles his used sweatsox into insulation for third world housing projects. But, how we ARE affected is by the constant presence that the news media gives to celebrities. Anyone who says they’re not influenced doesn’t pay attention to the media. It’s like asking whether or not news coverage of a rash of murders in an ethnic neighborhood influences how we see that ethnic group. Most definitely it does. To say that it doesn’t makes it more likely that you will carry prejudice rather than confront it. Celebrities influence us whether we like it or not.

  35. Jerry Hoffman permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Absolutely not. I believe most of them are doing it primarily because they are either getting paid to do so or they figure the publicity is good for their career. There may be a few who walk the walk and talk the talk, but I suspect they are in the minority.

    I much prefer to listen to experts, people I believe really know what they are talking about.

  36. waterboy permalink
    August 12, 2008

    My son is an actor and I have had the chance to meet some of the most shallow insincere people in the world who are actors. When actors endorse things I tend to stay away. Improving the conditions in the environment and leaving the world a better place are much too important to allow celebrity to influence sound policy.

  37. Pat W permalink
    August 12, 2008

    I rarely agree with statements by celebrities about the environment. Celebrities are frequently ignorant of the facts and often are politically motivated when making statements about the environment.

  38. Lauren permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No, celebrities do not have scientific degrees so they have no factual value when they speak about the enviroment.

    I listen to the scientists who work in the field and have some truthfull to say.

  39. Helen permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Celebrity comments don’t really influence me to do anything. Their causes and the way they often handle them and even their attitudes have often turned me off. if a celebrity is pushing something they need to live that cause. (believe in and practice)
    If they are just a mouth piece it does more harm than good to any thing they are supporting.

  40. Stu permalink
    August 12, 2008

    One of the most dangerous aspects of our modern western lives is the “sound bite” or “video clip”, especially when it is used to promote as complex an issue as the environment. Unfortunately, most celebrity endorsements occur in these shorts, and in many cases, their apparent knowledge of the subject is just as short and shallow. This tends to work against real discussion of the issues and fosters a dogmatic and sometimes absolutist viewpont.

  41. Bill McClenney permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Almost invariably the opinions of celebrities do not sway me. In general, celebrities, being predominantly actors trained to repeat scripted lines in a convincing manner, may be relied upon to “parrot” almost anything. In research done in the 1970′s we learned conclusively that the human being is 9 times more susceptible to rumor than it is to truth. If you find that believing what a scripted actor tells you is superior to researching the facts yourself, then you are a victim of the Nine Times Rule.

  42. Joshgodwins permalink
    August 12, 2008

    I personally dont think celebrities influence how I look at the environment and how decide to protect it or contribute to preserving it, maybe it is because of the level of my education which has got nothing to do with what a movie star, for example, thinks about the environment.

    I believe there are more scores a celebrite can make by going “green” in the sense that they want to show the public that they can also be “human like us” (and not actors!), but there position on the environment has little impact on my decision making.

    Finally, I am not saying they can not influence others, they do especially the youth who really take them as their role models or icons.

    For example Al Gore he is a politian-turn-green but i believe his postion on the environment protection has more influence on his political life than on my environmental views and decision-making

  43. Mike G permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No! Celeberties often act out of passion and ignorance. As with most enviornmental nuts, their efforts are influenced by someone close to them or some carismatic figure who generally doesn’t know what they are talking about. I work in the environmental field and conduct my thought process based on regulatory requirements and scientific data. People should be concerned about their immediate environment and then the global situation. Taking care of your immediate environment will contribute to the global situation. Don’t be lead around by some celeberity who has no credientials or professional credibility. Politics and sicience run the environment. Get active in both to make a difference. Use you own brain, instead of someone else’s comments.

  44. Northcountry permalink
    August 12, 2008

    I’m with you! too many consumption freaks out there posing as environmental advocates. The way you live is what defines who you are. We’ll stay minimalist!

  45. Cal permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Yes. But typically against whatever they are supporting. Most seem to be technically incompetent to make sound science based recomendations.

  46. Marcus permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No. These folks are great at entertaining people. That is not a credential for being a good policy advisor.

  47. Emily permalink
    August 12, 2008

    I guess I don’t understand how bringing attention to a good cause can be a bad thing. While scientific research is really the best and most credible way to inform the masses, let’s face it- scientists aren’t famous. They don’t attract the same media attention as celebrities, and therefore aren’t going to influence the public in the same way. Whether we like it or not, what celebrities say and do affects us. So what if they do it for selfish reasons or aren’t as informed as the experts? They’re still doing a big thing by bringing the environment to the public’s attention.

  48. René Rodríguez permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Of course not. Most celebrities are just looking for publicity and photo opportunities. Many of them also have hidden agendas. Celebrities also include politicians like Mr. Al Gore.

  49. Todd C permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No. They simply don’t know anything about the issues. Most environmental information is very technical and requires a mastery unavailable in drama class. Now I know that some celebrities studied science; but unless they are a celebrity for their scientific know-how, they aren’t really devoted to the study of that issue–they are devoted to being an actress or a recording artist and who could blame them. In the final analysis, good environmental law is made with a firm grasp of the technical details at hand by every voter and legislator, which I think means there hasn’t been any yet.

  50. Craig permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Celebrities are, in general, idiots, and they are usually wrong about such matters. Why would I trust someone who plays make-believe for a living to inform me about scientific matters? Generally, I ignore the comments of celebrities and choose to get my information from more credible sources.

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