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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 here 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.

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176 Responses leave one →
  1. JAH permalink
    August 12, 2008

    What kind of question is this? Why aren’t we blogging about ‘important’ issues? Err, perhaps celebrities are the most ‘important’ portion of our society – sad…

  2. Joan permalink
    August 12, 2008

    I totally agree with you. It may not say much for our society, but for good or ill, actors and athletes may be the only role models some youngsters have. If these public service announcements influence even a few people to be more environmentally responsible, then I say let ‘em go for it!

  3. Mark O'Neil permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No! If the celebrity was respectable and integrated their life with truth then, yes, but usually they have some hidden agenda (presuppositions) that they do not disclose.

  4. Jim Castro permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No. The opinion of an unqualified, rich celebrity will not influence my decisions, at least not in any positive way.

    If anything, I am tempted to do the exact opposite whenever some actor, actress, or rock star urges me to do something.

  5. David permalink
    August 12, 2008

    sci-babble? ? You mean the real science that NASA, JPL, IPCC the vast majority of trained scientists? You know real scientist trained by other scientists that work with scientists that actually bring you all the things your lives depend on…The same people that end up proving the world is round and yet get politically destroyed by the narrow minded folks who believe those who have power to lose if the truth is told?

    Yeah, I will take the scientists word which can be read in scientific studies, modeled and then tested over the folks from Heartland Institute that are made up of the same people who told you tabacco was not going to hurt you.

    As far as celebrities. Folks please take Soc 101 again. You might not be influenced by so many are and yes we need to watch out for green washing, but many of these stars practice what they preach. Do a little research before you condem. Not every star is Britney Spears. Thankfully.

  6. Green Guy permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Of course not! Just the facts ‘mam.

  7. John permalink
    August 12, 2008

    In a sense, it is sort of irresponsible for celebritys to do this. It hinder’s regular people ability to think for themselves. Some people are able to think for themselves, however a celebrity endorsement does not hurt the cause. It’s just like shoes. Get a celeb to endorse, and you’re made. Take Global Warming, for example. A psuedo-science soley based on specualtion. But, we’ve got a guy like Al Gore, who is not a scientist and has no real first hand knowlegde of the subject other than what other people tell him, backing it. This illustrates the point. Very little is known about global warming in the first place, but we’ve got Al Gore’s endorsement so all the sudden everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Gimme a break.

  8. Jorge permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Yes. When I hear these hypocrits I want to vomit. In fact, I have now decided every time I hear a hollywood celebrity I am going for a ride in my car just for the pleasure of burning gas to annoy a celebrity.

  9. LeRoy permalink
    August 12, 2008

    No. A celebrity is nothing more than a person that has been celebrated. In our society it is usually someone that has been celebrated for their ability to perform on camera, on stage, on a playing field, etc. Their celebrity status rarely has anything to do with their ability to analyze a complex situation and come to a logical conclusion independent of trends or other outside influence. Celebrities typically have more character flaws than your “weird” cousin and are as knowledgeable about the environment as the person that changes the oil in your car. (If you change you own oil compare them to the guy that drives the oil recycling truck and shame on you if you don’t recycle the oil). Making life choices based on a celebrity’s press release or talk show claim would be like acting on a stock tip from a four year old – they could be right, but chances are they have no idea what they are talking about.

  10. Dee permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Celebrities? Influence my decision making? Gosh, I hope not. I tend to do my own research in order to make decisions on the environment. Or, I ask fellow friends and family — educated, sincere, and humble scientists — to provide me with feedback I need to make good decisions.

  11. Dr. Science permalink
    August 12, 2008

    Michele, Stay out of the swimming pool and don’t use tap water to brush your teeth. Cl2 + H20 = Dioxin!!!

  12. August 12, 2008

    No. They don’t know the science (and EPA politicians who are not scientists should be careful about this too….) and so silly things like plastic bags become a big deal and things like diesel fumes, which is far more prevalent and hazardous, don’t get discussed.

  13. Mr. Balogun O. A. permalink
    August 13, 2008

    Celebrities who champion the environment influence me because the sincere ones leave by example, for others to follow. This is what is expected of us all, so that we could leave behind a better environment than we met it.

  14. Richard H. permalink
    August 13, 2008

    I personally think it is a sad commentary on our society that we put so much value on what celebrities say. How many people watch the celebrity news and gossip shows, and never turn on edcuational programs or channels, and then formulate strong opinions based on what celebrities are saying. I think it’s great when celebrities use their status to do good things and help people. But when it comes to their political opinions, we should realize that they have no more intelligence or depth of knowledge than anyone else.

  15. Jimmy permalink
    August 13, 2008

    In Sweden there’s something called Environmental collective FOOT where artists take a stand for the environment and actually do something.
    Check it out on http://www.mfot.be/indexEng.html

  16. Hears permalink
    August 13, 2008

    No, their opinions do not sway me, I decide for myself. Although I do have more respect for those celebrities whose beliefs happen to be similar to my own, and who practice what they preach. Yes, there are some that do.

    On a side note, how sad is it that Paris Hilton’s tongue-in-cheek comeback to McCain’s ad against Obama featured a more sensible energy plan than either McCain or Obama have yet proposed? I’m sure someone else wrote that for her, but still… sad.

  17. fyc permalink
    August 13, 2008

    I think celebrities can and do draw attention to environmental issues and I’m glad they use their popularity to do such. I’m sure it influences some people.

    To answer the question though, I’ve always been concerned about the environmet and try to do everything I can to help the effort. I’ve not influenced to do my part by celebrities and doubt that I ever will be.

  18. seagul permalink
    August 13, 2008

    Most ‘environmentalist’ repeat what they hear. Very few actually read and analyze the data. Very few look at the assumptions and data adjustment factors that go into the presenting the graphs and charts.

  19. Enviro in Mich permalink
    August 13, 2008

    Does a celebrity influence me? Not Likely. Too many are just talk. Al Gore would be more believable if instead of buying credits he reduced, reused and recycled and instead of just spouting hyperbole tried to engage in meaningful advocacy . For all his faults, at least Pres. Bush is living the talk with the Crawford, Texas ranch.

    As a environmental professional (30 yrs) I’ve seen way too many decisions based on wild claims and “trying to sway the pendulum” one way or another. Meryl Streep testifying on Alar, Al Gore on Global warming, where’s the science? Any position, if sound and factually based, should withstand assault from either side of the environmental argument. Too many times celebrity status carries way more impact than it should.

    While I don’t agree with some of Hannah’s and Begley’s points I do admire the willingness to live the talk and be a passionate advocate. What needs to happen is less “Pie in the Sky” claims and more realistic and achievable environmental goals. Not everyone can afford a Prius, Solar/wind works only if you have reliable sun/wind, nuclear/coal/oil all have issues which need to be addressed for future use.

    Brad Pitt buying a Prius is amazing, maybe I could sell my boys baby pictures and afford one.

  20. Renee permalink
    August 13, 2008

    I am not influenced by anything “celebrities” do or say. When you own 3 houses and 8 cars…you really can’t say much about environmentalism, can you? However, sadly, many people are influenced by what they say, and if they can say something good and positive about taking care of our environment, then good for them.

  21. August 13, 2008

    NO!!! In fact, issues/topics that celebrities push tend to have the opposite effect on me.

  22. John Barnett permalink
    August 13, 2008

    No. I find most celebrities to be generally uninformed regarding all sides of an issue and suspect that many of their so called “causes” are the result of recommendations from their agent or publicist.

  23. Ray C. permalink
    August 13, 2008

    I never have seeked the celebrity’s endorsement to identify a problem or heeded their statements to solving problems.
    Just because they are popular doesn’t mean that what they say has any popularity.
    Although I do appreciate when they show they are active in a cause and/or when they are active in a service organization.
    They can be on a board of directors to bring funds and attention to a problem, money attracts more money, but I feel their service to the people was intended to be entertainment.
    If you were to hear a statement such as “move like a butterfly and sting like a bee”
    From a person who’s intentions were to do their own accomplishments.
    This I could believe.

  24. MARK permalink
    August 13, 2008

    CELEBRITIES WHAT A FARCE!!! NO, MOST OF MY LIFE AND IM OVER 50, CELEB HAVE BEEN BAD IMAGES DRUGIES,SEX OFFENDERS,ETC YOU GET THE PICTURE,,, THE PRES,,,, IS GOING TO HAVE TO GET WITH IT,AND BE THE ONE TO DO THE TALKING, AND INFORCE STRICT RULES !!! ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN UNTILL THE FAT LADY SINGS.. SORRY

  25. MARK permalink
    August 13, 2008

    HOW WOULD YOU EVER KNOW WHO WAS SINCERE OR NOT ?? I THOUGHT THER WAS A SANTA CLAUSE . AND FOUND OUT DIFFRENT!! I WISH I COULD BE AS OPTIMISTIC AS YOU . MAC

  26. MARK permalink
    August 13, 2008

    RIGHT ON BROTHER!!!

  27. Jewel permalink
    August 13, 2008

    No they never have and never will. I have always cared for the environment and no matter how much i got made fun of for it or got in fights with my family and friends about it i still stand by it, no celeb is going to influence me, i influence myself.

  28. Grumpaw John permalink
    August 14, 2008

    No. What, exactly, qualifies someone who has the ability to act or sing to bring more to the discussion than any other person? What credentials? What study? What understanding? Why is their opinion of more import than my building’s janitor’s? It’s not. I’m reminded of the Miss America contestants, all of whom are hoping for world peace, without having a clue about where to start to work towards it.

  29. Jean Sevin permalink
    August 14, 2008

    The persons who are influenced by celebrities are not likely to be the persons answering your survey. Thus, the figures are likely to be far greater than your survey indicates.

  30. DmQ permalink
    August 14, 2008

    Actors, and other artists do not affect by opinions in anyway about any issue. When these professionals walk the walk about the environment, then I’ll listen. To me they are entertainment only.

    Promotion of environmentally responsible actions and lifestyles should be the responsibility of the EPA, since they are the current “voice of authority” in these matters.

    Better availability and quantity of information in the hands of consumers, is what is needed so that people make best informed choices.

  31. Susan permalink
    August 14, 2008

    Some celebrities are absolute hypocrites! I hate to bash Al Gore, because he’s trying to do a lot for the global warming cause, but living in a 10,000 square foot house? How is that green? Maybe it is a used house, and maybe they do use renewable energy, but still . . . 10,000 square feet? And celebrities who brag about driving a Prius, and then they take their private jets all over the world? These people are destroying their credibility. I’m not impressed by them at all. Some of them do more harm than good, because they make themselves targets of people on the right.

  32. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    August 14, 2008

    Actually, I got into the environmental sciences by accident. I took a couple of introductory classes in the community college when I was headed for my AA. I fell in love with them so much that later on, after I got to the University and was exposed to environmental issues as a result of those classes, as part of some of my other science classes, in my public health classes, and through some of my political activist groups lobbying requests, I decided to major in Environmental Science and Policy. Throughout my degree courses whenever I had to give a public presentation or a classroom presentation, after having minored in mass communications and researching celebrity influence, I began to add celebrities as much as I could into my conversations to better convince the audience of my ideas. So really, celebrities did not influence my own decisions on environmental matters but they now influence, in a major sense, the way that I get the message across to others that environmental consciousness and sustainability is a major issue that needs to be addressed and it is also a very stylish trend.

  33. John W permalink
    August 14, 2008

    Celebrities RARELY influence my decision making on any topic. I have found that most celebrities are as uninformed about the true nature of environmental (and most other) issues as is the general public. Their celebrity status and elevated visibility in the media creates the appearance of knowing what they are talking about. Unfortunately the American public has lost much interest in thinking through complicated issues for themselves, and tend to suscribe to the positions taken by those who tend to be more charismatic and have good media coverage. If this continues, it will significantly contribute to the downfall of America.

  34. John W permalink
    August 14, 2008

    So Bonnie, do I understand correctly that you use celebrities to “sell” your message? Do you check to see whether the celebrity you are quoting really, truely understands ALL aspects of the issue, or are you using the celebrity as an attention getter?

  35. Shobana permalink
    August 14, 2008

    If the celebrities are behaiving in an eco-conscious manner, then they certainly affect my decision making when they champion the environment. However, if they are flakes, it makes be feel that it is all hype, and just another political gimmick.

  36. Nicki S permalink
    August 14, 2008

    A celebrity will never influence any of my decisions, values or opinions. While there may be good people out there, my belief is that a celebrity is generally self serving and only jumping on the bandwagon, and believing in something that will not get them into trouble. It is easy to take the environment and use it as your “platform” or charity, because there are really not many people to offend. But lets see them stand for an issue that most of society disagrees with. God forbid they stand up and have some courage. Can’t stand celebrities. I think they should shut up

  37. Larry permalink
    August 14, 2008

    NO. Why would anyone expect a celebrity to have better information or a better opinion than anyone else who is willing to do their own homework?

  38. Eric (EU) permalink
    August 15, 2008

    The way celibrities will influences me by talking about greenness is not about how will I act/react on my environment, but rather how will keep liking them.
    I mean I didn’t wait for other people (celibrities are nothing else but people like u and me but with more photographers arround) to tell me how do I have to behave. But a person (being celibrity or not) who won’t care about environment won’t be a “celibrity” to me …

    It’s like ur workmate who u used to like untill the day he told you he batch-print out his emails every morning because it’s “easyer” for him to read it, and trash 80% of those as they are not involving him directly …

    A person who will talk about environment in the newspaper (I don’t have TV as it’s rubish push uninformation) won’t necessary be a friend to me, but will gain a bit of my respect still.
    In another hand, a person who doesn’t show respect vs environment (e.g. washing the car every sunday with tape / drinkable water) won’t be a friend, even worst if that person doesn’t change its habits after I told him about environment concers (I, at first, assume the person is not necessary aware. But once I told her, then there is no excuse)

    So .. celebrities are just another people talking about environment until one can witness their actual behaviour against that matter.

    Eric, from Paris.

  39. Richard permalink
    August 15, 2008

    No, celebrities should encourage participation and leave their opinions out of it…

  40. Jim Adcock permalink
    August 16, 2008

    Yes Celebrities influence me. They influence everybody. That’s why they are used in commercials. That is why famous people are the one’s who earn the big bucks. Some smart celebrities have realized that wealthy people do not have to use their money to destroy the planet. Rather, they can use their money and influence to REDUCE the size of their footprint on the planet rather than making it bigger. Historically, wealthy people demonstrated their “superiority” by their ability to waste money and resources on extravagant displays. Now, smart celebrities are turning this on its head, by showing that people with some discretionary money can be LESS wasteful not moreso. By driving electric cars, for example. Or putting solar electric or solar hot water on their houses. If you are poor, you cannot afford to do these things. But, if you are intelligent, and have money, you can do these things, and help save the planet! Smart People, Attractive People, Wealthy People, Successful People help save the planet. Only pathetic losers continue to destroy the planet — by driving big SUVs and Pickup Trucks, for example!

  41. August 17, 2008

    Yes, ‘celebs’ do influence me… to do the OPPOSITE of anything they endorse. These people, by and large, live the most sheltered, narrow lives and exhibit the most closed, and even reprobate, minds and lifestyles! They are losers in the big picture and, after all… they are professional liars.

  42. Christine Smith permalink
    August 18, 2008

    It depends on the celebrity. If it’s someone that I don’t like and/or someone who seems rather unintelligent (i.e. Paris Hilton), then no, I don’t care…in fact, anything that people like that promote I tend to dismiss more easily. On the other hand, if it’s something that I like and/or someone who seems to have a pretty good head on their shoulders, then promoting a particular view or product can at the very least, raise my awareness of (in a positive manner) and provide some amount of credibility to it.

  43. Kim, NC permalink
    August 18, 2008

    No. Celebrities are not necessarily the most informed on important issues such as the environment.

  44. Mark permalink
    August 18, 2008

    No, celebrities do not have a clue about their “causes”, especially the environment. As an environmental professional (engineer), I believe they do nothing but lead ignorant Americans away from the facts.

    Case in point – Al Gore has no clue what he is talking about with regards to climate change. Anyone who would take the time to read the IPCC report on climate change could easily see that the earth’s climate has been changing (both warming AND cooling) for thousands of years BEFORE man started burning fossil fuels. There are actually more scientists who disagree with “climate change” than who agree with it.

    http://www.petitionproject.org

  45. laura permalink
    August 18, 2008

    agreed!

  46. Cindy permalink
    August 18, 2008

    Who do you pay attention too?
    The choices we make, who we consider celeberties, and which celeberties choose to follow the right way to live, they are just people actors. The celeberties I prefer to follow are the ones that work in the Labs of research, accountants, data entry and collections, writers, photographers etc..
    At this time in history the information we have access to and how we choose to use it can make a very big change in things. Many things there seems to be too much information, and others not enough, or put together in the right way. Interpretations of data, depends on the questions being ask. As the population incresses so will a lot of statistics, and if that isn’t enough to let you know there is a proper way to do things, then you have checked out. For those that choose to continue and follow this journey of Life, we need to reaslize there are many people that need help as those to give it. We are living at a time when we have access to more answers than we have questions. It is just taking the human brain time to absorbe and utilize it.
    I have often wondered when a web site will come up, that rates celeberties on how green they are. I wanted to do a survey on our politicians, and find out how many and who were following the suggestions, and doing their part, since most of them can pay someone to do it for them. I even wondered why Oprah didn’t do more for the cause, she could hire an anaylsist to plan it out for her.
    Finding your place in an ever changing world can get complicated. Instead of asking if we pay attention to celeberties, hard not to do when they are plastered about everywhere, newspapers, tv and radio, etc.
    I think we need to pay closer attention to what the scientist and chemist, biologist, anthropologist, and physist, scociologist, are telling us and have been trying to warn people for the past 20 or 30 years. It’s time for the shock to have worn off, and people getting it together. Stop worring about whos right, and what party they are just do the right thing. Smoking kills you, destroying the planet is also dangerous to your health.

  47. Beth permalink
    August 19, 2008

    Not ever!

  48. Mark permalink
    August 19, 2008

    Yes, it definitely DOES affect my decision making. I tend to stay AWAY from their performance venue or anything that they endorse. My viewer ship of NASCAR dropped following “Days of Thunder,” and I have AVOIDED seeing the War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible remakes in their entirety. Nah, the celeb can take their opinions and stick em.

    BTW, ever check out the Mercury Deposition Network? http://nadp.sws.uiuc.edu/mdn/

    Did you know that one CFL bulb can put out enough mercury to contaminate 200 cubic meters at levels ABOVE the scale of their charts?

  49. Jerry R. Lesikar permalink
    August 19, 2008

    Movie stars are mostly fanatics both environmentaly and politicaly. Most of the ones you see promoting anything are not as popular as the used to be and are only trying to get back in the limelight to find work. Now to see a major company announce on TV like Proctor and Gamble stating that they are going all green and get most of their power form methane gas thats in a landfill to power one of their plants, now that influenances my decesion.

  50. August 19, 2008

    No, celebrities do not influence my decisions, however they do have the power to bring issues to the attention of many more individuals than the average person. They may do something as simple as wear a t-shirt showing their support, someone snaps a photo and they’re on the front cover of a magazine, people wonder what the t-shirt means and they look it up, next thing you know they’re involved, certainly not a bad thing.

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