Who's the greenest actor in Hollywood?
Certainly there's uber-enviro Ed Begley Jr., who has his own green reality-TV show (Living with Ed) and whose greenness is so notorious that an episode of The Simpsons had him driving a car powered by his sense of self-satisfaction.
Don't count out Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator, who as California's head has ensured that the state remains No. 1 in the nation when it comes to tackling climate change though he hasn't shaken his Hummer habit.
And of course there's Leonardo DiCaprio, who proves conclusively that, contrary to what many conservatives think, earth-friendly habits needn't preclude you from a rich lifestyle of award-winning film performances and rampant supermodel-dating.
But the greenest of them all may be a name that's less known: Hart Bochner. Bochner co-stars in the USA Network drama The Starter Wife, featuring Will and Grace alumna Debra Messing. (To Americans of my generation, however, Bochner will always be known for directing the classic early-1990s college comedy PCU, which proved Jeremy Piven's comedy chops long before he swaggered onto the set of Entourage.) What makes Bochner different from his celebrity peers is that he's willing to do the anonymous, behind-the-scenes work to make the industry more environmentally friendly. "It can't just be about messages," says Bochner. "It has to be about deeds as well."
By its nature, film and TV production isn't always the greenest undertaking in the world. Sets are built quickly and dismantled just as fast, with little regard for the long-term environmental impact. Productions can be energy-intensive, especially when shooting on location. And actors, no matter how green they claim to be on Entertainment Tonight, are accustomed to a certain level of luxury that carries a certain carbon footprint.
Bochner and his colleagues at the Environmental Media Association (EMA), where he's been a board member since 2000, are working to change that. He started by creating the EMA Green Seal, which is a badge of approval for productions that follow environmentally friendly practices. "You hit the targets, and you get the stamp of approval," says Bochner, who in his own career as a filmmaker helped ban the use of luan, a rain-forest mahogany wood often harvested in threatened Indonesia, in favor of more sustainable materials. "We want to make this the norm."
Even more admirable is his attempt to get Hollywood to believe that the hybrid Toyota Prius was as hot as a Ferrari. Explains Bochner: "We just tried to position the Prius as the new sexy thing. It wasn't easy making driving a smaller, more economic car hip was a task. So I'd just ask my friends, 'Do you love your children?' That was the linchpin in convincing them. I told them, 'The decision is yours, but the nation is watching what you want to do.' "
It's hard to take Hollywood's greens altogether seriously gee, if only we could all afford to shell out $22,000 for a shiny new hybrid but Bochner's got a point: the nation does watch Hollywood. The TV and film industry tends to be on the cutting edge of social change, from civil rights to the war in Iraq, and that's true when it comes to the environment as well. From films like An Inconvenient Truth to high-profile attempts at carbon neutrality (by the Fox drama 24 last year), Hollywood is working to set the bar higher, bit by bit who cares if it feels pretty good about itself in the process? And more important, bit by bit, Hollywood is changing social norms. Ideally, someday being green won't be cool anymore it will just be boring old convention.