Green Piece

The Environmental Media Assn. has been encouraging Hollywood to set an eco-example for the past 20 years

Picture this: A tabloid prints a paparazzi photo of a canvas-bag-toting celebrity getting into a hybrid vehicle outside a farmers' market. An invasion of privacy? Not according to Environmental Media Assn. president Debbie Levin. She views it as a small victory.

"That's fabulous role modeling," Levin says, "and we get that all the time in magazines."

The EMA doesn't snap the photos or place them in the publications, but for the past 20 years it has been subtly setting the stage for such shots by encouraging people in show business to set an environmental example for the world at large through their actions and their work, whether it be by pitching "green" story ideas to writers and producers, arranging for stars to come to awards shows in eco-friendly vehicles (e.g. Meryl Streep arriving at this year's Oscars in a new Toyota hybrid), working with producers to reduce the carbon footprint of their productions or "mentoring" young celebrities on how to live sustainable lives.

The embryonic beginnings of the EMA can be traced to 1988, when pregnant pals Lyn Lear and Cindy Horn got to discussing the state of the planet their children would be inheriting. Lyn's husband, producer Norman Lear, had spurred the national dialogue about such social issues as racism and abortion in the 1970s through his sitcoms "All in the Family" and "Maude." Why couldn't they enlist their influential friends and loved ones (including Cindy's husband Alan Horn, now president and COO of Warner Bros.) to do something similar with environmental messages? Thus the EMA was born.

The EMA's most high-profile messaging tool has been the Environmental Media Awards, launched in 1991, honoring films and television programs with eco-conscious messages. A green event from top to bottom, featuring organic food and programs printed on 100% recycled paper with soy-based ink, it has received widespread coverage from entertainment magazines and news shows and was telecast on E! Entertainment Television for two years (2006-07), before going the webcast route on last year.

In 2003, the EMA teamed with actor Edward Norton and the Enterprise Foundation to launch the BP Solar Neighbors, a program in which every time a celebrity purchases as BP Solar electric system for their home, a similar system is installed in the home of a family in South Central Los Angeles.

In recent years, the EMA has turned its attention to stars' workspace with its Green Seal program and EMA Green Seal Awards, established in 2004 to recognize film and TV productions that embody sustainable ideals.

"The way the industry is, you can't say something is 100% green," Green admits. "So our goal is to try to encourage and publicize the efforts of the industry and give them all the opportunity and all of the resources that their budget allows to be as green as possible."