Image: 2009 Heart Of Green Awards
Brad Barket  /  Getty Images
From left, Gloria Reuben, Connie Britton and Alicia Silverstone attend the 2009 Heart of Green Awards at Hearst Tower on April 23 in New York City.
NBC News
updated 4/28/2009 12:59:02 PM ET 2009-04-28T16:59:02

Each month, Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This month, we speak with actresses Alicia Silverstone, Gloria Reuben, and Connie Britton about their involvement with green projects and the green movement. All three actresses recently attended the Heart of Green Awards at the Hearst Tower in New York on April 23. Held in honor of Earth Day and the first anniversary of the launch of Hearst’s green-lifestyle Web site The Daily Green, the awards recognize individuals, organizations and companies who have helped green go mainstream. Silverstone, who starred in the coming-of-age comedy hit "Clueless" in 1995, was honored with the Eco-Original Award for her work advocating veganism. Her forthcoming book "The Kind Diet" deals with the benefits of ethical and healthy eating. The Truth Teller Award went to Reuben for her mission to spread the word about the impact of burning coal and for her work with the Waterkeeper Alliance. The alliance is dedicated to preserving and protecting water from polluters through a network of local Waterkeeper organizations. Reuben is known for her role as an HIV-infected physical assistant on several seasons of NBC’s “ER” and appears now as Rosalind Whitman on TNT’s “Raising the Bar." Britton was the emcee at the Heart of Green Awards and can be seen in NBC’s “Friday Night Lights.” She has also appeared on Fox’s “24” and ABC’s “Spin City.”

Alicia Silverstone

Q: How does it make you feel to receive the Eco-Original Award?

Silverstone: So honored, really. It’s so flattering. When I got the invitation, when they sent me the e-mail, I was like “HUH, so nice!” The words they used were really lovely and made me feel very, very honored.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the "green" work that you do?

Silverstone: Well, obviously many people came before me. I’m very late in the game, but I’m early according to trends. I’ve been doing it for 11 years, but there’s so many people before me who have been doing this amazing work, but I just … try to do as much as I can. I’m writing a book. It comes out in October and it’s called "The Kind Diet," and it really sort of connects the dots with diet and lifestyle and the environment, and being kind to yourself and the environment at the same time, and how they’re all connected. The exciting thing is what’s good for your body is also good for the planet, so that’s really good news. That’s where my focus is right now.

But I’ve been working at this for a long time, just trying to make people aware and trying to live by example and just doing the best that I can as an individual, making every little choice that I can. And when I mess up, I don’t beat myself up. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. I think a lot of people are like, “Huh, I can’t be vegetarian,” or “Oh, I can’t get all green, “ and they don’t even know what that means. Even if you just reuse your bottle, like just get a filter on your water at home, and reuse the same travel bottle, that makes such a huge difference. And if you forget one day, OK, you forgot. Then, you go back and you do it again. It’s just wonderful to be doing as little or as much as you can and not feel bad, and just keep trying.

Q: What did you do to celebrate Earth Day?

Silverstone: I was traveling here. For me, Earth Day is every day, really.

Q: Do you have one memorable green experience, an aha moment?

Silverstone: I’ve had a lot of aha moments. One of them was when I figured out what we were doing to produce food, and how that was being done, and that’s why I went vegan. Another one was when I was with my friend Woody Harrelson, and we were in Hawaii taking baths. All of our friends were taking these outdoor baths, and his little girls wanted to get in my bath, and I wanted them to get into my bath, and he was like “You can’t get in her bath.” I said, “Why can’t they get in my bath,” and he said, “Cuz you have all those gross products in your bath.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “Let me see your bottle,” whatever shampoo or whatever it was, and he just started reading the ingredients.

He was like, “Do you know what that is?” I was like, “I dunno what that is,” and he was like, “Neither do I. Do you know what this is?” and just going through all the ingredients and realizing. He goes, “Listen, that’s going into your skin, that’s why I don’t want my little girl to get into your bath, because I don’t want it to get into their skin. And on top of that I don’t want that it to go into the planet.” It was just bad stuff, and it was so clear, and made so much sense to me, and that really made me open up to a different part of the movement. I was already in vegan for a long time, but I wasn’t really aware of products and toxins yet, so it was really a big moment for me.

Q: What do you want to tell people that they can do to change their lives?

Silverstone: The best thing you can do for the environment and for your own health is to go vegetarian as much as you can. So, even if it means just cutting back a little bit of meat, you’ll be doing so much better for the planet and so much better for yourself. One steak — 16 ounces beef — the water required to produce that is equivalent to six months of showering, to give you an idea of how unenvironmentally sound meat-eating is. So, that’s the best thing you can do.

Just do it as much as you can. I guess my biggest advice is just that if you can’t do it all the time, just do the best you can, just say, "I’m going to be vegetarian, I’m an aspiring-vegetarian." You just sort of try and make an effort, and even if right now you eat meat every single day, what if you just had two days a week where you’re vegetarian? It would make a huge difference, and your body would feel it too. You would feel a lot better.

Gloria Reuben

Q: You’re receiving the Truth-Teller Award for your work with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Can you tell me why this cause is so important to you?

Reuben: Waterkeeper Alliance is a global, international grassroots advocacy organization, where we have 185 different Waterkeeper programs. For instance, here in New York, there is a Hudson River Waterkeeper that was kind of our founding Waterkeeper program. The reason why I find that it is so important is because, in today’s world, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that clean water is very primal and obviously our most primal and vital resource. We can live for days without food, but not without water.

The U.N. has estimated that by the year 2050, 40 percent of the world’s population will be experiencing clean water shortages. That’s a lot of people. So, if we don’t act now to bring awareness to the issue of clean water ... The Waterkeeper Alliance basically brings polluters to justice, we hold those who are wreaking havoc in our waterways accountable for breaking environmental laws, so I think it’s again one of the most important things.

Q: What do you do within the organization?

Reuben: I’m on the board. Also, we just launched this campaign against the coal industry called “The Dirty Lie.” Great Web site where all the information on how people can become active is on thedirtylie.com. I spoke at a rally in North Carolina against Duke Energy. They started building a new coal fire-powered plant, even though their permits were kind of doctored a little bit. So, I’m traveling, talking about the issue, and we launched The Dirty Lie campaign here in New York end of February, so I speak a lot about the issue of clean water on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and very proud to serve on the board.

Q: Since you’ve become involved with this group, have you noticed any changes?

Reuben: Well, yeah, I think so. The changes that we notice at the Waterkeeper Alliance maybe don’t make the headlines. I mean we certainly do make headlines in the way of when we win cases against these polluters, we make the headlines in the community. So these are not things that maybe the general public know so much about. But when I see the differences that our individual waterkeepers and their communities are making when they stand up for and when we take to court certain polluters who won’t stop doing what they’re doing, I see a huge difference.

Tonight is a great opportunity to just kind of bring more awareness to the issue as a whole, and so hopefully these things kind of trickle out. People will hear about it, and they go to the Web site, and they want to support us and find out where their local Waterkeeper program is, and how to get involved. So that’s the kind of grassroots activism that this alliance and organization has been built on, so I’m confident that it will continue.

Q: How do you live a green lifestyle personally?

Reuben: Unplug everything that I’m not using, I mean except for the fridge, that’s kind of a hard one. I unplug everything that I possibly can, turn off the lights, try to walk everywhere. It’s tough, I’m working in Los Angeles now though, so I’m in the car a lot. Just the little things, like little things. There’s this MasterCard commercial that I saw, you know that whole price list thing where there’s this little boy and he’s looking up at his father, and his father is brushing his teeth, and the tap is running as his father is brushing his teeth. So the little boy turns off the tap water. For those two minutes or whatever, I saw it, and I thought to myself, "See it’s those little things that we can all do to make life a little greater."

Connie Britton

Q: What is your most memorable green experience, like an aha moment?

Britton: That’s an interesting one. It’s hard to pin it down, there’s been so many. I always like to go back to the Dark Ages, like when I was little, and think back to the time and time again that I was told to turn off lights, and then when I finally got older and I realized, “Aha, now I get it, it just wasn’t my dad being annoying; there really is some value in saving energy and it really is going to influence what happens on our earth.” So, it’s something as simple as that. Now when you get older, it all makes sense.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about being at this event and taking part in it?

Britton: For me, it's really learning more about what people are doing. I feel like I’m kind of new to the broad spectrum of possibilities and opportunities that we have toward conservation, and so for me to be able to learn about what these folks are up to is going to be really inspiring. I think it’s great because I’m anticipating that Hearst’s intention of doing this event is to get the word out to people, and I think that’s the key in terms of conservation.

Interviewed by Giacinta Pace, NBC News

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