Ecollywood: American Idol contestants embrace environment
We hit the 'American Idol' red carpet and got the scoop on who's green. Plus: Videos with Mariel Hemingway and Jesse James.
Thu, May 28, 2009 at 05:52 AM
SINGING A HIGH NOTE: The two 'American Idol' finalists, Adam Lambert (left) and Kris Allen (center), were give Ford Fusion hybrids. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for FOX)
Kris Allen may have won the American Idol title, but both he and Adam Lambert won a new set of wheels from show sponsor Ford, a Fusion hybrid. When I asked both post-show how they liked it, they gave it rave reviews. “The Fusion is beautiful. It’s so whisper quiet,” marveled Lambert, who’s “working on” being more green these days. As for Allen, he loves his new car. “It’s really quiet -- I didn’t even know it was on. I’m really excited about it, and my wife is even more excited about it than I am,” said Allen, who’s also been making greener endeavors. “I try to be very eco-friendly…little ways.”
At least two of the American Idol finale guest performers are doing their eco-part as well. Queen Latifah, who teamed with Lil Rounds on “Cue the Rain,” got her local New Jersey sanitation department to provide recycling services. “I’m so used to recycling here in L.A., but my town in New Jersey didn’t have a recycling program,” Latifah told MNN on the red carpet. I had to call, ‘We need a recycling bin!’ At least I don’t have to put a bunch of plastic in the landfill,” she said.
Jason Mraz (pictured right), who performed “I’m Yours” with contestants Alexis Grace and Anoop Desai, has a very green home. “I became environmentally aware when I bought a house and had my own patch of earth to care for,” Mraz told me. “I started to notice the trash and the amount of waste and the energy I was consuming. This year I went full out and went solar -- everything runs on solar energy,” said Mraz, who also composts for his garden. “We feel that our little piece of the earth is well and if that can rub off on my neighbor or people who ask me about it, great.”
At the pre-show arrivals, several former Idol contestants shared their thoughts on green living. “I’ve always been a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ kind of guy, from when I was growing up and I haven’t stopped,” said Blake Lewis. He refuses to give up his muscle car habit, “but I try to be as friendly as possible to the environment,” says the season six runner-up, whose second album is due Oct. 6. Like Lewis, Kimberley Locke was working the carpet as an online correspondent, and is also a dedicated recycler. “I think a hybrid car is going to be my next vehicle,” noted the season two contestant, now working on her third album. “Honda’s got a really cute one, but I do like the Prius.” Season five’s Mandisa is conscientious about turning off electronics and not using plastic bags. “I take my own bags to the grocery store now,” she said.
With pages of seasonal recipes based on organic, local ingredients and free of gluten and sugar, all beautifully illustrated, Mariel Hemingway’s new cookbook Mariel’s Kitchen will entice eco-minded cooks. To Hemingway, “The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s truly where it all starts,” she said at a book signing at L.A.’s Intuition boutique. Writing it “was so natural for me, because I love food, the outdoors and farmers markets,” she confided. “I grew up in a foodie household and I raised my kids that way.” She shops almost every day for the freshest ingredients. “I believe in the European way of buying what you’re making that day. It’s just a healthier way to go about it.”
About to market her Blisskit cookies (included in the book) for retail sale at Target, with a vegan version to come, and possibly ice cream after that, Hemingway is thinking about her next book, which may be about creating a green business and reinvention in midlife. She’s developing a green/holistic living talk show and will be part of Bravo’s upcoming Secret Life of the Supermodels, and she’ll make the most of it. “I’m just going to shamelessly push everything else that I’m doing,” she laughs.
The owner of a dozen motorcycles who thrives on the thrill of burning fuel, Jesse James doesn’t seem very green. But the multi-tattooed bike builder is more eco-friendly than meets the eye. “My lifestyle is racing and having fun and burning race gas so I try to balance it out. I have a Chevy truck with a big engine in it and I have a Smart Car that gets like 40 [mpg],” says James, who recycles and uses CFL bulbs at home. He also bought Cisco Burger, the “greasy burger place” next to his West Coast Choppers custom shop in Long Beach, California and greened it up. “It’s 65% solar powered -- I realized I could panel the roof and save a ton of money on the refrigeration bill. All the packaging is biodegradable and everything is recyclable. There’s no drive-thru because we didn’t want 20 cars sitting there in line. The beef is organic and hormone-free, and we get it from a local butcher. It’s fresh, never frozen. It’s really good-tasting fast food.”
James’ wife, actress Sandra Bullock, “eats there with me,” he says, but she won’t be watching his latest TV venture, the Spike TV series Jesse James is a Dead Man (debuting May 31, 10 PM), in which the Monster Garage and Celebrity Apprentice veteran attempts a variety of fuel-driven stunts. “She doesn’t want to know what I’m doing. She just wants to know that I’m going to come home safe,” says James, who works out five days a week to condition his body and takes all the necessary safety precautions in attempting to ride a 1000-horsepower Nitro bike or driving in the grueling Baja 1000 road rally. “I love finding my threshold of fear and physical endurance,” he says. “If you don’t push yourself and find out what your limit is you might as well just fold up your tent and split.”
From animation maven Mike Judge (King of the Hill) comes The Goode Family, an ABC summer series skewering political correctness, including the often-misguided efforts of a family to be good -- and eco-conscious. “It’s just funny to see them try so hard n a world where the rules are changing,” says Judge. ‘It’s not that we’re attacking people who are trying to do good,” adds executive producer John Altschuler. “We just see how trapped and hilarious it is.”
Nancy Carell, wife of The Office star Steve Carell, was drawn to the role of wife and mom Helen because it made her laugh and didn’t take her away from her family. In animation, “you work about four hours a week,” explains Carell, who wants to “do good” in real life as well. She drives a Toyota Highlander hybrid, but acknowledges room for improvement. “Solar energy might be a good start,” she says. The Goode Family premiered this week. For more on the show, listen to MNN’s audio interview with Altschuler.
A motley crew of moderately famous folk including model Janice Dickinson, actor Stephen Baldwin, American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar, Hills newlyweds Heidi and Spencer Pratt, and NBA vet and Best Damn Sports Show co-host John Salley are about to be dropped into the Costa Rican jungle for the NBC reality stunt called I’m a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here! Salley isn’t sure his athletics background will provide an advantage, but thinks his vegan diet may help. “I can show you what the raw diet will do for your body. I’m going in with all green products if they’ll let me. I’ll show that you can be part of the environment.”
Salley went vegetarian in 1991 and vegan last July. “I don’t eat anything that has the right to live,” he says, noting a great byproduct of his diet change: He slimmed down within three pounds of his playing weight of 25 years ago. He’s working on getting solar power for his home and plans to buy a biodiesel car. “I watched the documentary Fuel and I decided I’ve got to have one.”
I’m a Celebrity… premieres June 1 at 8 PM. Also on TV, scientists search for indoor toxins in the Australian home makeover show Is Your House Killing You?, premiering on Sundance Channel on June 2 at 9:30 PM. Survivor and Eco-Challenge producer Mark Burnett sends four adventurers in the footsteps of explorer Henry Morgan Stanley on his search for Dr. Livingstone in Expedition Africa, debuting on History Channel May 31 at 10 PM.
Stay tuned for next week’s Ecollywood column. In the meantime, check out our Ecollywood videos.
(Photos: Jason Mraz by Jason Merritt/Getty Images; John Salley by Paul Drinkwater/NBC)