Southern California will be a lot greener by 2012, thanks to a new initiative by the Environmental Media Association. With the help of EMA board members Daryl Hannah, Frances Fisher and Amy Smart, EMA chief Debbie Levin announced the Green Community Challenge, in which ten SoCal cities will strive to reduce their carbon footprints and set a new green standard for the state and municipalities nationwide via sustainable building, energy and transportation programs.

“Some cities are actually more sustainable than rural communities because they share heating, transportation, a water system — everything is condensed rather than spread out,” explained Hannah, who introduced the 10 cities’ mayors at the event on the Sony lot in Culver City. Although she dislikes the term green as it pertains to environmentalists, she has been living a sustainable life herself in Colorado for years, and thanks to solar panels, has been “off the grid for 18 or 19 years. If I have the ability to provide my own energy, why wouldn’t I? I run one car on biodiesel or straight veggie oil and I had the Trans Am from Kill Bill converted to run on 100 percent pure alcohol,” she added, noting that she plans to get an electric Phoenix truck as soon as it’s available.

The vegan actress (she shoots Eldorado in January, playing an angel) grows a lot of her own food, “and when I can’t there’s a really good farmers market I go to.” She plans to spend Thanksgiving at Animal Acres in Acton, Calif. “They do an Adopt a Turkey day — rather than slaughter a turkey you adopt a turkey and feed it, and they have a nice, big vegan dinner too.”

Fisher hasn’t been able to eco-remodel her house extensively because she rents, but does as much as she can otherwise. “I’ve had a Prius since they were born,” she told MNN. “I recycle, eat organic, go to farmers markets. I have so many canvas bags because I forget them and buy more. I give them away, too. The next house I’m in, I’d love to be off the grid,” said the actress, who has several films including The Perfect Game due in 2010. “I’d like to get a full filtered water system too, not just the tap. Our skin is our largest organ,” she pointed out. “When we wash our hair and take a shower, we’re putting pollutants right on our skin.”

***

Having grown up idolizing Jacques Cousteau and briefly studied marine biology before acting beckoned, Paul Walker (pictured right) was always interested in the mysteries of the oceans and its creatures, so signing on as a deckhand for National Geographic’s Expedition Great White was a dream come true. “I’ve seen and done a lot of really cool things, and I’ve never experienced anything quite like this, just the sheer awesomeness of a great white shark,” he says, though he admits with a laugh, “It’s put a damper on my surfing career.”

Premiering Nov. 16 at 9 p.m. as part of NatGeo’s second annual Expedition Week, the documentary follows a mission to catch a great white shark to install a tracking device and monitor its migration habits. “Sharks are an apex predator species and if their numbers are dwindling — it’s a pretty good indication of what’s going on in the ocean,” Walker explains. “They’re pretty easy to monitor because they’re at the top of the food chain and literally are at the surface of the water so they’re easy to count.”

Walker, who lives in Santa Barbara and often dives in the nearby Channel Islands, is on the board of the Billfish Foundation, which does similar tracking with marlins. “We’re going out on fishing trips but at the same time we’ve got satellites on them and taking DNA samples and releasing them,” notes the The Fast & The Furious star, who next plays a bank robber in the heist movie Takers, due out in February.

***

“We always put plastic bottles and plastics in the recycle bin. I ride my 10-speed bike when I can,” says Jim Caviezel (pictured left), who stars in AMC’s new version of the '60s cult classic series The Prisoner. Caviezel, who plays a man trapped in a mysterious village with no memory of how he got there or way to get out, had never seen the original with Patrick McGoohan but jumped at the chance to work with Sir Ian McKellen in the miniseries, which was shot in South Africa. “I always look at the material first, and this just blew everything out of the water that I was planning to do for the big screen,” he says. The Prisoner debuts Sunday night at 8 p.m. with the first two of six hours.

***

In addition to supporting eco-organizations like the National Resources Defense Council and Oceana, Johann Urb (pictured right) does his part at home. ”I’ve always been a big recycler. I also try to buy organic products and try to live a very clean life. I don’t throw trash on the ground,” says the Eastwick actor, on the big screen starting Nov. 13 as Sasha, a Russian pilot in the apocalyptic disaster flick 2012. Working with green screen — so digital effects could be added later — was a challenge. “You’ve got to visualize all the stuff that’s happening, but it was interesting and fun,” says Urb, who gets a different kind of satisfaction playing Will on Eastwick. “He’s a really good guy, always putting other people first. He doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t lie,” he notes. “He’s got the biggest heart.”

***

Tune in: the coal mining industry’s practice of mountaintop removal mining is changing the landscape of the Appalachian Mountains and raising a host of environmental, economic, social and health issues in West Virginia, as the documentary Coal Country depicts. It premieres Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. on Planet Green.

Read previous Ecollywood columns, check out our celeb section and watch Ecollywood videos.

Additional photo credits: Paul Walker Splash News; Jim Caviezel by Jason Kempin/Getty Images; Johann Urb by Gerri Miller. MNN homepage photo by D. Long/Globe Photos.