Global Green USA's 9th Annual Pre-Oscar Party brought eco-awareness to Hollywood on Feb. 23, drawing more than 1,200 people. The guest list brought many environmentally minded celebrities to the green carpet and an evening of entertainment by Sheila E., Evaline and The New Division.

With fundraising more difficult because of the depressed economy, this event is more vital than ever, according to Global Green President and CEO Matt Petersen. "It allows us to use the spotlight of Hollywood to shine a light on problems, but more importantly, the solutions: drive a clean vehicle. Live green. Vote green," he said, noting the importance of the latter in a presidential election year. "I'm not explicitly, as head of Global Green, backing any particular candidate but when you look at environmental issues the choice is clear who is going to be the best and who is not," he said, referencing candidates who are "in denial" about issues like climate change.

In an effort to spread awareness on the ground level, Global Green has launched initiatives involving schools and community activists, the former encouraging schools to plant gardens, clean air ducts, use less toxic materials and replace blackout shades with sun shades to cut glare and let in natural light. "That saves money and electricity and test scores go up," said Petersen, adding that 230 schools entered a green school makeover contest won by the Texas School for the Deaf.

Another competition is now running at GlobalGreen.org to find "Citizen Entrepreneurs, local green heroes. We need to find the innovations and ideas, the people who are doing more than volunteering, unleashing their creativity to solve a problem. We'll have ten finalists and we're going to give the winner $1,000 for their project and the chance to go with me to Rio to the Earth Summit, and we're calling on President Obama to attend as well. They can nominate themselves or someone they know," elaborated Petersen, who sets a good green example: he drives a Prius and lives in a 900 square foot home with Energy Star appliances, and limits his water and electricity usage. "For me, less is more," he said.

Global Green Communications and Donor Relations Director Ruben Aronin gave us a pre-party tour, pointing out several electric bikes from Evolve Motorcycles, which donated a $55,000 "Tron"-inspired, neon-decorated custom model for auction, and introducing sponsors Gardein, which fed guests yummy meat-free fare, and Pureology, which set up a hairstyling station and offered samples of its sulfate-free products that come in 50 percent post-consumer plastic packaging that's 100 percent recyclable. VIP guests took home full-size bottles in a gift bag that also included a set of Office Depot highlighters made from recycled plastic.

Attendees were invited to have souvenir photos of themselves taken against a backdrop of melting Arctic ice, serving as a reminder of the serious issues the planet is facing. While "environmental legislation always seems to be the second tier, second to health care and jobs, we continue to fight the good fight and rally people to do what they can because that really does make a difference," said Aronin. "We are seeing transformations in our communities and that's where you can feel you're making progress."

Inside the Avalon Hollywood party space, HGTV designer ("Dream Home," "The Outdoor Room") Jamie Durie transformed the entire area into a lush garden. "I wanted to focus on a water-wise selection of plants, some native some succulents. I've dripped greenery everywhere — the chandeliers, the lighting rigs, the balconies," he said, pointing out bougainvillea, star jasmine and mandevilla, and topiaries on the dance ffoor. All the plants, including entryway green walls, were to be donated to a school in Brentwood, noted Durie, who just launched a new iPhone app called Jamie Durie Garden Design. "You punch in your ZIP code and we tell you the perfect plants for your area, the top 100," he said, "If all 73 million iPhone users use this app to put just 10 plants in the ground, we could reduce 730 million tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere."

Outside the venue, several 2012 Chevrolet Volt models were on display, and a dozen stars including Johnny Galecki and Adrian Grenier drove to the event in one of the electric cars that get the equivalent of 94 miles per gallon in electric mode and qualify for a car pool lane sticker and a $1,500 Clean Vehicle Rebate in California, which makes both economic and environmental sense. 

On the green carpet, "Spartacus: Vengeance" star Peter Mensah, who's in the market for a new vehicle, was impressed by the plug-in. "The Volt is really nice. Electric cars have a lot of pep. There's a whole market for it now, which is really nice," said Mensah, a long-time supporter of Global Green. "The message is both timely and necessary. It's about the fight for our global community, and I'm very happy to do whatever I can," he said. Though reluctant to give details, Mensah revealed that things on his "very intense show" "Spartacus" will "continue to ramp up" as the slave rebellion gains steam. He'll next join HBO's "True Blood" as Kibwe, a member of the vampire council. "The fan base is so adamant and fervent. I'm happy to be a part of it," he said.

"I drive a hybrid, turn off lights, use less water," said "Shameless" star Emmy Rossum, whose yellow frock by Oliver Tolentino (whose designs were featured in a fashion show at the event) was made from pineapple fiber and hemp. Maggie Grace ("Breaking Dawn") wore a similarly sustainable dress by the same designer, "but the most eco fashion I wear is vintage. I have a couple of shops I like in L.A. and I've been in Argentina for a few months and the vintage down there is amazing," she said.

At home, she fills a plastic bottle with sand and puts it in her toilet tank to reduce water usage, totes reusable grocery bags and water canteens, drives a hybrid, and bicycles whenever she can, benefiting from the exercise while reducing energy and emissions. She's noticed that more productions distribute scripts and drafts electronically, and regularly takes her own thermos and reusable lunch tray with her "so I don't have to use Styrofoam." Next on view in the April sci-fi action film "Lockout" with Guy Pearce, Grace (pictured left) will also appear in the indie "Decoding Annie Parker" and in "Taken 2," which she shot in Paris and Istanbul, where she did some shopping. "I got the requisite antique carpet," she said.

Dolphin activist Lincoln O'Barry ("The Cove") brought us up to date on everything he and his father Ric are doing to keep the plight of the cetaceans in the public eye, including turning a NASCAR car into a billboard at Daytona and holding a fundraiser called Night of the Dolphin on March 3 in L.A. On the positive side, "We're seeing the dolphin hunt in Japan wrap up early this year because there's less of a demand for bottlenose dolphins so fewer were killed. It's a start, but it won't be overnight like in the Solomon Islands, where we were able to end the slaughter. In Indonesia, we found that aquariums have been catching dolphins illegally, saying they're rescuing them. We've exposed it. But we were hoping to release the dolphins and that doesn't look like that will happen due to corruption in the government. It's just country by country — we're trying to win the fight."

Global Green board member and activist-adventurer Sebastian Copeland looked none the worse for wear after recently completing a 4,000-killometer, 82-day trek across Antarctica. "It's the purest type of environment you can find on the planet," said Copeland, calling it "sparse, untouched and inspiring," but difficult to say the least. "The temperatures averaged 35 below. I lost 32 pounds. Came back with a couple of frostbites and a couple of broken ribs," he reported, noting that on this third trek to the continent he traveled across the plateau at 12,000 feet, where it's very cold and unlike the coastal regions, lacking life of any kind. "There are no birds, no contrails from planes. Only frozen water and air." As he did at the North Pole, Copeland filmed the expedition for a documentary to be released next year. His next trip will be down the aisle, when he marries his fiancée Caroline in France this summer.

Tony Denison, who's segueing from "The Closer" to the spinoff "Major Crimes" on TNT this summer, keeps a five-minute timer in his shower and builds wood cat litter boxes that he donates to animal causes for auction. "They've sold for as much as $800," said the hobbyist carpenter, who plans to make several for the Humane Society, Best Friends and other nonprofits before starting work on the series in April. On the big screen, he'll star in "Trattoria" as a San Francisco restaurant owner who neglects his family. "He's completely lost sense of what's important in life," he said, adding that the film will likely make viewers hungry, "You'll definitely want to eat after watching this movie."

"I think it's important for all of us to do our part to keep this awareness alive. It's just so easy to forget about this cause in the world that moves as fast as it does," said fashion designer Randolph Duke, who tries to use eco-fabrics and ornamentation in his styles. "I think there's something cool about making an evening gown out of bamboo," said Duke, now building a sustainable home in Costa Rica. "It will look like a Mayan or Aztec ruin but have modern dynamics and amenities, like cooling systems," he said.

For actress-singer Maria Conchita Alonso, the pressing environmental concern is rain forest destruction. "They're doing a lot of harmful things in Brazil," she said, explaining that while clearing trees for roads and development provides jobs, "it's destroying the rain forest and the air that we breathe." Getting ready for a run of concerts in Mexico, Alonso will next be seen in the Rob Zombie horror movie "Lords of Satan."

Performers The New Division, an electronic dance music group based in California, keep their carbon footprints relatively low by touring locally in their own fuel-efficient cars. "Aside from electricity to run our electronic equipment, we have no waste," said band member Janzie. They're currently writing the follow up to "Shadows," out now.

Sophia Bush ("One Tree Hill"), who's concerned about conservation and the planet's dwindling water resources, had a brief but succinct bit of advice that summed up the evening's message perfectly. "Take care of your planet," she said. "It's the most important thing you can do."

Photos: Alexandra Wyman (Mensah), Jeff Vespa (Grace, Petersen, Durie)

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