Hollywood’s environmental elite, including Robert Redford, Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio, turned out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Resources Defense Council’s planet-saving efforts, toasting the organization’s accomplishments with organic wine to go along with a vegetarian menu at the dinner hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, raising $2 million in the process.

While the above celebs skipped schmoozing with the press, others were happy to talk with MNN about being green and the NRDC’s successes. “We’re cleaning up the water and the air with the help of the NRDC. In the last 20 years since they got involved good things have happened,” noted Ed Begley Jr. “There’s plenty of bad news on the environment but we’ve cleaned up the air to a great extent. We have four times the cars since 1970 but half the smog. The ozone hole is smaller. We’ve cleaned up a large amount of the Santa Monica Bay,” added Begley, who applauded the Obama administration’s eco-policies, including a $6,500 weatherization assistance allowance per household. “That’s immediate energy saved, quicker than solar panels or building wind turbines. It’s on the right path.”

Mad Men star Jon Hamm agreed, saying, “I hope the trend continues in the next four, hopefully eight years.” As an NRDC supporter, “it’s nice to be able to participate in the underdog’s fight against the big boys,” he noted. “There are a lot of options to take in your life and not be wasteful and selfish. If you put other people and the environment first instead of yourself, it’s a lot easier to make those decisions that decrease your impact on the environment.” Toward that end, Hamm and his girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) watch their consumption. “We don’t use a lot of air-conditioning. We open windows. We have a relatively small air-conditioning bill, and we’re trying to get it smaller every day. The fact that we’re in California and there have been a lot of initiatives put forth to do that is great. We’re trying to take advantage of that as much as we can.”

Rosanna Arquette (pictured right), the deejay for the event (Maroon 5 was the live entertainment), enumerated personal green initiatives that include using less plastic, conserving water as much as possible, buying local and organic produce, biking and walking instead of driving when she can and recycling -- her wardrobe. “These are old Prada,” she pointed to her feet. “We’re not spending two grand on shoes now. Those days are over, for me anyway!”

Gloria Reuben was on hand to support honoree Steven Bochco, who produces her show Raising the Bar, but she’s an environmentalist in her own right as a board member of the Waterkeeper Alliance. ”I’m very active in the cause of clean waterways around the world,” said Reuben, who unplugs idle appliances and totes reusable water bottles. “In Los Angeles we’re in our cars all the time and I live in New York and work here so I’m back and forth on a plane, which isn’t very green, but you do what you can do.”


Literary luminaries at the 14th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the UCLA campus included a fair amount of Hollywood types moonlighting as authors, appearing at panel discussions, speaker stages, and book signings to promote their would-be best sellers. Michael J. Fox spoke to a packed ballroom about his optimism despite living with Parkinson’s Disease, chronicled in his memoir Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. Brooke Shields read her picture book It’s the Best Day Ever, Dad! to kids. Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic author Alyssa Milano talked teams and stats with fellow fans, and Kristin Chenoweth signed almost as many Wicked and Pushing Daisies items as she did copies of her memoir, A Little Bit Wicked.

Candy and Tori Spelling appeared on separate days to promote their respective Stories from Candyland and Mommywood, and TV hosts Bob Barker and Tom Bergeron plugged their memoirs Priceless Memories and I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can. Bergeron shared a green tip, suggesting telecommuting whenever possible. “You can do a meeting on the phone and not drive 20 miles to get to a meeting that lasts a half hour. It saves a lot of damage to the ozone.” Animal welfare activist Barker offered a familiar reminder: “Have your pets spayed and neutered.”

Bergeron wasn’t the only Dancing with the Stars celeb author -- Cloris Leachman told hilarious (and often ribald) stories from her eponymous bio, and Sabrina Bryan (pictured left), co-author of Princess of Gossip, delighted little girls with readings and a Q&A. “I’m starting to be really cautious about picking up organic cosmetics and I’m creating a lot more plant life in my house,” she told MNN afterward. “I don’t have a garden because I live in an apartment, but I have plants on my patio and I’m carpooling a lot more.”

Yeardley Smith, best known as the voice of Lisa Simpson, also played to the younger set with a reading from her book I, Lorelei. The Prius-driving actress said she saves trees by using a sponge instead of paper towels.

Actress Heather Thomas is similarly concerned about tree conservation and went so far as to advise boycotting Kimberly Clark products. “They refuse to stop logging in the rainforests just to make toilet paper,” she declared at a signing for her new novel Trophies, about trophy wives and their competitive fundraising. “Make sure you only buy post-consumer recycled paper.”

Thomas has been an environmentalist ever since she was a high school student. One day she went to the beach and came home with tar on her feet, and she noticed that parks were disappearing to make way for housing developments. She’s been to Washington to lobby before Congress many times. “I’m going again next month about the toxins bill.”

Stay tuned for next week’s Ecollywood column. In the meantime, check out our Ecollywood videos