Getting free stuff and services isn't the only reason celebrities flock to the many gifting suites that pop up around L.A. leading up to big-time events like the Academy Awards. Most of them have charity partners and many also have eco-conscious elements and vendors to balance the conspicuous consumerism.
We made the rounds at five of them, starting with The Secret Room, which benefited the Humane Society (www.humanesociety.org). In addition to several skincare lines including paraben and petrochemical-free Atzen (www.atzen.com), organic and eco-farmed and packaged Eminence (www.eminenceorganics.com) and the vegan and toxin-free Hylunia (www.hylunia.com), jewelry was in abundance, with silver, gold and Swarovski crystal pieces from Lolo (www.lolo.ca), vintage-inspired baubles from Dallas Prince Designs (www.dallasprincedesigns.com), Portabella Jewelry's items made from recycled watch parts and other metals (www.portabellajewelry.com, where code 12OSCAR will get you 25% off through March 31) and Mujus' colorfully exotic pieces made from fallen tagua nuts from the Amazon rainforest (www.mujus.com). Also in the eclectic mix: designer tweezers from Arte Stile (www.artestile.ca), beachy fashions from Tiare Hawaii (www.tiarehawaii.com),) a glass pendant on a chain that opens into a pair of reading glasses from Blinks (www.blinksonline.com), homeopathic pain reliever Topricin (www.topricin.com) and Whitening Lighning teeth whitener (www.whiteninglightning.com).
At Roger Neal's Style Hollywood suite, benefiting SafetyHarborKids.org and AndyTransplantFoundation.org, we liked the modular magnetic jewelry from Ulinx (www.ulinxjewelry.com) and the necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets and pins from Chloe + Isabel (www.chloeandisabel.com) that actress Marcia Gay Harden loved. "Bridesmaids" star Wendi McLendon-Covey loved the colorful clutches from House of Minerva (www.houseofminerva.com), as did "The Artist's" Penelope Ann Miller.
Next stop was the GBK gift lounge, where the charity partners were The Worldteam Foundation against human trafficking (www.worldteamfoundation.org), the assault survivor support project Drawing Hope (www.drawinghope.org), the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation (www.sugarrayleonard.com), which raises funds to fight juvenile diabetes, and the HollyRod Foundation (www.HollyRod.org), for autism and Parkinson's disease, founded by Holly Robinson-Peete and her husband Rodney Peete.
"I love being a part of this," said Peete, who gave out bracelets and copies of her children's book "My Brother Charlie" and had celebs sign one copy that will be auctioned off. Some vendors took their own charity initiative, with TEI Spa (www.teispa.com) pledging to donate 5% from sales of its Oscar Gold spatula to a battered women's shelter, and GoFoods (www.gofoodsglobal.com), which makes kosher, lactose, soy and gluten free, natural and vegetarian products and donates one package for every ten sold.
Other food and drink items included Gorreana organic tea (www.gorreanatea.com), treats from vegan bakery Obsessive Confection Disorder (www.Obsessiveconfectiondisorder.com, designer caramel apples from Apple Revolution (www.apple-revolution.com), and our favorite, the Green Polka Dot Box (www.greenpolkadotbox.com), a natural and organic foods membership club offering 1500 products and fresh produce. A $50 annual membership gets you 60% off retail prices and free shipping on orders over $75 and a $125 Reward membership earns you discounts and points when you refer others who sign up.
Also on offer were i-Wipey antibacterial wipes for cell phones (www.i-Wipey.com), non-flattening My Pillow (www.mypillow.com), premium skincare from Ambe (www.ambe.net), KiwiFox (www.kiwifox.com) and Gilly's Organics, (www.gillysorganics.com), Ozonator produce-life-extending fridge device (www.ozonator.com), Tkaro glass thermoses (www.tkaro.com), and 'mobile closet' suitcases from Max Mirani (www.MaxMirani.com, now offering $100 off with code ACADEMY100 through March 31).
Vani-T cosmetics (www.vani-t.com) promoted the "eco-glamour" of its natural and organic, toxin and preservative free line that comes in recycled and recyclable packaging, and Lumeria Maui (www.lumeriamaui.com) gifted celebs with a stay at its eco-friendly retreat. The Artisan Group (www.theartisangroup.org) presented items from its collective of crafters, including flowers made from old sheet music and purses crocheted from plastic grocery bags. For jewelry fans, there were stone pieces from Made in Earth (www.mieusa.com), beaded necklaces made in Guatemala from Chick Boss (www.chickboss.com) and Karen McClintock (www.karenmcclintock.com), whose crystal beaded drop earrings caught the eye of Teri Polo, who picked them as her favorite along with the TEI Spa products and Milena's soy candles (www.milenasboutique.com).
Polo, who'll next star in a "really sweet and heartwarming" Hallmark Channel movie called "Christmas Heart," playing the mother of a boy who needs a heart transplant, raved about her Ford Escape hybrid that makes her "feel like I'm doing something" for the environment.
"CSI's" Eric Szmanda, is similarly enamored of his new BMW X5 turbo diesel. "It's a great car. It gets better gas mileage and burns cleaner," he said, noting that he put solar panels on his house and installed a tankless water heater. At "CSI," he's thrilled that Elizabeth Shue has joined the cast. "I've always been a big fan of hers and I was so excited when I heard she was joining her show and even more excited when I got to work with her. She's just a genuinely nice person and I think she's doing a great job," he said. He hopes to do a film or play during his hiatus, but if that doesn't happen he'll visit family and may go to Europe.
We also caught up with "Royal Pains" star Reshma Shetty, who shot an upcoming episode of "Grey's Anatomy," playing an accountant, and did some travel and promotion on her break from the USA medical show, which she resumes filming next month for the third season, set to premiere this summer. "I love the charity aspect of it," she said of the gift suite, and outlined her eco-practices. "I always recycle. I've started to take my own bags to shop, and we have filtered water so I don't need a lot of bottles."
At Debbie Durkin's Eco Oscars, Dennis Haysbert, who has solar panels on his roof at home, told us about the three films he has awaiting release. "I just finished 'Welcome to the Jungle,' playing the CEO of a design company. 'LUV' will be out sometime in the fall, I play a villain in that one, and in 'The Details,' coming out in the summer, I play a former basketball player who got injured and has to take odd jobs, and is the beneficiary of Tobey Maguire's karma."
Haysbert (pictured at top) liked the stevia-sweetened energy drinks from Oxy Water (www.oxywater.com) at the event, where the charities included Say Yes to Hope, supporting livertumors.org and the Fur Fitness Foundation for pet obesity awareness (www.furfitnessfoundation,org). Sonas jeans (www.sonasdenim.com), which makes 35% of its line from reclaimed denim, donates 10% of its sales to animal rights causes, and Huggrz (www.huggrz.com, a line of knit, feather, fur and fringe wraps for boots, will donate 25% of online sales to the event's charity partners when you use the code OSCARS.
Other products included plush blankets in six sizes from Minky Couture (www.minkycouture.com), preservative-free skin care and cosmetics in eco-friendly packaging from DMademoiselle (www.dmademoiselle.com), foldable ballet flats and sneakers from Solz (www.solzshine.com), which will soon add a solar backpack to its line, and a big assortment of natural cleaning products from Shaklee (www.shakleegetclean.com).
The Alive! Expo Green Pavilion partnered with Fortunate Angels (www.fortunateangels.org) and the nonprofits Safety Harbor Kids, Only You Can Save Energy (www.onlyyoucansaveenergy.org), Project Green (www.projectgreen.org) and Fashion Hope (www.fashionhope.org) to present live entertainment and products with an eco flavor. Diamond Girl bracelets (www.diamondgirlmediala.com) was donating sales of its bracelets to Project Green, and Insta Foods International promoted its Kids Feeding the World initiative (www.kidsfeedingtheworld.org). Even the lounge area was eco-friendly. BohMod (www.bohmod.com) provided hemp and remnant fabric covered furniture filled with no-waste foam.
Photos: Tiffany Rose