14 Green Couples
It seems everyone’s going green these days — but some couples are doubly committed to the cause. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we take a look at 14 prominent pairs who share a certain planetary passion.
Brad and Angie
Yes, the ever-expanding footprint of this family might raise a few eco-eyebrows, but they make up for it by, oh: green-rebuilding New Orleans, funding a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia to the tune of $5 million, narrating a PBS series on green design, supporting Haiti’s Clean Streets Project, partnering with an eco-cosmetics company to raise funds for charity, and buying an organic winery (OK, that one’s a glittery indulgence). Angie reportedly ate organic to get back into shape after having the twins, and buys bamboo pants for her kidlets too! How do we get adopted?
Photo: Jerry Bauer
Michael Pollan and Judith Belzer
Let’s say you’re the country’s leading voice on food politics and sustainable agriculture. Wouldn’t it be convenient if your life partner were not, say, a PR flack for Big Ag, but a landscape painter? Indeed it would, which is why it’s lovely that Michael Pollan is married to Judith Belzer. The college sweethearts, who met in 1974, have pursued their overlapping passions through a 22-year marriage, several moves, and Pollan’s rise to fame. No slouch herself, Belzer landed solo exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston while Pollan kept himself busy writing eye-opening titles like Omnivore’s Dilemma. As she wrote in one artist’s statement, “No one view of nature prevails because nature itself — not just the observer — is constantly changing.”
Portia and Ellen
Amiable talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is, along with her partner Portia de Rossi (also known as “Really? Wow, good for her!”), raising awareness of a lifestyle that’s often marginalized by the mainstream. Yeah, we’re talking about veganism. After celebrating their marriage last year with a vegan ceremony, the two have apparently converted to a 100 percent vegan diet. De Rossi is designing a vegan shoe line, and DeGeneres promotes vegan companies on her show. Over the years, she’s also hosted eco-guests ranging from Al Gore to a six-year-old recycler from Columbia, S.C. Plus, did you see her dance with Obama? Maybe teh veganz are OK after all.
Ed Begley and Bill Nye
No, they’re not technically a couple. But thanks to their neighborly eco-spats, the actor and science guy have become nearly inseparable — in the media, at least. Taking the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” to fierce new heights, Ed and Bill have made improvements to their respective homes that include solar panels, rain barrels, and recycled-milk-jug fencing — and broadcast their story every step of the way, to outlets ranging from USA Today to PBS. Skinny white homeowners unite!
Eddie Vedder and Kelly Slater
Another eco-bromance we’re wild about: the sun-and-fun-and-sustainability relationship between musician Vedder and pro surfer Slater. Besides frequently catching waves together, the two pair up to raise big bucks for reef protection and environmental awareness through the Kelly Slater Foundation. Vedder, in between songs at a benefit show for the foundation last year, explained his motivation: “Half of every song I’ve ever written was written in the ocean, so that’s sort of my way of giving back.”
Erykah Badu and Jay Electronica
Soulful singer Badu, who’s been a vegetarian for 20 years, converted to veganism two years ago and has taken her family along for the ride; in one interview, she referred to her children as “vegan vegetarians, organic babies from birth.” Her charity organization, Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development (BLIND), focuses on building culture and community in her hometown of Dallas; in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she sponsored programs for young evacuees. On top of it all, Badu and her rapper boyfriend tweeted the birth of their child this month — think of all the paper they saved on birth announcements.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Margaret Kirkpatrick
The dreamily progressive, bow tie-sporting Congressman from Oregon is known for his vocal support of sustainable development, energy efficiency, clean water, and public transportation. His contagious enthusiasm has convinced fellow pols to join the 160-member Congressional Bicycle Caucus, which he founded upon being elected in 1996. And his wheel-vangelism apparently extends to his personal life: His wife “frequently bikes to work,” he told Outside Magazine last fall. Her job? She’s an environmental lawyer and VP at Northwest Natural Gas Co., vice chair of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, and co-chair of the American Wind Energy Association Siting Committee. Now that’s a power couple.
Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton
When the actress and her playwright husband took over as artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company in 2007, they made greening the facility a priority. While it’s no small undertaking, the pair has made some headway — printing brochures on carbon-neutral paper and reviewing the waste-management contract — and still hopes to undertake a massive solar installation and water-system overhaul. The couple reportedly put $1.5 million into eco-renovations at their own home in Sydney, and Blanchett has been involved with Earth Hour and the Walk Against Warming. “As I see it,” she said in a 2008 interview with Marie Claire, “there’s no greater challenge we face as a species than dealing with climate change and its effects.”
Laura Dern and Ben Harper
The eco-leanings of this actress-rocker duo seem to have expanded with the addition of their two children, now 6 and 3. Dern is an active spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, spreading the word about household toxics and how to avoid them. The two drive a hybrid (OK, two hybrids); Harper has also been spotted bike-hauling his daughter home from school. On the road, he tours in a biofuel bus, and his most recent CD was packaged entirely in recyclable materials. As committed as he is, Harper admits that his spouse leads the green charge, and told one interviewer, “She’s my environmental hero.”
Brian and Nancy Schweitzer
As governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer has earned kudos for his ability to address environmental issues without sounding like some kind of — how to put this? — East Coast weenie. Since being elected in 2004, the gun-lovin’ former rancher has hit the national scene by talking up clean energy and staring down climate change. Back at home, he and his wife, both scientists by training, have launched an initiative to get the state’s children engaged in science, both in school and through programs like roadside signs, trading cards, and a youth forest monitoring program.
Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith
There’s more to this green couple than their splashy Golden Globes arrival in a hydrogen-powered Beamer. The former James Bond met his future wife, an environmental journalist, while participating in an eco-campaign in Mexico. Since then, they’ve been actively involved in marine conservation, as well as fighting a proposed salt factory in Baja California and the LNG terminal off of Malibu. The couple has donated money and time to several green groups over the years, and taught their kids to compost. “I continue to be a student of the world,” Brosnan told [PDF] Bon Appetit last year when asked how he got interested in eco-causes — then listed his wife among the people who inspire him.
Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp
The couple bared all in 2007’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, in which they chronicled a year of growing and locally sourcing food for themselves and their two daughters. But the book was no dilettantish dip into the eco-well. Kingsolver’s best-selling novels feature natural themes, and Hopp is an environmental studies professor with a vireo fixation. The “Hoppsolvers,” as they’ve jokingly referred to themselves, moved from Arizona to their farm in Virginia to escape the eco-unreality of a desert existence. They continue to blog about life on the farm, and retain a down-to-earth attitude. As Kingsolver puts it, “I’m sort of allergic to sanctimony.”
Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
Their eco-efforts first struck us as modest: Yeah, Jennifer was spotted shopping at a farmers’ market. OK, Ben dressed up as an ear of corn for a flex-fuel film! (Don’t watch it. Seriously, you can’t get that 5:31 back.) And fine, Jennifer and Ben made PSAs for Live Earth. But then we read that The Dimpled One campaigned against former California Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006. “Our fight to unseat Richard Pombo is … a fight for the ecological preservation of the United States,” Garner said at the time. “It’s a fight for the world I want my little girl to inherit.” Yes! Only now it’s little girls, plural — congrats, you sorta-committed cuties.
Michael and Mary Brune
As executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, Mike Brune has helped convince major companies including Home Depot and Goldman Sachs to change their business practices, protecting millions of acres of rainforest along the way. On the Huffington Post and in his recent book Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal, he works to raise awareness about energy and conservation. Meanwhile, Brune’s wife Mary is an activist in her own right: she co-founded and is the director of Making Our Milk Safe, a member organization created in 2005 to raise awareness about industrial pollutants in breastmilk. The Brunes live in California with their two children; after having the first, Mary remarked that “we hope that she’ll be one more soldier on the front lines who’s going to fight for the Earth when she grows up.” With genes like this, the chances seem good.
Also, read about six couples who turned their eco-love into an eco-venture …
Bono and Ali Hewson
In 1975, Paul Hewson met a girl and joined a band. The girl would become his wife; the band, U2. Over the years, the eco-causes taken up by Bono and Ali Hewson have included anti-nuclear activism, poverty and AIDS relief, and fair trade. In 2005, they launched EDUN, an eco-clothing line whose goal is to support sustainable business in the developing world.
Courtesy of New Belgium
Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan
We love a good love story, especially when it involves beer. In the early 1990s, Lebesch and Jordan turned a curiosity about amateur ale-making into New Belgium Brewing, the county’s fifth-largest craft brewer. The company is partially wind-powered, makes organic varieties, and gives bikes to its employees. Before going commercial, the Colorado couple hiked into the Rockies to write their mission statement; one of the 10 items is “honoring nature at every turn of the business.”
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
The co-creators of the Forum on Religion and Ecology, an international, multifaith organization that explores the connections between faith and environment, are giving voice to a key constituency in the green conversation. The Yale-based brains have edited several books on ecology and spirituality; Tucker is also a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment at the United Nations Environment Program.
Photo: Bart Nagel
Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson
Seventeen years ago this month, Gary Erickson debuted a snack that became a household name: the Clif Bar. He and his wife, who both grew up camping and hiking, now serve as CEOs of the company; they count “sustain the planet” as one of the five tenets of their business. Now living in Napa Valley with their children, they’ve branched out into the wine business, with a focus on organic and sustainably farmed grapes.
Photo: Ode Magazine
Jurriaan Kamp and Helene de Puy
This Dutch duo co-founded Ode magazine in the mid-1990s, with an eye toward telling the other side of the news — the side that shows social, environmental, and economic promise. Since then, their publication for “intelligent optimists” has found an audience of 100,000, and in 2004, they moved to California to launch a U.S. version. Recent topics have ranged from green search engines to sustainable banking.
The Green Couple
OK, it’s not exactly a business, but we couldn’t resist: these kids are young and in love — and in love with the planet. The self-dubbed Green Couple blogs from the heartland to show others that it’s possible to care for each other and the earth without spending a ton of money or getting overwhelmed. NSFW, but only if your boss doesn’t like hope and earnestness bleeding from the page.