What comes to mind when you think of royalty? Luxurious palaces, the Queen of England, and overused puns on Marie Antoinette’s infamous one-liner?
How about chemical-free gardens, recycling, and sustainable seafood? Ruling families from around the globe are using their media magnetism and sovereign sway to draw attention to a variety of eco-causes, fighting climate change, greening their homelands, and making sure all that cake we’re eating is organic too.
1. Prince Charles of England
An outspoken proponent of fighting climate change, Prince Charles has an across-the-board interest in environmental issues. He’s advocated for tropical rainforest preservation through The Prince’s Rainforests Project and brought attention to the rapid depletion of global fish stocks. After moving to the Highgrove country estate in Gloucestershire three decades ago, the prince took interest in back-to-basics farming and converted the Home Farm from conventional to organic food production. Deciding that this sustainable farming thing was a brilliant idea, he started Duchy Originals in 1992 to sell organic and sustainably produced goodies, from British tea classics to organic hair and body products.
2. Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan
Princess Basma has earned a long list of awards and honors for her efforts to bring environmental issues into the limelight in Jordan. After becoming one of the first women in her country to earn navy diving certification, Princess Basma saw firsthand the damage that human waste and neglect have taken on the delicate coral reefs of Jordan’s Red Sea coast. This inspired her to form the Jordan Royal Ecological Diving Society, which is focused on conserving Jordan’s marine areas and educating citizens about the impacts of their activities on marine life. She also founded the Royal Botanic Garden, preserving the wide array of plants native to Jordan for generations to come. In recognition of these and many more initiatives, Princess Basma was honored with a spot on the U.N. Environment Program’s Global 500 Roll of Honor.
3. Prince Albert II of Monaco
The website of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation declares that sustainability and protecting the environment are challenges that require “urgent and concrete action,” and Prince Albert II tries to walk the talk, implementing sustainable practices in his own country and urging the world to do likewise. Monaco hosted the second international Ocean in a High-CO2 World symposium last October, during which the Monaco Declaration [PDF] on ocean acidification was drafted, calling for nations of the world to take immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions and thereby prevent damaging changes to ocean chemistry. Prince Albert wrote a foreword to the declaration, urging political leaders to get with the program. Recently, he called for removal of the over-fished bluefin tuna from the menus of all restaurants in the United Kingdom (it’s already off all menus and shelves in Monaco). He has also promoted energy efficiency as a way to combat climate change. For efforts such as these, the U.N. named him a Champion of the Earth in 2008.
4. Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco
As president of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of Environment, Princess Lalla Hasnaa has worked toward the revival of green spaces, better water management, and sweeping environmental education initiatives in Morocco. Cleaning up beaches, urging young people to report on environmental issues, and improving air quality are all in a day’s work for this green princess. She says her “heart as a mother and as a Moroccan” is “worried when thinking that our sons and daughters do not have the right to live in a country respecting nature and its beauty.” Thanks to her good work, all of Morocco’s kids might inherit a greener nation.
Photo: Andrew Smith Lewis5. Princess Takamado of Japan
An avid bird enthusiast, Princess Takamado has championed the cause of avian conservation through her honorary presidency of BirdLife International, urging kids to get involved in the world of bird watching and establishing the Asia Bird Fund. In addition to her efforts on behalf of our feathered friends, she has spread the word about fragile ocean and Arctic environments through Lulie the Iceberg, a picture book for children about a breakaway iceberg’s adventure from the Arctic to Antarctica–complete with a companion musical score featuring famed cellist Yo Yo Ma.
6. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of Thailand
A chemist and medical researcher, Princess Chulabhorn has focused on genetic toxicology and the chemistry of natural products, studying, among other things, the health risks that air pollution poses to traffic police in Bangkok. She founded the International Center for Environmental and Industrial Toxicology, which was designated by the U.N. Environment Program as “a Center of Excellence,” and the Chulabhorn Research Institute, which trains scientists and searches for solutions to problems related to the environment, agriculture, and health. In 2002, she was awarded the Environmental Mutagen Society Hollaender International Fellowship [PDF]. She has served as a special adviser to the U.N. Environment Program and was named by the U.N. to direct the Center of Excellence for Environmental and Industrial Toxicology.
7. Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan
A supporter of the DESERTEC Foundation, which promotes massive solar power projects in North Africa, Prince Hassan (brother to Princess Basma) is a staunch advocate of clean, renewable energy. He delivered a swift kick (ahem) to fossil fuels by declaring that they are “a threat to our natural living conditions.” Last year he gave a speech [PDF] before the United Nations General Assembly explaining how environmental issues relate to human security. For his efforts on behalf of the environment, this anti-petroleum prince was recognized as a 2007 Champion of the Earth by the U.N. Environment Program.
8. Queen Elizabeth II of England
Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth (mother of Prince Charles) planted a chemical-free vegetable garden on a patch of the Buckingham Palace grounds–land that hasn’t seen food production since the Victory Garden days of World War II. The queen has also expressed concerns about the effects of climate change on the poor and made the royal palaces more Earth-friendly by installing energy-efficient light bulbs and even a mini hydroelectric power plant for Windsor Castle.
9. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand
Princess Sirindhorn (sister to Princess Chulabhorn) has been involved in projects ranging from preserving the biodiversity of plant life in her country to improving water management. In an address on World Food Day in 2004, she spoke of how “biodiversity plays a key role in sustainable development and poverty alleviation.” Recently she visited the Heliocentris headquarters in Berlin to talk about the future of renewable energy.
Photo: Milton Correa 10. King Carl Gustaf of Sweden
What do you have in common with the King of Sweden? If you recycle, then you’d feel right at home in his private kitchen, separating your imperial plastics from your aristocratic cans. King Carl Gustaf attributes his love for the environment to time spent outdoors with his nature-loving mother, but was inspired to take action against climate change after a voyage on an icebreaker with international climate scientists in 2004. He has since installed a pellet-fired boiler at Drottningholm Palace and launched a campaign to raise global awareness about climate change, an effort that won him special recognition in the U.N.-HABITAT Scroll of Honor in 2006. The king reconciles his love for cars with his concern for the environment by advocating for alternative fuels.