Wealth and fame come with their fair share of rewards, but also responsibilities. Recently, more and more celebrities are pausing to take an introspective look at their carbon footprint, or how their lifestyle can pollute. Yet while many celebrities are quick to encourage fans to take action, their own carbon output requires some examining.
25. Emma Watson – 15.1 tons of CO2
Emma Watson is an outspoken environmental advocate and activist. For example, she wore only recycled materials to her promotion of Beauty and the Beast. However, the deeper reality is that the current United Nations spokeswoman ranks among the top ten celebrities with the largest carbon dioxide emissions.
These recorded emissions are due to Watson’s traveling, both for pleasure and for work. In 2017, she flew a total of 14 times, over a distance of 42,253 miles, and her carbon footprint was three times that of the average Brit. That being said, the former Harry Potter star seems to be flying in part to help the UN achieve its 17 global goals, like ending extreme poverty and fighting inequality.
24. André Schürrle – 18.3 tons of CO2
Footballer André Schürrle enjoyed possibly the most glorious moment in his career in 2014, during the FIFA World Cup’s final match between Germany and Argentina. During that game, the German athlete was responsible for the assist that gave teammate Mario Götze the opportunity to score the game-winning goal.
Schürrle hasn’t been relegated to just playing on German teams however — he’s been scouted and recruited by teams across Europe, including England and Russia. It seems as though it’s this traveling that has put the star soccer player on the list of largest celebrity carbon footprints, with his frequent airplane travel generating an output of 18.3 tons of carbon dioxide.
NEXT: That’s right, them too! Even these celebrities are responsible for a larger-than-average carbon footprint.
23. Felix von der Laden – 29.6 tons of CO2
Felix von der Laden is a German YouTube blogger and traveler with over three million subscribers. Originally his personal channel began as a video game stop for game play and reviews. But von der Laden has since evolved the channel to incorporate him and his friends as they travel, sometimes purchasing luxurious items.
While he’s relatively unknown in the United States due to all his videos being in German, Felix von der Laden’s lavish travels have put him on the radar of the environmental scientists from Sweden’s Lund University. According to them, the YouTube blogger and traveler has a carbon footprint of 29.6 metric tons from flying alone.
22. Meg Whitman – 379.3 tons of CO2
When Meg Whitman joined eBay as CEO in 1998, the company had 30 employees and was earning $4 million in revenue. Ten years after having her at the helm, and eBay had evolved to a 15,000 person company with revenues approaching $8 billion.
While not a Hollywood star, Whitman was nonetheless making front pages after her attempted campaign for Governor of California in 2010. She has since returned to the spotlight after it was revealed in 2017 that the businesswoman’s busy lifestyle, including numerous hours spent in the air, meant that she had a carbon footprint of 379.3 tons of carbon dioxide.
21. Mark Zuckerberg – 485.1 tons of CO2
A key revolutionary in changing the face of social media after dropping out of Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg has been the founder and CEO of Facebook since 2004, when he was just 20 years old. In the past few years, Zuckerberg has tried to funnel his business success towards environmental sustainability, promising to commit Facebook to a sustainable energy output.
Additionally, in 2015 Zuckerberg, along with Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and others, agreed to form a coalition of business leaders investing in clean energy. That being said, the Facebook founder is also a frequent flyer, and has a relatively large carbon footprint of 485.1 tons of carbon dioxide. This is after having flown for 65,888 miles in 2017.
20. Oprah Winfrey – 615 tons of CO2
In March 2019, self-improvement guru and television dynamo Oprah Winfrey wrote a story for her magazine, O, about why the environment is what she values most in life. In it, Winfrey recalled the iconic 1968 photo of Earth from space, known as Earthrise: “How small we must have appeared. How fragile our existence. How enormous our potential. How much we all take it for granted.”
While the environment seems to be close to the heart of this media mogul, the reality is that Winfrey is listed as one of the highest celebrity carbon emitters. Flying about 83,356 miles a year releases a lot of exhaust, and Winfrey was recorded at having a carbon footprint of 615.6 ton of carbon dioxide from those flights.
19. Jennifer Lopez – 1,051 tons of CO2
Beyond her work in film and music, singer, actress, and fashion icon Jennifer Lopez (aka J. Lo) is known more for has found time to work in environmentalism as well. She’s become the face of Niyama Sol, a sports clothing company that has discovered a way to produce athletic wear out of recycled plastic.
As environmentally-friendly as this invention is, it might not be enough to compensate for Lopez’s flying habits. Lopez was recorded by Lund University as having a rather large carbon footprint, producing 1,051 tons of carbon dioxide in 2017. Keep in mind that this is only from flying: Lund doesn’t count J. Lo’s vehicles, properties, or other holdings.
18. Paris Hilton – 1,260 tons of CO2
Celebrity, socialite, DJ, and businesswoman, it seems like Paris Hilton, granddaughter of Hilton Hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton, can do it all. But her business ventures have a price that goes beyond dollars. Specifically, Lund University scientists ranked the well-known heiress as having a seriously high carbon footprint.
In 2017, Hilton flew a total of 171,346 miles, primarily by private jet, emitting over 1,260 tons of carbon dioxide that year. This is compared to the 20 metric tons the average American emits, according to MIT. That’s not to say that Hilton isn’t aware of the effects of environmental damage: in 2018 she posted a tweet saying, “This is earth. It’s hot. Don’t pollute.”
17. Bill Gates – 1,629.4 tons of CO2
Being billionaire co-founder of Microsoft put Bill Gates at number one on Forbes’ richest individual in the world nearly every year between 1995 to 2017. On the flip side, he also holds the distinction of having the largest carbon footprint of any celebrity, according to a group of Swedish scientists from Lund University.
Much of these carbon emissions are due to the use of his Bombardier BD-700 private jet. According to the Daily Mail, Gates flew this jet 59 times in 2017, traveling 213,130 miles on this “super jet,” which seats 19 passengers. All this produced a total of 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide, something Gates has acknowledged, calling the jet his “guilty pleasure.”
16. Jet-Setting Donatella Versace
Former CEO and current chief creative officer of the fashion company Versace, Donatella Versace has been sprucing up private jets and even larger private 747’s to the tune of 10 million and 100 million euros accordingly. A single 4-hour roundtrip on Donatella’s lavishly-designed private jet can emit 9.4 tons of carbon dioxide.
More recently though, the fashion mogul has begun to invest in more sustainable business practices. In a 2018 interview with L’Officiel, Donatella Versace revealed her plans for creating more environmentally-sustainable stores, as well as ending the company’s sales of furs. She believes these will serve as more responsible business practices.
15. Tom Cruise: “Emissions Impossible”
Tom Cruise isn’t just an action hero on set. When cameras stop rolling, the actor is known for his dramatic and heroic feats in real life as well. According to People Magazine, while sailing in a yacht with then-wife Nicole Kidman, Cruise saw another boat go up in flames, and rushed the yacht’s skiff over to rescue the passengers.
He might be a famous actor and a real-life hero, but it seems environmental groups might have a bone or two to pick with Tom Cruise. His ownership of three carbon-spewing private jets has caused the eco-lobby to dub him with the notorious moniker: “Emissions Impossible.”
14. David Beckham – Between 20-80 Metric Tons of CO2
Considered by numerous sources to be the best soccer player (or footballer if you’re from outside the US) of his generation, David Beckham first hit the field at age 17. From there he would go on to play in teams from around the world and become the first English player to win titles in four countries: England, Spain, US, and France.
In spite of teaming up with Prince William to launch a wildlife campaign aimed at ending poaching, Beckham has come under fire from environmentalists for frequently flying. In 2018, The Sun reported that he’d flown 30 luxury trips in the course of one year, and may be responsible for anywhere between 20-80 metric tons of carbon dioxide for flying that year alone.
13. Simon Cowell Prefers Food and Drink On a Private Jet
Former American Idol judge Simon Cowell is known for his wit accompanied by harsh, direct critiques of show participants. He is also an active participant for various charities, including PETA and the Wildlife Foundation. Not only that, but Cowell is an outspoken vegan, crediting his new diet with making him a better father.
Cowell is an avid flyer in his private jet, telling the BBC that he prefers the food and drink at 36,000 feet in the air. That being said, Cowell’s jet isn’t just for pleasure cruises. When he discovered an employee’s girlfriend was going into labor, he put him on the private jet back home to make sure he wouldn’t miss it.
12. Phillip Green Is A Frequent Flier
British billionaire and businessman Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green is the chairman of Arcadia Group, a multinational retail company headquartered in London. Although he’s originally from England, Green resides in Morocco. According to The Guardian, this means that in order to get from his home to his company’s 2,500 locations, he has to fly quite a lot.
That’s not to say that Green is only focused on flying. One of the companies owned by Arcadia Group, Topshop, is following suit with many other clothing companies, promoting what it calls an “ethical clothing range.” The company has doubled down on its new sustainable clothing line, telling The Guardian that the clothing has “the highest environmental standards.”
11. Leonardo DiCaprio Loves Big Yachts and Private Planes
In 2016, when Leonardo DiCaprio took home the Academy Award for Best Actor, he made sure to include in his acceptance a plea to fans to act against pollution. DiCaprio himself had already been active in such efforts, and The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has funded over 200 projects, donating over $100 million in grants.
In spite of his obvious passion for the environment, and the steps he’s already taken, the real story is a bit more complicated. According to The Daily Mail, DiCaprio regularly flies private, once traveling six times in six weeks in 2015. The year prior, DiCaprio famously sailed on the fifth largest yacht in the world.
NEXT: These celebrities have a lot to say about the environment, but can’t seem to find a lifestyle that follows suit.
10. James Cameron Is A Big Time Home Owner
Listed on Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world, James Cameron is a box office legend. His movies Avatar and Titanic, were the second and third highest-grossing films of all time. When not on set, Cameron can be found advocating for numerous environmental issues, encouraging a plant-based diet, and even designing his own solar panels, which look like sunflowers.
According to The Independent, Cameron once gave an interview during which he told the reporter that “we are going to have to live with less.” It seems like fans were a little skeptical of his proclamations: in 2010 a response video emerged, showing Cameron’s three adjacent Malibu homes, all with heated pools.
9. Sharon Osbourne Is Flying High Again (Privately)
Former America’s Got Talent judge and wife to metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne is an ardent advocate for a variety of issues, from eradicating cancer to poverty. According to the BBC, she is also known for enjoying a private jet ride or two with friend and colleague Simon Cowell.
The BBC also mentioned that the pair are well-known throughout London circles for allowing other celebrities to borrow their private jets. While it is unclear the percentage of global carbon emissions private jets are responsible for, according to The Independent, passengers of private jets emit ten times the amount of carbon dioxide.
8. Arianna Huffington Still Flying Private
Co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington appeared in 2014 beside fourteen other major business leaders, led by Sir Richard Branson, to call for a zero-emissions world by 2050. She has since started Thrive Global, a company aiming to prevent employee and employer “burn out” by encouraging basic habits like sleep and healthy eating.
Huffington has led a company initiative limiting emails, citing evidence that an average year of emailing can add .13 tons of carbon dioxide to one’s carbon footprint (the equivalent of driving 200 miles in a car). However, she’s been criticized for her own past lifestyle, particularly her use of a private jet, which can release up to 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide in just a three hour flight.
7. Woody Harrelson’s Hawaiian Habits
Woody Harrelson is an award-winning actor, best known for his much-praised roles in The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Less well-known is the actor’s dedication to the environment, and his company, Prairie Pulp and Paper, which aims at creating sustainable paper out of discarded wheat straw.
Though he’s taking great strides through his company, his career demands still make an ecological impact. Harrelson’s choice of residence in Maui, Hawaii means that a round-trip, first-class flight to California will add 4-5 tons of carbon dioxide to his carbon footprint, double if it’s a flight to New York.
6. Elon Musk’s SpaceX Comes At A Cost
Where does one begin with Elon Musk’s accomplishments? The inventor and entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of multiple companies, two of the most famous being Tesla and SpaceX. Tesla and its subsidiary, SolarCity, aim to reduce carbon emissions by making electric cars and solar energy much more available.
While Tesla may be saving the world from excessive carbon dioxide, SpaceX is releasing a notable amount. According to the Smithsonian, one launch of 3 Falcon 9 rockets releases the equivalent of 149 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of flying a private jet round trip from New York to Los Angeles 33 times. What’s more, SpaceX announced plans to launch one of these trios every two weeks.
NEXT: “I’ll start walking everywhere when they [my followers] start walking everywhere!” That’s an actual quote from an upcoming celebrity when asked about their lifestyle.
5. “Old Beardie” Richard Branson Is Also Shooting For the Stars
Sir Richard Branson, or “Old Beardie” as he is known among his friends, is a business magnate whose Virgin Group controls over 400 companies. One of those, Virgin Airlines, flies all over the world and Branson, a fierce advocate for environmental issues, has made investing in carbon-free flying a priority for his company.
Branson seems to have taken personal responsibility for the guilt many people feel while flying. In a Business Insider interview, he said that the onus was on companies to reduce their carbon footprint. However, recently-launched spaceflight company Virgin Galactic will likely use hundreds of thousands of gallons of rocket fuel and kerosene.
4. John Travolta And “Champagne Environmentalism”
Famous for films like Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Pulp Fiction, actor John Travolta makes no secret of his concern for the environment. In an interview with Time, Travolta encouraged fans to do their part in conservation. But readers were quick to point out a discrepancy between Travolta’s words and his actions.
As Travolta urged fans to “do their bit,” it was pointed out that the actor himself is the owner of not one, but five private jets. He had flown a total of 30,000 miles that year, resulting in a carbon footprint of 800 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This ‘do as I say and not as I do’ activism has been dubbed by The Guardian as “champagne environmentalism.”
3. Pharrell Williams And The Car Collection
In 2015, 10 time Grammy winner Pharrell Williams addressed a crowd of 1,000 young people at the United Nations, urging them to take action on environmental issues. Two years later, the rapper released his album 100 Years. One water-soluble copy was famously buried on the French coastline, the idea being that if sea levels rise further, the disk would be destroyed.
On the flip side, Williams has also agreed to do partnerships with companies like the denim clothing company GStar, where, according to the Carbon Disposal Project, manufacturing one pair of jeans produces 44 pounds of carbon emission. That’s the equivalent of burning 21 pounds of coal. Pharell’s collection of luxury sports cars also makes his carbon footprint much larger than average.
2. Harrison Ford, Air Force Of One
Harrison Ford is an accomplished actor, environmentalist, and aviation enthusiast. When not walking the red carpet, he works as the vice-chairman for the non-profit organization, Conservation International. Ford loves flying planes, and has had incredible results: in 2001, he was called in to help rescue a boy scout, and in 2018 he flew to the rescue again for a disoriented hiker.
In spite of his heroic actions, Ford’s flying had a dark side. After speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, the owner of seven airplanes was criticized for his carbon-heavy hobby. The Indiana Jones and Star Wars actor responded by telling his critics that he will “start walking everywhere when they start walking everywhere.” Guess nobody tells Han Solo what to do!
1. Matt Damon and His Unfortunate Choice of Business Partners
Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Matt Damon isn’t just known for his accolades on-screen. The actor is also the founder of two non-profit organizations, Water.org and WaterEquality. While the former reportedly impacted the lives of 17 million people, Matt Damon has caught his fair share of flack regardless.
Damon’s 2012 movie Promised Land opens a critical eye on the natural gas industry, shaming them for their role in carbon emissions. The dirty little secret? The film was produced “in association” with Image Media Abu Dhabi, an oil company owned by the UAE government. Considering the amount of carbon output by the oil industry, it was more than a little awkward.
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