Earth Day 2021: Celebrities who support environmental causes – and how you can help

Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
·9 min read

On Earth Day and beyond, celebrities are using their platforms to call attention to environmental issues that aren't usually brought to the forefront.

This year, Earth Day comes as a deadly pandemic took center stage and and climate change sparked a cascade of calamities from raging wildfires to a ferocious hurricane season. Environmental experts are using Thursday to draw focus to restoring the world’s ecosystems through natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking.

If you're looking for ways to make a difference, these celebrity-backed environmental causes – some of them brand-new initiatives, others helpful reminders from longtime activists – from stars including Jane Fonda, Bill Nye, Hayley Hasselhoff, Justin Bieber and Prince William are helpful places to start.

More: After a critical year for COVID-19 and climate, Earth Day 2021 is Thursday

Bill Nye stars in 'Earth Day! The Musical'

Cause: Bill Nye teaming up with Justin Bieber and other major names in Hollywood to raise awareness on how to restore the planet? Facebook Watch presents "Earth Day! The Musical" (Thursday at noon EST) in what we can only hope feels like a present-day musical iteration of "Bill Nye The Science Guy" episodes. The star-studded cast includes Ben Platt, Charli and Dixie D'Amelio, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, Fortune Feimster, Gaten Matarazzo, Idina Menzel, Jack Harlow, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Justin Bieber, Maluma, Nick Kroll, Phoebe Robinson, Retta, Steve Aoki, Tori Kelly, and Zac Efron.

What they've said about it: "Please vote," Nye said to USA TODAY last October. "I’ve been whining and complaining about climate change for 40 years, and we’ve hardly done anything about it, but now we have an opportunity."

How you can take part: During the special, viewers can join the #RestoreOurEarthChallenge, during which they'll be invited to share photos, videos and social media posts about how they plan to take action against climate change on Thursday.

Environmental action: Bill Nye talks viral TikTok, reflects on 'Science Guy' success

Jane Fonda's Fire Drill Fridays

Jane Fonda led hundreds of people in a march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House as part of her "Fire Drill Fridays" rally protesting against climate change on Nov. 08, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Jane Fonda led hundreds of people in a march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House as part of her "Fire Drill Fridays" rally protesting against climate change on Nov. 08, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Cause: Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Fonda, along with Greenpeace and other environmental activism allies, launched the Fire Drill Fridays initiative to protest weekly in the nation's capitol, with the goal of drawing attention to the climate crisis. When COVID-19 made gathering in-person difficult, she pivoted to video chats and virtual rallies, featuring prominent political, social and activist figures and fellow celebrities. Last week, Fonda hosted a special pre-Earth Day episode with youth climate experts to discuss how to build a more sustainable future.

What they've said about it: “The scientists are very clear: We have to cut our fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030. They say we have the technology to do it, we have the money to do it, we have everything we need to do it except enough people to force the government to actually do it.”

How you can take part: Fire Drill Fridays still takes place virtually every week on Facebook Live. The organization also invites others to get involved by calling on politicians at all levels to support bills and initiatives that experts say will fight climate change and environmental racism.

'I was slipping into despair': Jane Fonda finds hope, purpose in climate change activism

Prince Harry highlights importance of national parks

Cause: Prince Harry has been outspoken about environmental issues, particularly in Africa, to which he has said he feels a deep connection after visiting for the first time in 1997 following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, that same year. He highlighted on Thursday the importance of supporting national parks and protected areas in order to preserve clean air and water, food security and more in a video for nonprofit African Parks, for which he has served as president since 2017.

'No one can deny science' on climate change: Prince Harry says during royal tour of Africa

What they've said about it: “On this Earth Day, I reflect on generations of conservation champions, including my late grandfather, and feel proud and energized to continue doing my part in this legacy.”

How you can take part: The organization urges others to visit national parks to support the parks, which in turn supports both their environmental endeavors and the stability of local economies.

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Prince William encourages innovation

Cause: Prince William, a longtime supporter of environmental causes, last year co-founded the Earthshot Prize, an award meant to "incentivize change and help to repair our planet over the next 10 years.” On Thursday, the prince, along with Cate Blanchett and Sir David Attenborough, signed an open letter calling on the world to tackle environmental issues with the "same spirit of innovation and possibility from the fight against COVID."

What they've said about it: “According to the experts, it really is the point of no return,” William told Sky News last year. “We have 10 years to fundamentally fix our planet.”

How you can take part: The Earthshot prize offers awards in five areas to innovative conservationists: protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate. For the rest of us at home, the organization offers ideas like working to eliminate food waste and single-use plastics, and encouraging community and business leaders to end practices that contribute to land, air and water pollution.

More: Prince William, David Attenborough launch environmental award, the Earthshot prize

Rosario Dawson wants you to 'save the soil'

Cause: In 2019, Dawson narrated and executive produced the documentary film "The Need To Grow," which highlights the importance of healthy soil, which experts then estimated the earth had only about 60 years worth left. The actress also recently spoke at the virtual Amazon Climate Forum, where she showed support for those who "risk their lives to protect the environment, land and indigenous rights."

What they've said about it: “We have to put pressure on companies and the government, because sweeping change is necessary," Dawson told Elle last year.

How you can take part: The official website for "Grow" offers explanations and tips on how to begin composting and starting school gardens, and recommends supporting local farmers' markets when possible to cut down on the energy consumption and air pollution it takes to transport produce across the country or internationally.

Joaquin Phoenix makes good on his 2020 Oscars speech

Cause: The day after actor Phoenix won his first Academy Award last year, he joined nonprofit Farm Sanctuary to help free a calf and her mother from a Los Angeles slaughterhouse. He reunited with the two cows more than a year later in a video the organization released Thursday, reflecting on the negative impact of animal agriculture on the environment.

What they've said about it: "I think that we've become very disconnected from the natural world," Phoenix said in his 2020 Oscars acceptance speech. "And many of us, what we're guilty of is an egocentric world view: The belief that we're the center of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that's intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal."

How you can take part: Farm Sanctuary suggests adopting a plant-based lifestyle to cut back on the "incredible strain on natural resources" that modern animal agriculture places on the earth.

Shailene Woodley fights against pollution

Cause: Woodley has been outspoken about a variety of environmental causes throughout her career in the public eye. In 2016, the actress was arrested while leaving a protest at a construction site for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which she and others worried would have harmful implications for local ecology and climate change, particularly for the nearby Native American populations. She also partnered a few years later with Greenpeace to study the impact of plastic and pollution on marine life. Last month, she partnered with eyewear brand Karün for a line of sustainable sunglasses.

What they've said about it: "You can’t address environmentalism without recognizing the intersectionality that exists between all forms of social and environmental injustice," she wrote for Time in 2019. "If we all continue to find a little more space in our hearts for kindness, we may just be able to sway our global leaders to conserve 30% of our oceans by 2030, and in turn, continue the evolution of the human race."

How you can take part: Some initiatives Woodley has previously recommended include urging local stores to re-evaluate their single-plastic usage, calling local representatives and local CEOs to ban products such as plastic water bottles from the area, and personally replacing your own single-use plastic products with a stainless steel water bottle and reusable travel utensils.

Cara Delevingne joins Project Zero's initiative to save oceans. This is her own unique ocean coordinate to “look after” - others can get their own by making a donation.
Cara Delevingne joins Project Zero's initiative to save oceans. This is her own unique ocean coordinate to “look after” - others can get their own by making a donation.

Hayley Hasselhoff, Cara Delevingne 'turn the tide'

Cause: In order to restore oceans to fight climate change, U.K.-based charity Project Zero is enlisting the help of stars including models Hasselhoff and Delevingne to "turn the tide." Ambassadors plan to get the word out on social media on how to better protect the ocean.

What they've said about it: "At every stage in the lifecycle of plastics, there are harmful climate impacts," Delevingne wrote on Instagram last year in support of the Break Free From Pollution Act. "Plastic waste is killing wildlife and damaging our environment."

How you can take part: Project Zero invites others to "become protectors of the ocean by adopting their very own ocean coordinate" – $10+ contributions will get participants their own section of the ocean to "look after" and share on social media to encourage others to donate, too.

Contributing: Barbara Vandenburgh and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Earth Day 2021: Prince Harry, Jane Fonda, stars' environment causes