Last year I did an interview with Cameron Diaz who was helping promote Al Gore's Live Earth event for a piece I wrote that ran at Entertainment Weekly's web site, EW.com, "Cameron Diaz on Live Earth".
With Earth Day upcoming on April 22nd, I thought I would share some exclusive excerpts from my interview with her, which includes her own personal motivation and tips for going green (as well as some insights into working with Al Gore). What I appreciated most about Cameron, as a longtime, very public advocate for the environment, is her genuine passion for this cause exuded through her humor and vivacious personality. She flips the stereotype of environmentalists as being boring, serious and un-glamorous, and reinforces the concept that being green is instead becoming fashionable and hip - as well as a rewarding experience for humanity and the Earth. Have a wonderful Earth Day! (Here are some additional tips on going green and celebrating Earth Day.)
Marianne Schnall: At the press conference you held with Al Gore announcing Live Earth to raise awareness about global warming, you said, "This is the only issue in the history of mankind that affects every single one of us - our planet is in danger." Isn't it an incredibly powerful statement to have an event taking place simultaneously on seven different continents around the world - doesn't it represent the global importance of this issue?
Cameron Diaz: I think so, absolutely. Don't you feel like in the last few years the global community, all of sudden we have this language we didn't have before? We're a global society, we're a global community. And I travel so much - and that's something that I have just become so hyper-aware of, because a lot of people have a community that they live in their hometown - they travel a certain miles - a few miles in their day-to-day life. And in my life I've been fortunate enough to travel and extend those miles a little bit further and I feel like my community now, I really feel like it's global. Everyplace I go - everyone's the same! I go to Africa, and I just got back from Peru two days ago - and no matter what the culture is, everybody's doing the same thing. Everybody's surviving off the planet, surviving off the land somehow, that's the only way to do it. And they all want the same thing - they all have families, they all have homes, they all just want to make a living, they all want to be happy, they want to be loved.
And I see it everywhere I go - there's no exception. And that's really powerful. It's really powerful to see that we really are all the same. We all need the same things, we all require the same things and we all get it from the same place. So in that alone, we have become a global society and it is impactful what we do. What I see is all of it coming together. Now that we're all connected. Especially through music - that's not even global, that's universal. [laughs] That exists in the ethers. It's kind of exciting to see how we all are connected now - completely connected.
MS: At the press conference they also announced the launch of the SOS Campaign (note: also see Al Gore's recently launched site inspired by Live Earth, WeCanSolveIt.org .). Can you tell us a little bit about the goals of that campaign?
CD: Well, that is definitely a major part of it. That's the three-year plan to give everybody the information they need. Up until now we've been told, "We're burning up, we're burning up, we're burning up." [laughs] We're burning ourselves up, but we haven't had a lot of information on how to fix that. How to do it differently, what we need to do with that. And I think the three year campaign that is going to be launched after this concert is the biggest piece of it - it's going to be using everybody's information. They need to start making the choices and decisions and going after legislation and making changes not only in their homes but their communities, and taking those broader steps that we all are going to start to need to take. You know, everybody's an individual but anybody who's at the top is an individual as well. And everybody has the power to make changes, no matter where they're at or where they fall. And every change makes a difference.
MS: Did I hear that you filmed a PSA in conjunction with this campaign?
CD: Yeah, I did a PSA - the first of a string of PSAs with celebrities - there's a dozen of us that are sort of illustrating the basics - in your house, what changes you can make in your home - everything from recycling, to changing a light bulb, to turning down the thermostat, to turning off the water. So it's a fun little campaign. Very easy - it's all done with celebrities as well as well-known filmmakers and commercial directors and such.
MS: What are you doing in your spot?
CD: I'm recycling. I'm recycling old scripts. Yeah, I recycle everything. And re-use everything. My house is just a nice little package of reusable items. [laughs]
MS: I read somewhere recently that some of that came from your grandmother who used to re-use all sorts of things...
CD: Yeah, a bag of strings - if you need a string, go in there - there's a bag of strings that dates back to 1920. [laughs] She just never throws away anything.
MS: I read that you traveled to Nashville to attend Al Gore's global warming slide show training with 1,000 other people - what was that like and why did you decide to do that?
CD: I was really just wanting to, you know find out what was "going on" [laughs]. It was an opportunity - I wanted to sort of find out what was happening, what was being done at the moment. I took a year off to figure out how I wanted to immerse myself into everything that was going on as far as [says this in a very English, highbrow voice] "the movement"- put quotes around that - "the movement" [laughs].
So I sort of reached out to Al and he said, 'Hey I'm doing this slide show presentation, I'm teaching it, why don't you come out and do it and see what we got going on.' So I went out and did that. And he's amazing. He is so charismatic, wonderful - he's a great teacher. He just reaches everyone in the room. And we had a really great time and it was very informative. And learning the science was really I think important, and the people there learning as well were so inspiring to me - came from all walks of life, teachers, and students, and executives and artists - everyone from all over the country. And some people were giving the presentation the next day! When we were finished, they were like, "I have to do this in front of 50 people tomorrow." And I'm like what are you talking about?
So I was really impressed by everyone's passion and just understanding too that you give 1,000 people that information and it's really powerful. And they spread out - that's grassroots. You just got to get in there and people start making impacts. They make an impact on their community and it just spreads.
MS: Did you think that you were going to give an official presentation or was this so you could just be more informed as you talk about this issue?
CD: No [laughs] - I told Al afterwards, I was like, "Look [laughs] - you guys are fantastic. You clearly know what you're doing, so I'll leave it up to you guys.' You know, for me to ask 100 people, let alone like 3, to come into a room and have me give that presentation, for me to get to that point, it would be a waste of my time, and everybody else's. It's not where I could be the most effective. So I said I'm happy to be armed with the information and knowledge and now I can sort of utilize it and do what I'm better at.
MS: What type of measures do you take in your own life to be more environmentally aware?
CD: Well, I just do as much as I can do, all the basics that everybody does, what we're asking everybody to do - be aware of my energy consumption, as far as all the lights in my house, how much power I use, how much I run the water, set my thermostat, my recycling, my car - I drive a Prius - I've driven a Prius since they've been out. I do my carbon offsetting for my travels because I travel so much. My travel agent just basically tallies it as I go [laughs]. I'm building my houses and stuff - I am trying to retrofit everything as much as possible and also other projects that I have going on I try to do it consciously, as green as possible. And I am just trying to help spread the word.
MS: Now for people who may not have heard the term "carbon offsets" how would you simply describe what that means?
CD: All of us put out a certain amount of emissions from our day-to-day life, from either our cars, or from our travel, and the energy our houses use, and I work with several different groups that either buy alternative energy credits or plant trees so you do the calculations on how much energy you consume and how much emissions you put out and you try to offset it by utilizing alternative energies as well as planting trees. It's cool. It's not the ultimate solution, but for now as we go, it's great to have that there. At least you want to try to be aware.
The thing that I'm finding with all this is you can't stop life. You can't ask people to give everything up and that's not what it's about. It's about finding the alternative. Allowing us to have the lifestyle that we all - you know we created a really fantastic little system here as far as the conveniences of our lives, and the way that we get to reach each other, and move through the world, but now we just have to do all those things with a better mindset. We didn't create those things to ruin the world. We didn't do it consciously - like, "Oh, let's make cars so that we can burn ourselves up" - you know? That wasn't a conscious decision but now that we know what it does do, now it's our responsibility to make the changes. Ultimately planes will not spew millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere - that one day won't happen, and that's what we're working towards.
MS: You mentioned that you had driven a Prius since it came out and I know you've been supporting environmental groups and events before it even became sort of "fashionable" - when, how and why did you first start becoming environmentally aware. Was it gradual, or a sudden epiphany?
CD: I don't know - I just feel, like I said, I've been so fortunate to travel. And I have seen so many beautiful parts of the world and I'm in awe of it. I'm in awe of nature - I think it's just unbelievable and not only is it beautiful, it's the perfect plan. It's perfection - when it's working as it's meant to, there's no flaw. And I just started seeing the impact of our existence as human beings being here and the way we utilized the resources - I started seeing that we were flawing that system. We were creating major chaos within it. And then I sort of realized we're part of the system as well. We're not excluded from it - we're not exclusive on this planet, we are part of the system as well. And I started sort of doing the calculations then and I realized that if everything else is getting wiped out, eventually it's going to end up that we're going to be in the same predicament. And I just started looking at what was the cause of that, and what was exactly happening. Everything from deforestation, to global warming - what are we doing to this planet? It's our planet.
And then I realized, "Gosh, I'm really selfish. [laughs] I kind of want to live here for a while, you know what I mean? I want to live on a planet that's beautiful and clean and healthy because that's sort of the ultimate. You don't want to live someplace that you're struggling in - that's not how you want to live. And with all the awareness of what's happening, I just realized it's not too far off for all of us. It's actually not our children's children - actually the impact is going to happen within our lifetime. And then I sort of got that there's this mass consciousness - this collective consciousness kicked in, that where we're at is at a moment where we need to do something. So I think just kind of fell in to where everybody else did - where I went, "Oh, wait - hold on a second. Actually it's time to do something about this." And if we don't do it now it's going to be too late.
So I just started trying to find my way. I think that everybody's just trying to find their way. I'm not an expert and I don't hold as much information as there is out there. I probably hold less, obviously, I don't know everything. So as much as possible I'm trying to help get the word out on it. My life is not perfect - it has flaws to it, I'm sure - I don't do it exactly right. But that's not the point. Nobody can do it exactly right because there's no exactly right yet. We're just kind of all finding our way and if you can just do the things that you can do, that actually are effective, that's all you can do, and all that anyone can ask you to do.
And that's the thing with something like this - I think people get scared that they're not going to be able to do it perfectly - they're going to be criticized - they're going to be like, "Well, I'm not totally green." Well, you know what? At this point [laughs] we don't care, you know what I mean? Just a shade of green is enough right now. Move a little bit closer towards this. Because the more people start moving closer and closer to it, that's something that collectively makes a difference.
I feel like in the past the environmental movement has been sort of righteous and self-righteous that we have to do everything right. Well, at this point all you have to do is part of it right and it will help. If everybody just did one step collectively, it does make a difference. That's the point. There's a lot of us on this planet. There's a lot of us in this country and if even just - we are the biggest emitter of emissions - that is the fact. China and us. We are happily spewing into the atmosphere. Fine. You know what - we are going to continue to do so until it completely changes, but if you can do anything to take that back and minimize it, then why not? You know what I mean? At this point it's not costing anybody anything to do so. It really isn't. My Prius is a great car. I don't need every single light on in my house. All these things do add up. Appliance efficiency. You don't lose anything from your refrigerator if it's more efficient - you get the same refrigeration, your food still stays cold.
MS: I drive a Toyota Prius too. Do you enjoy driving a hybrid car?
CD: I do! I love my car. It actually saves me probably from a lot of tickets, because I like to drive fast, and the Prius goes fast enough - but it's not a Porsche, so it actually keeps me out of trouble. [laughs]
MS: What advice or words of wisdom you can offer people who want to start greening their lifestyle but don't know where to start?
CD: Well, you know, we have the Internet. If you can pull up like who's having sex with who [laughs] - you can definitely pull up how to save energy. It's all on there. If you want to know anything you can find it on the Internet. So that has more information than anything. It does just start with the basics - it starts with being aware of your consumption, your energy consumption, everything from the products you buy - there are a slew of products as far as recycling. I mean, toilet paper - recycled paper is a really great thing - everybody wipes their butt every day. And those are trees - I mean there are entire forests being cut down so we can wipe our butt. [laughs] You know just buy some toilet paper that has recycled content - that is slightly recycled - just a little bit.
What people also don't understand is that the climate crisis is not just coming from the fact that we have a billion cars on the road all over the planet, it also has to do with that we're cutting down our forests which creates all kinds of problems that is creating our climate crisis. As far as not having forests on this planet any longer. And that opens up everything from not just all the storms that we're having, the temperature rising, it also has to do with air quality, it has to do soil quality - you take roots out of the soil and you lose your soil.
MS: I just read the great new book you helped develop, "The Green Book" which is filled with so many useful and practical tips and information...
CD: Yeah - isn't it great? I did that with my girlfriend Elizabeth and her partner Tom and they did such a great job.
MS: You said in the forward, "It isn't about cutting everything out. It is about creating something better...We can figure out how to maintain our lifestyles and the health of the planet if we do it right." People sometimes think that they are going to have to deprive themselves somehow to go green.
CD: That's what I was saying earlier with flying all over the place. Well, people can criticize and say, 'Oh, you fly in a private jet' and there are questions - musicians are coming in on private jets because they have their obligations, they want to be in two places in one day. You know, yeah - we can do less of that. But the point is to create new technologies that replaces them. So we don't have to give that up. And that's not going to happen overnight - that's not happening before the concert starts - but it eventually will with the consciousness to do so. And that's what it comes down to with everything. Everybody creates something in this world - we all have a part. We all go to work every day whatever it is that we are doing. We have the power to start making changes and seeing it differently and creating different opportunities for us to make this place work a little bit better. The President of DuPont is in fact a human being, an individual making a conscious decision to change over a chemical base to a vegetable base - that is an individual doing something - they have the power to do that there at that level, but do it any level and it makes a difference.
MS: A few years ago you did this eco-themed show for MTV called "Trippin'" where you traveled to all sorts of exotic places to help educate people about the environment with friends like Drew Barrymore. What was your most memorable anecdote or experience from doing that show?
CD: Oh, my god my brain will explode if I try to think about that - there were so many! [laughs} It was an amazing experience. I think the biggest thing was just being able to sort of connect the dots, go places and see - that again, that thing I said about how we are all just the same. Going to all these different places, to Nepal, to Chile, to Costa Rica, to Africa, to Patagonia, to Yellowstone Park - going to all these places and realizing that everybody's the same. It's all the same. We are all doing the exactly the same thing but in different ways. And that was the point of the show, to illustrate that.
MS: In addition to traveling, I know you're a big surfer and you seem to love being outdoors. In this hectic society, how important do you think it is to actually get outside and commune with nature, connect with nature?
CD: It's really important. Unfortunately, we don't get it to do it very often in the nature that is truly nature. But go to the park - I love going to the park. If you can't outside to the wilderness, I just love going to a park. Whenever I'm in a city I always go to the gardens, usually the municipal gardens. And I'll just take off my shoes and put my foot right on the ground - it does connect you in a totally different way. And I like hugging trees too! I do! I'm just going to say it! I like to hug trees! It's awesome! They're alive! They're brilliant so I'm not going to be afraid to say it! I hug trees. [laughs]
MS: I came across this quote of yours: "I'd really like to live on a farm for a whole year. I want to be there, in the one place, and go through the whole 12-month span growing my own food, milking cows and living off the land. I want to do the whole thing properly. I just love being outdoors. I thrive on it." Do you actually foresee doing this in your near future?
CD: Well, that's when I was doing press for "The Holiday" and everybody asks you, "So if you could trade places with one person, where would you go, where would you live?" And I came up with a lot of anecdotes. But that is certainly something that I think is amazing - that would be a great opportunity. I do, - because I would like to have that experience, because I think it's connecting you to nature and how things are done. Definitely, I would love to have that opportunity, to do it at some point - I might just take a year off one time and do it, or I might save it until I'm older, if I make it. And If not, I've had some parts of it in my life, and have ideas of how it works. But yeah, that's kind of great. But you won't see me like kind of running off at any moment and holing up on a farm at this point [laughs] but I think it would be an amazing experience.
MS: I also read that you said recently that you wanted to take a break from back-to-back filming, to create a healthier balance in your life. How do you balance your movie career with all your activist work, and also manage to have some downtime?
CD: It has been a year since I filmed anything, so I've had a year off, and I have just sort of cultivating that balance now, over the last year, and I'm getting ready to go back to work. And I will be working on several films back-to-back hopefully. And I think it just comes with practice. [laughs] You just learn how to balance it all out. I mean how do mothers go and take care of their kids and work full-time jobs? We all have the ability to do whatever we set out to. You just find the ways, you just create the opportunities [laughs]
MS: So many great musical artists signed up to participate in Live Earth to show their support for the environment. What do you think of the increasing trend of artists and entertainers becoming activists, not just for the environment, but for other important causes like world poverty?
CD: I think it's great - why not? Why shouldn't people when you have the ability to reach people. Why not? One person can change the planet and if you reach that one person who gets an idea from something you say or something you put out into the world, it's a great opportunity so why not take the chance? I think it's great - I think people should, if they have the ability to reach people, I think they should absolutely do something.
MS: Do you think movies like "An Inconvenient Truth" and events like Live Earth speak to the powerful role the entertainment industry can play?
CD: Yeah, definitely. Media is God at this point. Media creates thought - everybody's consciousness, you know? People don't get their consciousness from anything else these days. The media tells you what's important. Definitely, if we can balance out all the other stuff that gets shoved down our throat these days we are told is important [laughs], why not throw in a couple of things that are actually are important? And it is very powerful.
MS: Do you think that with "An Inconvenient Truth", the science that's now coming out and events like Live Earth that we've reached kind of a tipping point where ignoring the problem of global warming and other environmental problems is no longer an option and change must and will occur - that we've kind of reached a turning point?
CD: Those are good words [laughs]. Definitely. Yeah, I think we have definitely reached that. We've come to the point. And that's why I say I think it's a party - it's a celebration. This whole thing that's happening should be looked at as a celebration. We shouldn't look at it as "Holy s--t! we're all going to die!" We should look at it as "Yay! We're all going to live!" You know? We're all here right now realizing and recognizing that there's an issue, and we have the answers, and we have the power and the resolve and the ability to change it. And make it go in our favor. And that's exciting. For me it's a celebration - it's like wow, we're finally here. And how great is it that we're going to be proactive in our lives and create a better world. And hopefully we're not throwing a concert in 5 or 6 years from now like, "S--t! Ok, farewell!" [laughs] You know what I mean? This is not a farewell concert - this is a celebration as far as I'm concerned. So it's very exciting.
MS: So you're optimistic we can still turn things around.
CD: Oh yeah! I mean it's all there. We have the ability. We have the [says in super serious voice] technology [laughs]. And people are seeing too that - look, you and I are talking on the phone - you're in New York, I'm in Los Angeles - I talked to people when I was in Peru, I made phone calls all the way around the world, I talked to somebody in Japan - we have the ability to do anything, create anything we want. I was just in Machu Picchu and we're like baffled by the fact that they've created these altars that once a year the light shines on one spot exactly through a window over a dial - it doesn't do that any other time except for the one day they said they wanted it to. And it does. It does it every year for hundreds of years the light shines in exactly in the same place for that 3 seconds. And you go, wow - that's amazing! And you go, holy sh--t - we've got cell phones, no wires, just a bunch of buttons and I'm talking to my Mom halfway around the world. And you go, wow, that's amazing! We look at it and take all this for granted - that's a miracle. But it's not. We created that - that's technology.
And if we can do that, if we can put somebody in space, we can absolutely, without a doubt, create the technologies to allow us not to basically burn ourselves off this planet. It's easy - it's actually kind of really easy. It's just a conscious decision. And that's what we're doing. We're bringing consciousness into people's minds about what this is so that they can make the decision, they can make a conscious decision to make the difference, to make a change and make a difference. And if everybody did it, it could happen really quickly. Really quickly. Why be lazy and sit around on it? We should just do it and get it over with [laughs].
MS: You're so positive and you have so much energy, you're traveling all around the world and seem to have such a commitment to this - what do you think is the source of all that energy in you?
CD: I enjoy life. [laughs] I think it's fun. I try to create every moment that I can to just have fun and be with the people that I love and do things that I'm passionate about. And that's my choice. That's my decision to do that. Everybody can do it, anyone can do it, and I think that if you just "follow your heart" kind of thing - [laugh] you can do anything, you can have anything possible. That's what I've experienced.
MS: What are your hopes for the future of humanity and the Earth?
CD: That everybody's just going to want to do their part - be in it in a way for the long run. Not just think of the moment. I mean, it's good to be in the moment, but depending on how many moments you want to have, you have to sort of think about what you are doing in those moments - what future that creates for you.
MS: And I think realizing our interconnection with each other and the planet, once you start living that way, it's a realization that also benefits your whole psyche.
CD: It's a new thing though too. We're all just getting comfortable knowing what's going on on the other side of the world. Talking to actual people, tapping keys and reading their words on our screens - everybody's connecting to each other now. And as we do that, we get more comfortable with the fact that we do have something in common with the guy over in India, you know? I think that it's in our nature to want to connect. And human beings are tribal [laughs] so I think that the collective consciousness is coming together.
MS: It's so easy to look out at the world and think, "Oh god, it's the apocalypse!' It's great to be able to be hopeful and focus on the positive.
CD: But even if we don't survive, it's such a better way to spend our time [laughs]. I'd rather be leaving this planet laughing - I'd rather do it that way - we may as well have fun when you're trying to create something good. Even if it is a struggle, you may as well have a laugh while you're doing it. It's just a better way to be, I think personally. And that's why I think with this cause, let's get it out of our heads that this is something that - I mean, it's dire, but it doesn't have to be depressing.
And I understand because I spent years shut down on it. I was totally like [says in overly sad voice], "it's all doom and gloom, it's going to be over. Why do anything?' I've been there so I know. I just don't want to be that person. I wasn't doing anything. I was afraid. Now I'm like f--k it - you know what - let's just do it! Let's do it! Let's have fun and do it. It's so much more fun.