Celebrities raise awareness of California drought
Willing or not, celebrities are playing a role in raising awareness about California's drought.
Some stars have homes that boast lush, green lawns. They are well maintained at a time when residents have been asked to cut back on water. They could be drought-shamed on social media. Meanwhile, entertainers hoping to take the lead on water conservation talk proudly of their drought-friendly gardens.
"We're all in this together," said actress Wendie Malick. She relies on well water at her home. It is in the Santa Monica Mountains. "Unfortunately, it had to come to this crisis moment to get us all on board."
Beverly Hills is an area where many Hollywood celebrities live. Many lawns there remain bright green. Now, the neighborhood has approved new water restrictions. There will be penalties for violations. Enforcement is set to begin this month.
Beachside Malibu has long had water restrictions in place. That is according to the city's environmental programs specialist, Casey Zweig. While she says the city would never engage in drought-shaming, it does offer a website. Residents can anonymously report their water-wasting neighbors. Zweig said her team visits the offending properties personally.
"Once you reach people with this information, they tend to really want to do the right thing and figure out what the best solution is," she said. "People who live in Malibu love the natural aspect. They want to coexist in a lot of ways with these beautiful natural surroundings that they're paying top dollar to live in."
Offenders in the city, though, have multiple chances to make things right before facing fines, Zweig said.
Barbra Streisand is a past drought-shaming target. She said she and husband James Brolin have let most of the lawns go brown. They live in Malibu. The couple is also working with a water-reuse company. It will install a graywater system and rainwater cisterns, she said. That is, "should California be lucky enough to get some rain," she said.
Cher is another Malibu resident. She has let her grass go brown. She has talked about the water shortage on Twitter. In a post last month, she complained California used fresh water for fracking.
"WE'RE IN A CATASTROPHIC DROUGHT, WATER MEANS LIFE??" she wrote. "WE CANT DRINK OIL."
Kelly Osbourne drought-shamed herself on Instagram. She shared her guilt over taking a bath. And she said she planned to re-use the water.
Malick serves on the board of the Environmental Media Association. She said "making green cool" is part of the organization's mission statement.
"If people emulate those that they're fans of ... why not show them some behavior that is great for the planet?" she said.
Being eco-conscious "is the way to be trendy in Hollywood," EMA president Debbie Levin said. Levin added that studios are also keen on the effort. Some have replaced lawns with artificial turf.
Industry-watcher Michael Levine said it's important that celebrities make the same cutbacks as other Californians. It's because "people care about a sense of fairness."
"They think, 'I'm not going to sacrifice if Brad Pitt doesn't sacrifice,'" Levine said.
Both Levine and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton think concern about the drought hasn't reached a tipping point yet in Hollywood. It is a place where it's often socially obligatory to be on board with conscientious trends.
"It's an issue that doesn't trigger an emotional response in a lot of people," Hilton said. "Or maybe they're afraid to speak out. Because they might be branded hypocrites."
Still, he says only the most publicly eco-aware stars could be damaged by drought-shaming.
"For someone like Kim Kardashian," he said, "people would probably expect her to be watering her lawn and breaking the rules."
Critical thinking challenge: What is drought-shaming?