Celebrities raise awareness of California drought
From drought-shaming to eco-boasting, willing or not, celebrities are playing a role in raising awareness about California's debilitating drought.
Stars whose homes boast lush, green lawns at a time when residents have been asked to cut back on water may be drought-shamed on social media. Meanwhile, eco-conscious 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, who relies on well water at her home in the Santa Monica Mountains. "Unfortunately, it had to come to this crisis moment to get us all on board."
Celebrity enclave Beverly Hills, where many lawns remain bright green, approved new water restrictions and penalties for violating them. Enforcement is set to begin this month.
Beachside Malibu has long had water restrictions in place, 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 where 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, a past drought-shaming target, said she and husband James Brolin have let most of the lawns go brown at their Malibu compound. The couple is also working with a water-reuse company to install a graywater system and rainwater cisterns, she said, "should California be lucky enough to get some rain."
Cher, another Malibu resident, has also let her grass go brown and 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 by sharing her guilt over taking a bath and saying she planned to re-use the water.
Malick, who serves on the board of the Environmental Media Association, 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, adding that studios are also keen on the effort and some have replaced lawns with artificial turf.
Industry-watcher Michael Levine said it's important that celebrities make the same cutbacks as other Californians 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, 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?