By Janet Lawrence
He’s well known for his love of leggy blondes, but one thing Leonardo DiCaprio is even more passionate about is saving the planet.
Issues that are particularly important to the Gatsby star are wildlife and habitat preservation, healthy oceans, water access, climate change and disaster relief. In 1998, he created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which has since done incredible work by giving grants to and creating media projects and campaigns for environmental and humanitarian causes. The Foundation works in conjunction with the California Community Foundation and other organisations to help amplify the impact it can make.
There is no better example of the success of this partnership model than the 11th Hour Charity Auction the Foundation held at Christie’s on April 13 this year, where guests included A-listers such as Mark Ruffalo, Salma Hayek and Bradley Cooper. The actor is reported to have spent months directly soliciting hefty donations from his high profile friends and generating interest of important collectors.
The auction featured works by prestigious artists, including Anish Kapoor and Banksy, and raised $38, 827, 000–far above the expected $18 million, In fact, Christie’s, no stranger to multi-million dollar sales generation, called this event “the most important charity action ever”.
Christie’s stated that the event saw 13 world auction records for individual artists and nine works of art were sold fore more than $1 million. ‘Untitled’, by American painter Mark Grotjahn, sold for $6.51m, while our favourite, a portrait of DiCaprio by Elizabeth Peyton, sold for $1.05 million, compared to its $400,000-600,000 estimate. DiCaprio’s Great Gatsby co-star and real-life best friend, Tobey Maguire, bid $262,500 for Sergej Jensen’s ‘Untitled’.
“The modern world is placing enormous pressure on the very natural systems that sustain us; we are destroying our forests, polluting the air and water, overfishing our oceans and facing overwhelming extinction rates of plants and animals,” DiCaprio said before the event.
But Leo doesn’t just preach; he practices eco-friendly behaviour too: he drives a hybrid car, lives in a completely energy efficient, eco-friendly house (reportedly relatively small, by Hollywood mega-star standards), and refuses to fly by private jet, choosing instead to reduce his carbon footprint by flying commercially. What’s more, despite his busy schedule, he’s found the time to serve on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund, The Natural Resources Defense Council, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Global Green USA.
His activities and dedication to the environment have inspired other Hollywood stars, including Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Orlando Bloom. In fact, Di Caprio’s ex-girlfriend, Gisele, was apparently so convinced, she’s become a vocal eco-activist herself.
You don’t need to be rich and famous to give your support to Leonardo’s cause–donations to the California Community Foundation go directly towards select organisations and projects the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation supports. So why not give generously? As Leo himself says: “Nature is abundant and it is resilient, but we have to take action now to protect our planet before it’s too late.”
To hear more about Leonardo’s thoughts on his childhood, climate change, and how we can all make a difference, watch this video.