Actor and heartthrob Ian Somerhalder has a new gig: United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment and promoter of the 40th World Environment Day (WED) challenge. The theme for WED 2012, which falls on June 5, is “Green Economy: Does it include you?”
It certainly includes Somerhalder. Adored by millions as Damon on the CW television show “The Vampire Diaries” and previously as Boone Carlyle on “Lost,” the 33-year-old is passionate about protecting the environment and animals. Even before he joined forces with the U.N., he founded the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to do just that.
The ISF’s mission is “to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures,” with an understanding that “the environment [is] an interconnected organism” that includes humans. Just last month, the ISF organized two events: “The Influence Affair,” “to connect business leaders, change making strategists and visionaries in an opportunity to begin the co-creation of tangible strategies that will propel our world into a better, kinder and greener future,” and “Let’s Get Dirty,” which brought together schools and organizations to clean up the state of California.
The ISF’s College Program distributes a monthly newsletter to college students with articles that inform and inspire, like “Put the Environment on Your To-Do List.” Promoting activism among college students and other youth is a priority at the ISF, which calls young people “the most powerful, yet disregarded, disrespected and overlooked population on the planet.”
For this year’s WED challenge, Somerhalder and his fellow environmental Goodwill Ambassadors (Don Cheadle and Gisele Bundchen, both returning from WED 2011, and newcomers Rahul Bose and Li Bing Bing) are going where the youth are: the internet. Somerhalder announces in his promotional video that they are “challenging the web community to rally the most activities [for the environment] ever…and mobilize millions.”
Somerhalder’s environmentalism originated in the BP oil spill. He grew up by the wetlands on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, and after the spill he became an activist to prevent further destruction and so no one else would have to experience the “feeling of helplessness” he had while watching the oil devastate an ecosystem. He and his brother Bob have opened a furniture store, Built of Barnwood, in Mississippi that creates and sells furniture and art made with recycled building materials. The store is an example of the “Green Economy,” WED’s theme.
In his video, Somerhalder promises fuel-efficient cars to the five WED challenge winners and asks, “who knew being an environmental warrior could be so cool?”