Leonardo DiCaprio Made This Year’s Oscars All About Energy, by Kate Virginia


After being nominated six times, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in The Revenant. In his acceptance speech, after delivering the standard Thank You’s and Shout Out’s to friends and fellow cast members, he chose to end with a different type of statement. Segueing to an appeal for planet Earth, DiCaprio used his biggest moment in the spotlight yet to bring attention to climate change and the urgent need for clean, renewable energy.

Although DiCaprio leads the same carbon-intensive lifestyle as many other stars, he has also devoted much of his time to accelerating the efforts of Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), an organization that has given $45 million in grants to combat the worsening effects of global warming, pollution, and environmental degradation.

The foundation was started by the actor in 1998 with the goal of “ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants.” Not only does LDF give millions of dollars in direct grants to halt the destruction caused by climate change, but the foundation also sponsors media initiatives and public fund-raising campaigns. In 2014, DiCaprio picked up the Clinton Global Citizen Award, this year he was honored with an award at the World Economic Forum for his initiatives.

The mission of LDF is based on the philosophy that the Earth will shelter us if we take the right steps to halt the disastrous effects of climate change. This includes switching from pollution-causing fossil fuels to harnessing the power of “clean” renewables like wind and solar. The world has begun to take significant steps in the right direction – according to Direct Energy, this was the first year for solar power to overtake natural gas in terms of new electrical generating capacity. Currently, the U.S. relies on roughly ten percent renewable energy sources for power. Leo wants to get that number up to 100%.

Mark Ruffalo, a fellow actor and Leo’s climate-activist in crime, has signed on to help him improve these statistics. Together, they’ve come together to work with The Solutions Project, an organization that strives to extend access to clean power to low income, high-risk communities. DiCaprio has also partnered with powerful individuals such as Prince Albert II of Monaco and movie producer Harvey Weinstein to raise money for LDF initiatives. Businesses like Chopard and Armani have been co-sponsors of the foundation’s fundraising efforts. The focus isn’t entirely on shooting down the fossil fuel industry; education about climate science and collaborative efforts among stakeholders are also two of the key initiatives of LDF.

Ironically (though somewhat expectedly), like other stars of his stature, DiCaprio doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to leaving a small carbon footprint. The actor owns several large residences around the world and even a private island. His penchant for sports cars isn’t exactly environmentally friendly either – though one of his latest acquisitions is a $100,000 hybrid Fisker Karma with a solar panel roof. Perhaps we can simply agree that his outsized efforts to raise awareness of the issue are worth the additional carbon expense.

Leo has become more than a mouthpiece against climate change by creating a foundation that recently awarded $15 million in worldwide grants for environmental protection. His foundation not only empowers local communities to resist fossil fuel exploitation, but it also develops funds for the financing of long-term conservation projects. Though he did just place a shiny new Academy Award on his mantelpiece, in the end it may be his commitment to the Earth and the climate that we remember him for.

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