Supermodel Gisele Bundchen and actor Don Cheadle are facing off in a fight for the environment. The two "Goodwill Ambassadors" are vying for votes as part of the UN Environment Programme's World Environment Day Challenge to inspire people to take positive action to help the environment.
Using social media and TV PSAs, the effort asks people around the world to visit www.wedchallenge.org, take action and then vote for either Bundchen or Cheadle. On World Environment Day, June 5, the winner will be announced. If Bundchen wins, she plans to plant one tree for every activity registered, while Cheadle says he will plant two.
"Don committed to planting two trees for every activity registered in his name. Gisele is planting one," says Lisa Rolls Hagelberg, communications officer, special events unit, for the UN Environment Programme. "He's competitive—he said, 'I'll see your tree and plant two.' "
The new forest will be planted in India, honoring this year as the United Nations International Year of Forests.
The challenge is heating up this week, with Tonic launching its behind-the-scenes push. PSAs, written by Hagelberg and produced by Spike TV, are promoting the challenge on TV. Others involved in promoting the challenge include Nickelodeon, Spike, Gulf Air, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bob Marley Foundation as well as celebrities such as Ian Somerhalder of "The Vampire Diaries."
"In the States, [the support] is very good," Hagelberg says. "So far we've doubled our activity registration compared with last year. The participation with North America is very strong."
The total number of activities registered is 1,100," she says. "That's double what it was last year at this time." In addition, the effort had 1,200 tweets last week and jumped to 20,000 early this week.
To participate, individuals or groups can commit to activities such as switching from plastic bags to cloth bags, car-pooling with colleagues and organizing a tree-planting day and then register their vote. They can also post the details of their activity online. In addition, events such as street rallies, green concerts and clean-up campaigns are being held around the world in the weeks leading up to June 5.
World Environment Day, started in 1972, is held annually on June 5 to encourage people to take positive environmental action and to empower individuals to act. Its goal is to increase awareness of environmental issues and to promote political activity in this area.
Last year, UNEP launched the WED Legacy Project to make a contribution to the host country. In 2010, UNEP pledged $10 for every activity registration and contributed more than $100,000 to gorilla protection in Rwanda.
"This year is the UN International Year of the Forest," says Hagelberg. "So one of [the Goodwill Ambassadors] will end up planting a new forest in India in June—that will be the new legacy."