At a recent fundraising gala, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) raised more than $40 million. This money was dedicated to preserving the last of Earth’s wildlife, habitat, and fragile ecosystems.

DiCaprio stated during the opening ceremony, “We’ve decimated our forests, wildlands, polluted and overfished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity but also make life here for us possible”.

The event itself, an annual affair, focused its current efforts on protecting key species like the tiger, rhino, shark, and mountain gorilla by working with governments to conserve the jungles, coral reef and forests they call home.

The LDF was able to raise such a large amount of money in a single evening by holding a live auction, presented by the LDF’s long-term partner Julius Baer and other co-sponsors like Chopard and Armani.

The live auction sold an extensive collection of fine art, luxury items and uniquely memorable lifetime experiences. Some of the items sold were an estate home on Leonardo DiCaprio’s own Belize Island that was sold for over $11 million, a private concert with Elton John sold twice for a total of $3 million, and a limited re-edition of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sold for close to $2 million. This shortlist of expensive items were a few of the many auctioned off at the gala event. In addition, several key figures at the event donated simply out of the kindness of their hearts for this worthy cause.

Starting in 1998, the LDF has stated its mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. The LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues. The LDF has made several strides with grantmaking, public campaigns and media initiatives to focus efforts on protecting the biodiversity of the world.

With accomplishments like this, it is truly satisfying to see the LDF tirelessly strive to make a difference.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Calfund
Photo: Flickr

Canopy, an NGO, commits to sustainability by targeting the marketplace to mitigate non-green practices. Canopy works with businesses, fashion brands, book publishers, magazine publishers, newspaper publishers and printers to protect the earth’s forests and fragile ecosystems.

CanopyStyle pledges to protect the earth’s ancient and endangered forests from supply chains. It’s “Fashion Loved by Forest” campaign unites prestigious clothing companies to support Canopy’s mission of eliminating environmentally destructive materials from fashion production.

Among the fashion brands devoted to reducing their ecological footprint are Inditex/Zara, Levi Strauss & Co., Quiksilver, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, prAna, Aritzia, Portico/Under the Canopy, H&M, Marks & Spencer, lululemon Athletica, EILEEN FISHER, loomstate, Stanley &Stella, ASOS and G-Star RAW.

  1. H&M protects forests by choosing greener fabrics and by turning to alternate fiber sources. It’s goal is to avoid sourcing any materials from endangered sources by 2017. With the Forest Stewardship Council, it makes sure it uses green materials. H&M is also working to build transparency in its supply chains.
  2. Lululemon Athletica avoids using raw metals like tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold and signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s’ Cotton Pledge to end forced child and adult labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvesting. The company partners with DOWNLITE, a company that provides ethically treated down products. It also prides itself on buying wool from transparent, ethical and green vendors.
  3. Stella McCartney does not use viscose in production or fibers from forested areas. It is also trying to strengthen transparency in its supply chains.
  4. EILEEN FISHER’s sustainable fibers collection uses “natural, recycled, and high-tech fibers in its eco collection.” It opts for Tencel over viscose, which is more traceable, more responsible, less-processed, less-energy intensive, less chemical-intensive and less toxic. According to EILEEN FISHER, Tencel is made from sustainably harvested trees, and its closed-loop production means that 99.5 percent of chemicals used in wood pulp-fiber converting are reused.
  5. Patagonia uses an array of ethical and green materials. It uses PVC and phthalate-free inks for T-shirts, 100 percent traceable down insulation, Forest Stewardship Council-certified fibers and chlorine-free wool. Patagonia’s supply chain is extremely transparent, evident in its published reports: public factory list, factory scoring system, principles of fair labor and responsible sourcing, workplace code of conduct, social responsibility benchmarks, paper policy, water footprint, and packaging and merchandising policy.
  6. Aritzia’s Social & Environmental Responsibility (SER) team takes care of protecting its planet, customers and workplace teams. It helps the environment by cutting back on paper in printing and dining, conferencing and packaging. It uses tech to override paper-based systems and also participates in donating extra fabrics to women and children in Yunnan, China. The program, in alliance with Eco Village of Hope and HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association, works to train communities on how to sew beautiful clothing. Aritzia also donates funds that, so far, have provided 130 hygiene packages, 25 sewing kits and 15 electric sewing machines.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Canopy Planet, Canopy Style 1, Canopy Style 2, H&M, Lulu Lemon, Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Aritzia


Since 1985, International Rivers has re-examined dam projects across the globe to promote humanitarian and environmental values. The organization is concerned with a widespread over-dependence on hydroelectric power in developing nations, as the substantial negative externalities that accompany damming large rivers frequently go unreported. To combat this problem, the nonprofit employs a variety of methods, including grassroots organizing and political advocacy to diversify energy sources and raise greater awareness about the actual impact of specific hydroelectric projects around the world.

Large dams are an understandably attractive option for governments planning to electrify underdeveloped regions. Utilizing the inherent geophysical landscape, hydroelectric power is a relatively inexpensive energy source. However, International Rivers is one of few interested parties demanding an honest reassessment of this overly-prescribed technique. Damming disrupts the natural flow of sediment, causing devastating agricultural complications for nearby terrain. For example, the Nile lost an estimated 124 million tons of sediment every year prior to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Today, close to 99 percent of that gravel remains behind the structure, resulting in a substantial decrease in soil productivity that has crippled Egypt’s agricultural prospects.

Large dams also disturb the natural workings of ecosystems and, as a result, estuary fish, flora and fauna are perishing alongside these persistent intrusions. Although this may appear to be a niche problem reserved for animal lovers, this over-dependence on hydroelectric power is adversely affecting local economies as well. In Ghana, clamming and sport fishing—once thriving industries—have virtually disappeared after the construction of the Akasombo and Kpong dams. Even worse, the lack of circulation and increased industrialization has proven to be a toxic combination, as pollution and water-based diseases now run rampant through the most accessed waterways of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America

Despite these disconcerting developments, governments around the world continue to call for increased hydroelectric power. In Africa, plans to erect a number of imposing dams are in the works, including a blueprint for a massive Congolese structure that would prove to be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant. In China, there are over 80,000 dams—a number that is expected to increase as the government continues to industrialize the rural southwest region of the country. Despite the poor track record of dams in Central America, political officials continue to appease contractors that seek to capitalize on the short-term economic benefits of exploiting unindustrialized rivers.

Yet, International Rivers is fighting back. The organization is involved in numerous campaigns to stop the construction of unwarranted dams across the globe. These campaigns have partnered with human rights groups, NGOs, researchers and affected communities to broadcast the dangers associated with hydroelectric dependence. The Berkeley-based nonprofit is also researching more environmentally friendly energy sources and taking political action to implement these safer alternatives. The passage of the Electrify Africa Act is a vital fist step, as the new law helps supply geothermal, solar and wind energy sources to nations that are overly reliant on dams. However, International Rivers realizes the importance of allying with foreign governments as well, understanding that persuading the affected countries’ lawmakers is necessary to achieving lasting change.

If you would like to learn more about International River’s campaigns, check out this website.

– Sam Preston

Sources: International Rivers, PBS USGS
Photo: Panos