In “The Hunger Games,” Woody Harrelson’s character is in charge of helping tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark escape a deadly arena. In real life, the actor is dedicating his time to a task that’s even more daunting: saving the planet.
We CAN'T WAIT for Harrelson’s return as Haymitch Abernathy in “Catching Fire,” but right now, the Oscar-nominated actor is speaking out about a cause close to his heart: the environment. He’s involved with Step Forward Paper, a new paper company that hopes to reduce the demands of deforestation.
We hopped on the phone with the actor to get the scoop on the company, to see if his environmentalism has rubbed off on his co-stars, and how he thinks he would fare in a “Hunger Games”-type arena.
ACT: Can you tell us a little about Step Forward Paper?
WOODY: It’s really been a long-term dream of mine to have an alternative to wood-based paper. Over half of the trees cut in the world are cut for paper products. And that comes from anywhere from three to six billion trees are harvested a year, and half of that goes to paper. It’s a huge industry; it’s a $200 billion a year industry. The demand for paper is 400 billion metric tons a year, and it’s expected to double over the next 15 to 20 years. It’s a very big deal how much that’s taxing the forests. which are the lungs of the Earth. It’s been my dream a long time; I’ve been trying to fight deforestation and the clear-cutting of forests. And I realized a long time ago you can try to stop that, and you can successfully stop them from cutting here, and then they go cut over there. You stop this forest, they go cut that forest. So it’s better to change the way paper is made since that’s the main tax on the forest.
Photo: Woody and his business partner, Jeff Golfman. (Step Forward Paper)
ACT: For your fans who want to get more involved in giving back, which environmental organizations should they check out?
WOODY: Well, the one that we’re working with Prairie Pulp & Paper, Inc. Our company is doing great stuff — trying to change to a non-wood, sustainable paper society. And Rainforest Alliance is doing a lot of good stuff. I think, on a personal level, everybody, when you go through the checkout line after you get your groceries and they say, “Paper or plastic?” We should be saying, “Neither one.” We should have our own cloth bags. That’s a simple thing but it’s really important. And also, to demand organic. Those are little things everyone can do. And, of course, you can buy Step Forward Paper. Two boxes of Step Forward Paper saves one tree — that’s a real stat.
ACT: Do you try to encourage recycling and other good things for the environment while on set?
WOODY: That’s interesting you say that, because it’s my big dream, and I think it’s going to happen … that “The Hunger Games” 3 and 4 are going to be the most ecological sets ever. I’ll talk to you more about that when it becomes a true reality, but I think that’s what is going to happen.
It’s difficult, because I’ve got to tell you that the film industry … there is a lot of waste, and it’s not the most ecological industry, I’ll tell you that. I’ve been really wanting to see that shift, and I’m trying to do my part.
Photo: But where's his bottle? Woody as his "Hunger Games" character, Haymitch Abernathy. (MTV)
ACT: Do you think you’ve encouraged the other actors on set to be more environmentally friendly?
WOODY: Yeah, I think so. It’s all about recycling, doing composting, and instead of everybody using paper or plastic cups, for everybody to have their own individual cup, to use this non-wood paper to make all the scripts and all the rewrites and everything like that. Using biodiesel for the generators. ... It’s a big, big thing. It’s a huge production, and it’s a lot to do to try to make it green, but it’ll happen.
ACT: If you were dropped into a "Hunger Games"-type arena today, do you think your love of nature would help you come out as the top tribute?
WOODY: Well, yeah, of course it would. Mother Nature is going to help me out in that context. Hopefully that never happens, though!
ACT: Is there anything else we need to know about Step Forward Paper?
WOODY: Just that it’s available at Staples.com, and it’s a dream come true for me that it’s finally happening. I hope if anybody wants to make a difference, they’ll know that two boxes of this paper saves one tree. It costs the same as recycled paper; it’s not more. And the fact that it’s 80 percent tree-free is a pretty cool deal. Anybody can really help that way.