The sagas of celebrities behaving badly have long made for juicy -- albeit shallow -- gossip, boffo newsstand sales and the proliferation of both tabloid TV shows and Internet blogs. Heck, thanks to the train-wreck trio of Lindsay, Britney and Paris, "journalists" have had a mighty busy summer, and dirt lovers have been happier than pigs in, well, you know.
But just because twenty- and thirtysomethings thrill to the salaciousness of celeb scandals doesn't mean the younger set is equally as vapid. Want proof that wholesome values appeal to teen stars? Look no further than to the staggering success of the Disney Channel's "High School Musical" franchise -- and its stars, all of whom have gone on record about their exceedingly ho-hum lives (with the exception of one star's recent revealing photo).
The 'High School Musical' Cast
But is it realistic to think that we can really start to care about celebrity do-gooders -- the ones who live like role models instead of gangstas? There is hope... at least with the younger generation.
A study conducted earlier this year found that 80% of American teens are concerned about the environment, with 61% believing their generation will be more responsible.
And, according to a recent USA Weekend survey, teens today are the "can do" generation, and they are volunteering at a level not seen since the 1940s.
The good news is that enlightenment is also emerging for the Hollywood stars that teens look up to.
Heartthrob du jour and star of the aforementioned "High School Musical" and "Hairspray," Zac Efron arrived at last month's Teen Choice Awards in an eco-limo, and has been spotted sporting an OmniPeace T-shirt in support of the organization devoted to ending extreme poverty in Africa. Emma Watson wore a similar top during her recent "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" press tour. (Hermione "Free the Elves" Granger would be impressed.)
Efron's "Hairspray" co-star Amanda Bynes credits her parents for stoking her charitable nature by spending their holidays feeding the homeless. Now the just-turned-21-year-old actress incorporates volunteering into everyday life by raising money for causes, rebuilding parks, whatever it takes. "If you start [volunteering] young, you'll always have a love for it," she said in an interview.
Hayden Panettiere declares herself
Real-life hero Hayden Panettiere, a longtime, er, cheerleader, for the World Wildlife Fund, a global conservation organization, registered to vote on her recent 18th birthday to support Declare Yourself, a campaign to get every eligible 18-year-old to register and vote in the 2008 election.
Panettiere is joined in Declare Yourself by teen-centric stars like Jessica Alba, Mandy Moore, Sasha Cohen, Amber Tamblyn and Hilary Duff.
A showbiz veteran at 19, Duff makes headlines these days not by mugging for mugshots like many of her peers, but by being a philanthropic soul. The actress/singer has donated generously to Hurricane Katrina victims and is an ambassador for Return to Freedom, a sanctuary for wild horses. "When I first heard about how civilization is closing in on these wild mustangs, I knew I wanted to get involved," she said on one of her sites.
Duff, who's a super-successful clothing/accessory designer for her eponymous label, is also active in USA Harvest, a group that collects surplus food from restaurants and suppliers to deliver to missions and soup kitchens.
Billy Ray Cyrus' 14-year-old daughter, Miley, star of the Disney Channel's monster hit "Hannah Montana," shows true girl power with earthly eating habits (she's a vegetarian). She could take it a step further by making sure her new clothing line is eco-friendly...
Bindi Irwin with her mom Terri
Maybe Miley can get a few pointers from 9-year-old Bindi Irwin (daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter himself), who, as she revealed at last week's MAGIC apparel convention in Las Vegas, will launch her Bindi Wear clothing line in Australia in early 2008, with American retailers coming on board later in the year. The line boasts eco-friendly T-shirts, jumpers, swimwear, sleepwear, hats, bags and shoes (with soles made from recycled rubber) that all extol environmental awareness, and 100% of the profits will go to Australia Zoo's conservation programs!
Even media corporations are pushing teen projects green. MTV's "Real World 20" (has it really been 20 years?!) is set to return to its Los Angeles roots, but this time in a green house. And this past April, popular teen Web site Habbo partnered with Earth Day Network to encourage teens to become more eco-friendly in their daily lives. Top tips included: walking, biking or carpooling to school; organizing a beautification day for your campus, such as cleaning surrounding areas and planting trees; using reusable utensils, tray and dishes in your cafeteria; and encouraging healthy foods be served instead of junk. (And we might add serving only fair-trade produce.)
It should come as no surprise that a recent report found green teens to be "popular, engaged in school activities and a little artsy." The popular part translates into peer influencers and trendsetters. We say, lead the way.
The "G" List
Green thumbs up to...
Delta Airlines, the first carrier to offer a carbon-offset program for every ticket purchased. The company has even planted a tree for each of its 47,000 employees. Who thought we needed more reasons to pass on the private jets and fly commercial?
Brown thumbs down to...
Simple-minded Paris Hilton for her shallow sentiments: "I like hybrids, but a lot of them aren't that cute." So much for the changing the world promises she championed after being sprung from the joint.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.