Photo shows actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio giving the thumbs up.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio does a lot for the environment. | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Is Leonardo DiCaprio Doing More for the Environment Than World Leaders?

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is working hard to protect the environment through his films, his investments, and his activism.

Well-known for his lead roles in films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Titanic (popular opinion: Rose totally could have made room for him on that raft…), Leonardo DiCaprio is more than just a movie icon. Off of the big screen, the actor is an ardent environmentalist who has dedicated his time and resources to saving the planet.

From advocating for a plant-based diet to raising awareness for the climate crisis, here are seven ways Leonardo DiCaprio uses his platform for the good of the environment.

Photo shows a ranger and animal from Virunga National Park.
Last year, DiCaprio produced a movie adaptation of Virunga for Netflix. | Courtesy of Netflix

He uses the power of film to invoke change

Having been in the movie industry for nearly three decades, DiCaprio is well aware of the power of film to raise awareness and create change. So when he’s not in front of the camera, the award-winning actor spends his time producing environmental and animal welfare documentaries.

His latest film, The Loneliest Whale, which he co-produced, follows a mission to find 52-Hertz, a whale with a unique song who has traveled solo for years, earning it the titular nickname. Through the search for 52-Hertz, the film ties in issues plaguing marine life, such as global warming, whaling, noise pollution, and ship strikes.

In 2020, he teamed up with Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins (who wrote and directed the 2016 drama, Moonlight) to create a movie version of the 2014 documentary Virunga for Netflix. The critically acclaimed documentary centers on the conservation work of the rangers in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their mission to protect endangered mountain gorillas from poaching, oil companies, and other conflicts.

His 2016 film, Before the Flood, which also counts Martin Scorsese and The Revenant producer Brett Ratner among its producers, centered on the issue of global warming. The film prominently features DiCaprio as he travels the world, interviewing world leaders, paired with striking visuals of the effects that the climate crisis is already having across the globe. 

DiCaprio produced 2019’s And We Go Green. The motorsports documentary is about Formula E, the sustainable, all-electric auto-racing circuit. He also produced Ice on Fire, a 2019 HBO documentary about the climate crisis, and he’s also worked as executive producer on a number of feature-length films, including Cowspiracy and Sea of Shadows.

He advocates for plant-based eating

DiCaprio is certainly no stranger to speaking out about the planetary benefits of eating less meat. 

In 2019, he shared a post from the non-profit Rainforest Alliance, urging people to reduce their beef consumption because of the industry’s ties to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The following year, he dined on a special vegan feast prepared by chef Wolfgang Puck at the Oscars Governors Ball afterparty. “He wanted vegan. We made a vegan pizza. He ate it so fast. He said, ‘Oh, can you bring another one?’” Puck said at the time, adding: “We’ll have it on deck on Sunday [Oscars night], for sure.”

In March, he took to Facebook and Twitter to encourage his then-combined 37.5 million followers to replace meat with plant-based burgers once a week. “Every single person can help the planet and reduce climate change with one small choice every week. Join me and Beyond Meat in our mission to rethink the future of food,” DiCaprio said.

He invests in vegan and sustainable companies

DiCaprio puts his money where his mouth is. He’s invested large sums into vegan companies, including plant-based milk manufacturer Califia Farms and vegan meat brand Beyond Meat.

His other investments include vegan snack maker, Hippeas; lab-grown diamond brand, Diamond Foundry; off-grid solar power company, Kingo; sustainable tea brand, Runa; and recycling tech developer, Rubicon. His most recent investment banks on cultured meat. Most recently, he became an investor and advisor to two cultured meat startups—Netherlands-based Mosa Meat and Israel-based Aleph Farms.

Photo shows Leonardo DiCaprio speaking with Alejandro Agag for the documentary "And We Go Green."
DiCaprio also produced 2019’s And We Go Green about Formula E. | Credit: TIFF

He supports climate change awareness

In 2016, during his Oscars award acceptance speech for his role in The Revenant, DiCaprio made his feelings on the climate crisis clear. “Climate change is real, it is happening now. It is the most urgent threat to our entire species.”

But his advocacy for the environment is nothing new. Back in 1998, he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. At the top of the list: wildlife conservation, ocean preservation, and global warming. In the past two decades, LDF has donated more than $80 million to 200 environmental projects. LDF has been able to make a large impact on the planet by partnering with other international organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, Oceana, and the Wild Foundation.

He, along with a group of scientists, also launched Re:Wild, a $43 million initiative aimed at rewilding the Galápagos islands. The work has helped protect and conserve more than 180 million acres, which has benefited more than 16,000 species.

In 2019, he backed a $150 million climate change fund. The Princeville Climate Technology Fund invests in tech companies that work to mitigate climate change.

He supports animal welfare and conservation efforts

DiCaprio’s work to help animals is equally extensive. Through his LDF projects, he’s worked to protect endangered species. 

In 2010, LDF donated $1 million to an innovative Nepalese conservation project to preserve the country’s wild tiger population. The LDF has also funded projects to protect the Black Rhino in Tanzania, the lowland gorilla in Central Africa, and the snow leopard in Central Asia.

In 2019, the actor co-founded the nonprofit Earth Alliance to help protect wildlife threatened by climate change. The organization partnered with the European Commission to launch the $2 million Virunga Fund.

In addition to supporting projects dedicated to conserving endangered species, LDF has campaigned to stop the inhumane trade of animal products like ivory. In 2013 LDF sponsored a petition instrumental in ending the ivory trade in Thailand. The foundation also supports the WildLife Direct project, which identifies illegal ivory trade routes and cartels using DNA tracking.

DiCaprio is certainly a big fish when it comes to marine conservation. The LDF pledged $7 million of funds towards marine conservation initiatives at the 2014 Our Oceans conference. Such is DiCaprio’s commitment to protecting the planet’s wildlife, that the campaigner has had both a Malaysian beetle and a Dominican spider named after him as a tribute to his environmental activism. That’s a legacy few people can lay claim to. 

It’s also no surprise that he’s a longtime admirer and close friend of world-renowned conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall. In a 2019 essay, DiCaprio wrote: “I admired Jane Goodall long before we ever met. I knew of her landmark work with chimpanzees in Gombe. I had read about her, read books written by her, but it was only when I got to spend more time with Jane a few years ago that I truly felt I was in the presence of one of the most impactful and important leaders on the planet.”

He’s a humanitarian and philanthropist

DiCaprio’s work doesn’t just stop at animals and the environment. A philanthropist, he’s also committed to human causes like education and protecting the rights of indigenous communities.

The LDF partnered with Amazon Watch to advance the rights of and protect the lands of the Amazon Basin’s Indigenous tribes. The LDF also works with projects that conserve the history and culture of the Chumash People, the Alutiiq community, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In 2016, DiCaprio and fellow environmentalist thespian, Mark Ruffalo showed their support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight against the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

As if this wasn’t enough to make you a lifelong Leo lover, DiCaprio also worked with 24 orphaned children in Mozambique during 2006 filming of Edward Zwick’s drama, Blood Diamond, and donated $65,000 to the Children of Armenia Fund in 2016.

He uses social media for good

The actor has amassed a large following on social media, and he regularly uses his platforms to speak out about the causes he cares about.

The actor’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, which boast more than 50 million and 19 million followers, respectively, are a sea of campaigning, packed with posts about climate change, women’s rights, conservation, and wildlife protection. And DiCaprio doesn’t shy away from putting the issues front-and-center.

Frankly, when it comes to community spirit, environmental consciousness and dedication to promoting positive change, DiCaprio is an example to us all. Near, far, wherever you are, Leo’s charity work goes on and on.