Dr. Harrelson honoured for his sustainable ways
Cheers alum champions bike riding and biofuel, but don’t look to him as an example, he says
His latest character may have killed a zombie with a banjo, but Woody Harrelson’s not sure he can slay the crowd when he accepts his honorary doctorate Saturday at York University.
“It means more than any award or accolade I’ve received,” Harrelson said. “I just get nervous about having to do a speech.”
The Zombieland star will receive the honour at York’s convocation. Best known for his role on the television comedy Cheers, he’s spent years promoting sustainable living by means of bicycle tours, green road trips and a book.
“It’s not always the usual suspects that need to be uncovered and recognized,” said Dawn Bazely, a biology professor who helped nominate the actor. Bazely first came across Harrelson’s efforts when she watched Go Further, the 2003 film that documents his biofuel road trip to spread the green word.
Harrelson has a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre but no honorary degrees to his name. “I was a little unsure they had the right guy,” he said in his Texas drawl. “But now that I know they do, I’ll be there.”
Harrelson talked to the Star on why he shouldn’t be your child’s role model and the impending vegan Twinkie revolution.
Q: When you were in school, were you into the environmental scene?
A: No, I really didn’t think about it that much. The college I went to, we had a nuclear power plant just down the road.
Q: When did the environment become important to you?
A: That probably happened in the late ’80s, early ’90s. I started to feel like, “What am I doing wasting my time as an actor when the world is going to hell in a handbasket?” I didn’t feel like I was doing anything of import.
Q: What parts of your life would you want students to follow?
A: I don’t consider myself much of a role model at all. The reason they’re giving me this doctorate has to do with my getting ahold of a principle that I believe in and sticking to it. Otherwise, I can’t think of any other aspect that I would even want my own children, much less other people’s children, to follow.
Q: Are you going to make a speech at convocation?
A: Well, I guess so. I’ve had sleepless nights thinking about it. I guess I have to say something. I’ll just say how grateful I am.
Q: What would be your advice to students?
A: Voting with your dollar, to me, is more important than voting any other way. Using a cloth bag instead of a paper bag. Ride a bike, not a car. I did that in Toronto; I did a lot of it on a bike.
Q: How was that?
A: I thought there were some really cool areas to bike, and some felt pretty dangerous. I was rehearsing over at the Distillery District, and I would come down some cool very green area, and go over the rail tracks.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge as a raw-food vegan?
A: Sitting at a restaurant that’s not vegan and trying to explain I can’t have any dairy or butter without annoying the s— out of everybody at the table.
Q: In Zombieland, your character is obsessed with a Twinkie. How did that work with your beliefs?
A: I play a lot of characters who have nothing to do with what I believe. And they ended up bringing in somebody to make something that looks just like a Twinkie. It might just start a vegan Twinkie revolution. There’s not even the remotest chance of me ever eating a Twinkie.
Q: How will you get to Toronto?
A: I generally fly. My carbon footprint has got to be astounding, but all those other people in the plane are helping offset it. I really haven’t done carbon offsetting. I probably should; that’s more laziness than anything.
Photo via Flickr