Environmental focus for Somerhalder Foundation

'Vampire' thesp founded ISF in December

Ian Somerhalder may be known for sinking his teeth into the necks of ill-fated mortals on CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” but off screen the thesp quenches a philanthropic thirst.

His budding Ian Somerhalder Foundation is laser-focused on environmental issues, ranging from water conservation to battling deforestation and problems of animal overpopulation.

A Louisiana native, Somerhalder was spurred to act by devastation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Watching the news coverage of the environmental disaster in his home state was “like watching a family member die,” Somerhalder said. “I’d just wrapped ‘Vampire Diaries’ and found out about the oil spill and was so angry. I literally packed everything, grabbed my two pets, rented a car and hauled ass back home to Louisiana.”

Somerhalder founded the ISF in December, on his 32nd birthday. “It was an amazing present,” he said.

He’s been able to harness the power of Twitter (he has nearly 900,000 followers) and other social media to spread the word about the ISF with lightning speed.

His ability to pull support from his young fan base has allowed Somerhalder to establish ISF chapters around the world.

ISF’s focus for this year is on deforestation initiatives — he plans to establish a farm in Louisiana to harvest alternatives to wood pulp for paper. He’s also working on finding sponsors for a nationwide cleanup day that the ISF hopes to stage around Earth Day next year.

Although the global issues Somerhalder has in his sights are daunting, he brings an infectious optimism, and pragmatism, to the table.

“You have to pick battles that are small enough to win, yet big enough to matter,” he said.

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