Oscar red carpet goes green
As the environmentally friendly limo-driver to the stars, Y Fray does not like to talk about her A-list clientele.
But one look at the wall of her office - where dashboard placards bearing the names of previous customers are pinned -- offers striking confirmation that the Oscars red carpet is turning a shade of green.
From Leonardo DiCaprio to Forest Whitaker, eco-conscious celebrities are increasingly shunning gas-guzzling stretch limousines to ferry them to the Oscars and preferring greener alternatives.
And that means business is booming for Fray and her three-year-old business Eco-Limo, which comprises a fleet of 14 cars all of which are either "hybrid" (gas/electricity) or run on bio-fuels.
"We're dedicated to alternative fuel," says Fray. "There's no town car, no Hummer, no Cadillacs. Some other companies have a small number of hybrids, but they have hundreds of limousines."
Fray launched her firm after purchasing a hybrid Toyota Prius -- which can run for 100 kilometers on less than five litres of gasoline -- using a third of the fuel of traditional Lincoln Towncar limousine.
After starting out with a small client base word of Fray's company reached Global Green, an environmental awareness group, who soon directed Hollywood icon DiCaprio towards the firm.
"Leo is a client every now and then," Fray says. "Things have just blossomed by word of mouth. We have not done any advertising or marketing."
While the Prius is the most popular vehicle, Eco-Limo's fleet also includes a Mercedes and a Ford sports utility vehicle that run on bio-fuel.
"Some companies that were laughing when we started are not laughing anymore," says Fray, noting that several established limo companies had sought to emulate her firm by offering green alternatives.
That trend is acknowledged by Alan Shandeling, president of the California Livery Association, who estimates that the numbers of 'green limos' in Los Angeles have increased by around 300 percent in the past year alone.
"A couple of years ago you'd never see a hybrid or a green car at the awards shows. Last year there were quite a few at the Emmys, and I assume there will be quite a few more at the Oscars," Shandeling said.
Fray said meanwhile that her clientele is not just restricted to members of the rich and famous. Increasingly EcoLimo is attracting corporations keen to adopt greener policies by using her firm to ferry around their executives.
Nevertheless stars play a big role in helping change attitudes Fray said.
"I'm very grateful to the Hollywood community because people look at celebrities to set the trend, to do the right thing."
According to Elizabeth Snead, a writer for the Los Angeles Times awards season blog, theenvelope.com, the clamor to be greener than thou had spread beyond Oscars transportation.
"It's just become like a craze, everybody is promoting everything as being green, whether it's a limo, a gifting suite, a party," Snead told AFP.
"The hybrid limo is just the latest offshoot of this craze. It's great that celebrities help get the word out. We just kind of wonder how much it's hype as opposed to real commitment to the cause.
"As with everything in Hollywood, don't believe anything you see or you read."