Didn't know Pitt was a passionate environmentalist? You're forgiven-after all, most of the column inches he generates are devoted to his relationship with Angelina Jolie and their quickly expanding brood. But it was during the couple's efforts to rebuild houses for victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that Pitt actively promoted the philosophies of William McDonough, an architect based in Charlottesville, Va., and co-author of the eco manifesto Cradle to Cradle. "Instead of cradle-to-grave - where we take, make and waste everything - the concept of cradle-to-cradle looks at eliminating waste so that we make things that are of human and ecological benefit forever," says McDonough, who worked closely with Pitt through Make It Right to construct eco-designed homes in New Orleans. Their alliance didn't end there, though: The cradle-to-cradle concept is also a certification program, and Pitt's project with Kiehl's is the first beauty product to measure up, thanks to its environmentally sound formula, packaging and manufacturing processes.
"Biodegradability is a reasonably new arena in the development of beauty products," says Patrick Kullenberg, general manager for Kiehl's. "Our chemists had to be meticulous in selecting only those ingredients that would meet expert-recognized standards for biodegradability while providing the attributes expected of a Kiehl's body cleanser." It took over a year to nail down the formula - which is free of parabens, dyes and sodium lauryl sulfate-and Pitt evaluated each prototype along the way. "He was extremely involved," says Angelike Galdi, a chemist for Kiehl's. "We went back and forth many times-especially on the fragrance, which he wanted to smell very fresh." Pitt even personalized the bottles: His signature, along with a handwritten note, is reproduced on each label.
But unlike most celebrity endorsements, this collaboration isn't intended to boost the income of the star or the beauty company. "Brad's not just a face; he's a partner," says Roberta Weiss, senior vice-president of global marketing development for Kiehl's. "Of course, it's great for us from an awareness-building standpoint, but it's more about serving the community and the environment." Now that Kiehl's has discovered how to make biodegradable products, Weiss says we can expect to see similar formulations in the future, as well as other charity-driven initia- tives. Could this inspire more of us to "give back"? That's the goal, says Kullenberg. "We hope that we've inspired not only beauty companies but also everyone else to be as generous and as philanthropic as possible," he says.