Leilani Münter isn’t your typical race car driver. Every race, the self-described “vegetarian hippie chick” purchases an acre of rainforest through the World Land Trust. She insists that her corporate sponsors must be eco-friendly, and she lobbied Congress on behalf of climate protection and worked for green candidates. Münter, 33, who lives outside Charlotte, N.C., even has her own namesake—a wind turbine in Texas—beating out Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” (who’s had a falcon, an elephant seal, a diving beetle, an airplane and an ice cream flavor all named after him).
E Magazine: Are you a racer who promotes the environment or an environmentalist who races?
Leilani Münter: I’m definitely an environmentalist who races. That’s an easy one.
E: How does an eco-activist take part in a polluting sport like race car driving?
L.M.: If I stopped racing I’d lose my platform to talk to the hundred million race fans in the number-one spectator sport in the world. I use my voice as a driver to reach out to those fans and educate them about being sustainable. We all have a carbon footprint that comes with our professions. I offset that. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can when you have a choice.
E: How does your political activism for the environment play with other drivers?
L.M.: I’ve definitely seen a strong reaction. I try to keep it that I’m more on the side of the environment than anything else. When I lobby, I’m lobbying both Democrats and Republicans. It’s not about red or blue. It’s about green.
E: How hard is it to get a corporate sponsor that meets your environmental standards?
L.M.: There have been a couple sponsors I haven’t worked with because of their environmental practices. And it’s hard because I’m a race car driver, too. I really want to win races and I want to become the first female driver to win a major stock car race. Maybe that sponsor I walked away from was the last time I was going to get offered a decent sponsor that could take me to the next level. But I would have felt like a real sellout.
E: So have you heard from Stephen Colbert lately?
L.M.: I had to call Stephen out because it seems like every time I watch “The Colbert Report,” he’s having something named after him. I was like—ha!—I beat him to one thing. He may have all the animals on the earth named for him, but he doesn’t have a wind turbine.
CONTACT: Leilani Münter.