Adrian Grenier’s passion for the environment has led him to work on a variety of different sustainability initiatives over the years. But as his efforts grew, he noticed that one critical area of our environment was being largely overlooked.
“In doing work in so many areas, I started to recognize that the ocean is the most underserved and abandoned aspect of the environment,” says the actor and advocate. “Even though it comprises two-thirds of our planet and is a very important part of our ecosystem, when it comes time for people to do something positive for the planet, the ocean often is the last thing on their minds.”
Upon realizing the need for more efforts to protect the ocean, Grenier poured himself into the cause with several new initiatives, including founding the Lonely Whale Foundation, which is dedicated to connecting people with the world’s oceans to inspire empathy and action for ocean health. Inspired in part by a trip to the ultra-remote Cocos Island off the shore of Costa Rica with a team of scientists and environmentalists, he believes this connection between humans and the ocean is critical to its — and our — survival.
(Re)creating a balance
“It was a profound and vulnerable experience, being completely cut off from the land, with nothing but vast sky above and the deep ocean below, “Grenier recalls, emphasizing that we as a species need to start appreciating how vulnerable we are to nature.
“We’ve led ourselves to believe that we have dominion over the natural world, and our hubris has allowed us to get carried away — pouring concrete over everything, cutting everything down, extracting our natural resources, burning them up, turning them into plastic, dumping them. If we don’t start to recognize that we need to work in harmony with and within the rules of nature, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass.”
An overwhelming issue
Grenier acknowledges the issue is a tough one to tackle for several reasons. In addition to feeling like it’s simply too big or overwhelming an issue for one individual to affect change, he recognizes it’s also difficult for most people to get out there and participate on the ocean.
“It’s dangerous and challenging, it’s vast and expansive, and it generally doesn’t relate to our land-based experience. So it’s very easy for humans to just go about their day forgetting about the ocean,” he explains.
One inspiring moment
To help address the lack of awareness, Grenier works with the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), and is soon to come on board as an official Goodwill Ambassador. In this role, he is committed to helping people forge meaningful connections to nature. According to UN Environment, environmentalists often become advocates after a specific, inspiring moment they had in nature. So, with the insight that we strive to protect what we love, as part of their I’m With Nature campaign, launching on World Environment Day on June 5, Grenier and UN Environment are encouraging people to get outdoors and into nature to appreciate its beauty and importance and to share stories of personal experiences.
Hashtags for change
In addition to inspiration, Grenier is also committed to tangible action. That’s why he has helped launch impact initiatives like the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign and the Lonely Whale Foundation’s #StopSucking campaign. Both efforts ask individuals and businesses to routinely embrace sustainable lifestyle choices. UN Environment’s #CleanSeas campaign has global reach and seeks a range of commitments from individuals, businesses and countries to address marine litter. #StopSucking, one of the #CleanSeas commitments, is singularly focused on reducing the use of the more than 500 million plastic straws Americans dispose of every day.
“The #StopSucking campaign is all about finding something very acceptable and down to earth that anybody can do,” he says. “If you do nothing else, just work on straws, which are especially dangerous to marine life, and that will be challenging enough, while opening the door for other possibilities.”
It’s small actions like these, performed by large numbers of people, that Grenier believes will help effect real, lasting and rooted improvements in our oceans and, subsequently, our planet.
“Only through radical collaboration with each other can we actually change the world and our society,” he says. “Don’t think you have to change the world all by yourself; give yourself a break and do it with others. You don’t have to be the one to save the world yourself, just change your own life and lead by example.”
On World Environment Day, Grenier’s appointment as a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador will be announced, a title he says he is honored to receive. “I’m a firm believer in the power of collaboration to advance progress on our environmental issues. For me, UN Environment is the ideal partner to engage and inspire a global community to become connected to nature and, in so doing, create empathy for each other and for marine life so that we may take action every day for the health of our oceans and our planet.”
Paula Andruss, [email protected]