Star strives for cleaner oceans

Actor Adrian Grenier, right, speaks with moderator Jerry Butler during the Caribbean Transitional Energy Conference at the Kimpton. - Photo: Michael Klein

Next time you go diving or snorkeling, leave your underwater camera behind and take a mesh bag to collect bottles, fishing lines, bits of plastic and other trash that you find.

Hollywood actor Adrian Grenier, an avid diver, says he had “some of the most engaging and exciting moments under water” doing these ocean clean ups.

Speaking about his passion for the environment at the Caribbean Transitional Energy Conference at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on Thursday, he suggested taking care of Cayman’s beaches and seas was not only something residents should do, but also an area that is ripe for opportunity in terms of ecotourism.

“Bring people here not to just sit and be lazy spectators with their cocktail,” he said. “Get them out there and provide opportunities for them to help clean up the environment. It’s not a chore.”

Best known for his starring role as Vincent Chase in the HBO hit series “Entourage,” Mr. Grenier is an ocean conservationist and co-founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation.

Rather than tackling big problems like the pollution of the world’s oceans by telling the world that they have to stop using plastics altogether, which would be unrealistic and overwhelming, the foundation focuses on one issue: eliminating the single-use plastic drinking straw.

Lonely Whale’s #StopSucking campaign aims to eliminate the 500 million plastic straws that are used every day in the United States alone, either by not using straws or by substituting plastic with paper, bamboo, metal or glass alternatives.

“If we can solve that tiny little piece, the journey is full of possibilities,” Mr. Grenier said.

The success of the campaign has prompted major U.S. cities like Seattle and San Francisco to prohibit plastic straws, with New York being the latest city that introduced legislation that will ban their use.

Companies like Starbucks and American Airlines have also pledged to ditch the plastic utensils.

Bringing corporations on board, Mr. Grenier said, “was a huge coup for us and proved that this campaign was moving.”

He believes that businesses and lawmakers coming together on an issue will make it easier for the consumer. “Business change will help us get there faster,” he said.

The same applies to the reuse of plastics, the vast of majority of which goes unrecycled.

Lonely Whale therefore led the Nextwave initiative, a consortium of companies including Dell, General Motors and Trek Bicycles that have committed to using ocean-bound plastics in their products.

Mr. Grenier said the idea is “to find use cases that create the collective demand so that we can then create a supply chain that uses the plastic before it makes its way into the ocean.”

Avoid the extremes to effect change

The actor, who is also a U.N. environment ambassador for the ocean, said in his evolution as an environmentalist, he had to avoid getting lost in the extremes.

“I have been there. I have been an extreme environmentalist, yelling at someone at the checkout line in the grocery store because she was putting my stuff in a plastic bag.”

At other times, he went through stages of utter apathy because the problems felt too overwhelming.

“I realized that’s what people are going through all over the world.”

In order to bring everybody together, so they feel they have the ability to take action without debilitating their entire lifestyle, staying away from the extremes is important.

Mr. Grenier said he wants to find ways of communicating about environmental problems that make people feel uplifted and optimistic about the possibility of change.

As an ocean conservationist, who is concerned with the role oceans play in climate change through their ability to absorb carbon gases from the atmosphere, he also does not want to be downcast by the current stance of the U.S. administration on this and other environmental issues.

Mr. Grenier said he sees U.S. President Donald Trump’s actions, like the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as an opportunity for the rest of the world “to really step up and show that they meant it.”

“I am not deterred. And I think the enthusiasm of [the Paris Agreement] is still alive and well around the world.”

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