Actor Adrian Grenier is known for his work on movies like The Devil Wears Prada and the TV show Entourage, but off camera, he’s building a different kind of pod. He is a passionate environmentalist and, in 2015, cofounded the nonprofit Lonely Whale, an organization dedicated to building community, connecting with the ocean, and fighting plastic waste. The nonprofit’s name is inspired by a whale that researchers have dubbed “the loneliest whale in the world” because he sings at a different frequency than the rest of the species.
To tell the story of Lonely Whale and his activism, the actor and environmentalist curated an exclusive Spotify playlist in collaboration with Client Earth, Lonely Whale #PlaylistsForEarth. In honor of World Oceans Day, For the Record caught up with Adrian to talk about his work.
What impact do you hope Lonely Whale has on the world?
Our mission is not to get rid of single-use plastics or to save the ocean, but rather to connect with one another and to bond with the ocean. Through connection, through our personal and collective expression of what’s possible, we begin to make the choices that reflect our values.
Our hero mascot, the lonely whale, has been seeking connection his whole life, calling out in a unique frequency of 52 hertz. The lesson I’ve learned from him is not only the power of unique expression, but also the importance of finding connection and bonding with each other. I always imagined a world that was free of plastic in the ocean, where human beings were kinder to each other, people didn’t suffer as much, and we cared more for animals and the well-being of nonhuman species.
A lot has changed in our awareness and understanding of climate change since you founded the organization in 2015. How has that changed your role with Lonely Whale and your outlook on sustainability?
At Lonely Whale, we really believe that self-care is ocean care. More and more, people are recognizing that in order to heal the world outside themselves, they must heal what’s inside their immediate circle. A lot of traditional activism has been colonial in nature, the savior complex of wanting to go out and “save the world” while sitting on your hands or not taking a big look in the mirror. I see a lot of people starting to wake up to that, to the change that is right there in their own hands.
How have people responded to Lonely Whale’s mission? Are they finding connection with the ocean, with each other?
It’s been absolutely incredible—our community has really grown significantly over the past years. We’ve worked with individuals to create a number of programs to reduce plastic. We’ve started a movement of awareness around single-use plastics that make their way into the ocean, starting with the smallest unit of measure: the plastic straw. That has been the entry point to the larger challenge of reducing our consumption of single-use plastics.
We also started NextWave Plastics, which brings together a consortium of companies with a global footprint that are all committed to finding a use case for plastic destined for the ocean. The goal is to keep plastics from going into the ocean and putting them back into the economy. And we launched Ocean Heroes boot camp, which is 300-plus youngsters between ages 8 and 18 from 30 different countries who come together in a boot camp-style conference to learn about ocean health, science, and connect on their shared values. It’s been absolutely incredible.
I’m really excited to say that we are now putting out a film about the loneliness epidemic in our culture, the need for connection, and how that loneliness creates symptoms of self-destructiveness and environmental destructiveness in our culture. The film comes out July 9. It’s called The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52.
On Earth Day, you posted a video to your Instagram sharing some changes you’ve recently made to your life to be closer to nature. What inspired these life changes?
My goals for most of my life were commercial in nature. I was looking to make money, build, grow, and accumulate. Now I’m putting my energy into serving nature, serving my family, and being more present in my everyday life. I lived on a wave of FOMO. In retrospect, it’s like everything was always new, and I was always wondering what was next. It wasn’t until the past few years that I really realized I need to absolutely commit myself to my principles and ideas. A “practice what you preach” type thing. Now I’m leaning in and settling into being in closer touch with nature. I moved to a farm. I spend my days gardening and farming and taking care of land. And I’m so, so happy.
How do the songs you chose for #PlaylistsForEarth fit into the Lonely Whale mission?
I wanted to tell a story with the playlist, to express my personal perspective on environmentalism and ask myself what it means to be an environmentalist, what it means to care for the Earth. I really do believe that the answer is, first and foremost, an effort of self-care and recognizing that you are part of nature. You are a beautiful expression of nature. So if you want to take care of nature, take care of yourself. And then that will spread outward from within you. Self-care equals Earth care. We all need to grow up, take responsibility for ourselves and the land, and recognize this is our home.
Follow along as Adrian shares the Lonely Whale story through song on Lonely Whale #PlaylistsForEarth playlist here.