The ‘Entourage’ actor and environmentalist told Moneyish he’s ‘very pleased’ with the coffee corporation’s plan to eliminate single-use plastic straws.
Adrian Grenier says it’s about time Starbucks stopped sucking.
The actor and environmentalist — most recognizable as a star of HBO’s “Entourage,” the boyfriend in “The Devil Wears Prada” and Chase Hammond in the late-’90s rom-com “Drive Me Crazy” — threw props to the java giant for its recent pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic straws from its stores by 2020.
“I’m very pleased. … We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Grenier, 42, told Moneyish in a recent phone interview. “This took a little longer than I was hoping, but hey, better late than never. And of course this isn’t going to solve the entire ocean plastics issue, but it’s certainly a big, giant baby step.”
Grenier, who co-founded the Lonely Whale Foundation clean-ocean nonprofit in 2015, had been pushing Starbucks to phase out its green plastic straws for several months. As a Starbucks shareholder, he presented a proposal in March urging the company to reduce its plastic footprint; as a celebrity approached on the street by TMZ weeks later, he chided the coffee conglomerate to “get your s–t together.”
“I always believed that Starbucks would eventually make that choice, because they tend to try and be (as) socially minded a company as they can,” said Grenier, a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, adding that the company’s plastic straw stoppage “would also send a message to businesses around the world that it can be done if there’s a business will and determination.”
Grenier and Lonely Whale had already campaigned for Seattle, home of Starbucks’ headquarters, to ban the use of single-use plastic straws. (The Emerald City became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils earlier this month.) A business-fueled “Strawless in Seattle” initiative led by Lonely Whale removed an estimated 2.3 million plastic straws from the city in September, and the foundation launched a viral social media challenge in which celebs like Ellen Pompeo, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Alicia Silverstone encouraged people to “#StopSucking.”
Americans use around 175 million straws daily, according to one estimate by Technomics. And plastic straws actually comprise a relatively small proportion of waste dumped into the ocean, contributing only about 2,000 tons to the almost nine million tons of plastic waste deposited in the water every year, according to the Associated Press. (In 2016, about 335 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide.)
But Grenier sees straws as an accessible “entry point” into the broader plastic pollution issue. “How do you begin to tackle such a behemoth problem?” he said. “If you try and tackle the whole of these problems all at once, I think it’s too overwhelming for people; it’s too burdensome on businesses; and I think it’s probably too challenging for legislation, in many ways.”
So working toward that last straw, Grenier suggested, is one small way to create change. “When I ask (people) to stop sucking, they say, ‘Well, what about the cup and the lid?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, what about it?’” he said. “That’s exactly the kind of response I want: I want people to start thinking, ‘Well, if we can do straws, why can’t we do the cup and lid? Why can’t we do single-use plastic bags? Why can’t we transform our entire relationship to convenience and single-use plastic items entirely?’”
He admits he’s not perfect himself, estimating his straw use is “probably down to one a month.” “Straws are so ubiquitous in our culture, and we have such a habit of using them and receiving them, that even when I ask for drinks without straws I sometimes get them,” he said. “And it’s always a little bit of a pang in my heart when they come or I forget to ask for no straw. But it happens.”
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Ultimately, he added, “we don’t want consumers to have to be burdened every time they go get themselves an iced coffee — we want businesses to make a change for us, so that we can just enjoy the iced coffee and not have to worry about dying sea turtles. … And we want strong legislation, so that any one business doesn’t have to feel the brunt of that burden themselves.” (New York and San Francisco are considering straw-ban proposals, while U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced a proposal in April to ban plastic straw sales.)
Grenier says he started Lonely Whale because the ocean seemed “underserved”; an “abstract place outside of our everyday experience that didn’t lend itself to inspire our empathy.” “It’s so big and vast that we feel, on some level, that it’s indestructible; that we can’t affect it,” he said. “Part of my mission was to bring people closer to the world of oceans and give them reasons to care, and also find ways to help the ocean thrive.” The foundation last week announced a campaign in partnership with Bacardi — titled “#TheFutureDoesntSuck” — pledging to eliminate one billion single-use plastic straws by 2020.
The issue also hits close to home for Grenier: The actor is building a sustainable pad for his mother, Karesse Grenier, right around the corner from his own place in Brooklyn. “If I’m going to make my mom a home, it’s got to have all the values that she raised me with,” he said. “My mom raised me to respect and care for others … and also to take care of myself, and clean my room, and (take) care of my environment.” The world’s oceans are a collective resource shared by everyone, he pointed out, “and we need to respect it and clean it.”
Now, Grenier said, Lonely Whale is pushing to pass legislation introduced in May by New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal, who wants to eliminate single-use plastic straw use across city bars and restaurants. “That’s our next big focus,” Grenier said. “Let’s get New York City to lead the way for the world.” He also launched a new website Friday, Halfetarian.com, encouraging people to reduce their meat consumption by half for the sake of health, animal welfare and the environment.
As for what well-meaning but lazy environmentalists can do to move the needle, Grenier steers clear of prescribing a specific to-do list — urging them instead to be “more present and aware and conscientious” in their lives. “You’ll find solutions in every moment,” he said, “if you really just decide to just pay attention.”
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