The One Thing You Can Do Today to Help The Environment

By Adrian Grenier

Action and dialogue, heros and villians. Those are a few key elements that make up a good story and our ocean has all of them, so why aren’t we listening?

As a society we invest ourselves so deeply in the worlds of others through entertainment of all types, oftentimes using these stories to escape from the needs of our own, very real environments. As an actor and director I am immersed in creating false wonder in false worlds everyday, but my experience in Hollywood has also empowered me with a nuanced understanding of storytelling.

Throughout my twenties, as I grew emboldened in my activism, I kept running into the same problem: I couldn’t get anyone to join me in taking action for our environment. You see no one cared that I, the angry 23 year old yelling at the grocery store clerk, didn’t want to use a plastic bag. My experience was siloed, my messaging contained to myself and the esoteric concept of climate change. I began to realize that for too long our environment, and more specifically, our ocean, has been missing one very important tool: storytelling. The ocean is often out of sight, out of mind, making it easy to forget and hard to care about. Without having a story to bind you to the sea, it is impossibly difficult to create wonder and convey ownership over our common pool resource.

As social creatures, stories help us share our experiences and our values with friends and strangers alike. Stories engage our emotions and bond us to one another intimately, making storytelling a powerful tool for teaching and also for building a movement. That is why I got so excited about the story of the 52hertz whale — finally we had a found a hero for our ocean and a way to build connection! You see “52,” or the Lonely Whale, had already begun his hero’s journey, swimming the ocean alone and calling out to no reply. His mysterious, solitary, and humanlike odyssey offered the perfect narrative to create a sense of wonder for the vastness of the ocean and all that it contains.

So how can we effectively use storytelling to create a new environmental movement, a movement that inspires wonder, action, and ownership of our shared blue planet? Understanding storytelling as a tool for environmental impact was one of the core reasons I began the Lonely Whale Foundation with my producing partner Lucy Sumner. Together, we are testing new methods of storytelling across mediums to learn just how powerful storytelling might be in creating measurable impact.

Though the foundation is just over a year old, we have already proven through our ever growing and digitally driven community, that storytelling can be used effectively to share science and wonder. This year we are taking this one step further and turning our attention to crafting a new story with a very specific and measurable goal: create an emotional connection to the plastic straw so we can remove 500 million from the waste stream in 2017. Through a combination of humor, and, of course, wonder, we hope to turn the plastic straw into a global talisman for change.

I hope you’ll join Lonely Whale and me and help create a #StrawlessOcean. Take the pledge and learn more here.


Thrive Global collaborated with Adrian Grenier and the Lonely Whale Foundation to spread awareness of their new #StrawlessOcean initiative through this series on wonder and our environment. Here are more stories from the series:

Finding Wonder In the Wild

Why Nature Has the Power to Awaken Our Curiosity

Making Space for Wonder On Our Plates