Actor Adrien Grenier Works With Louisiana’s Youth To Tackle Plastic Pollution At Inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp
NEW ORLEANS — Adrien Grenier, star of HBO’s Entourage, played Aquaman on television—now, he’s a real-life ocean hero.
“I think living in a fantasy world is great, but eventually you have to bring it into the real world, and make the most of those perceptions,” says Grenier.
As the co-founder of the nonprofit Lonely Whale, Grenier and his partner, Executive Director, Dune Ives, work to bring forth courageous ideas to save the ocean. One of those ideas was the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, which took place in New Orleans on June 2-4.
During the bootcamp, 250 students ages 7-21 worked to create their own campaigns to take action against ocean plastic pollution, starting with the single-use plastic straw.
“Straws are winnable in the plastic pollution fight,” says Ives.
Students traveled from California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Toronto, and more.
One attendee, Robbie Bond, 10, is the founder of Kids Speak for Parks, an organization working to protect our national parks and monuments. Bond will graduate high school in the year 2025—the year the UN designated there will be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in the ocean.
Looking forward even further, statistics show that there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish, by weight, in 2050.
This year, the UN Environment North America selected New Orleans for it’s World Environment Day activities—a contributing reason to why Lonely Whale and partners (The Captain Planet Foundation, The 5Gyres Institute, Ocean Wise, Litterati, Algalita, Point Break Foundation, Love Letters to the Sea, and Big Blue and You) decided to host this inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in The Big Easy.
“There’s a lot of places in the United States you could say are ground zero for plastic pollution—New Orleans is one of those,” says Ives. “It’s a perfect confluence of activity—you have oil and gas extraction, which is necessary for plastic polymer production. You also have this gigantic Mississippi River that is collecting waste all the way from the very top and bringing it down to New Orleans and into the Gulf of Mexico.”
The Gulf of Mexico is loaded with one of the world’s highest concentrations of plastic, making New Orleans the ideal place for these kids to say, enough is enough.
“I’ve always had a calling to the ocean and been very interested in both the life in it and the ocean itself,” says New Orleans native, Alexander Souvignier, 17. “With there being so much pollution here, I want to be able to make a positive change.”
Grenier, who is also a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, encouraged students to “think outside the box” when working on their campaigns and preparing their pitches—which were presented to and critiqued by Grenier on the final day of the bootcamp.
Some of the campaign ideas were then shared with the Canadian government on Tuesday, June 5, World Environment Day, via satellite, in an effort to get world leaders involved in the fight against plastic.
Grenier and other advisors offered the students thoughtful and practical encouragement and advice following their pitches. “Reach their hearts first,” says Grenier. “When their hearts are open, they’re more apt to change.”
One campaign idea from a student in Hawaii involved working with Hawaiian Airlines to ban plastic straws on all flights. This comes just weeks after Alaska Airlines announced it has banned plastic straws—an initiative sparked by a 16-year old Girl Scout.
Another student and New Orleans local, Madison Vidal, 12, wants to get prisoners involved in ocean cleanup in an effort she calls, Ocean Reform. “The ocean is a very healing place, and being entrapped all day is not good for mental health,” says Vidal. “So maybe if they could get out more, it could help with mental stress and reduce violence in prisons”
A resident of the 7th Ward, Dohlan Brown, 17, wants to encourage franchises like McDonald’s to offer customers 10 cent discounts for refusing plastic straws.
“It’s exciting to see the next generation get their juices flowing and coming up with new ways to tackle the problem,” says Grenier.
While many students were just starting to develop their ideas for change initiatives during the bootcamp, others already had plans in motion. Hrilina Ramrakhiani, is working as a member of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council trying to get a bill passed that makes it mandatory for students to bring only bring reusable water bottles to school.
Looking forward, Grenier says this bootcamp has “100 percent got to happen again. When you see these kids, you realize how important it is that we put this energy into them, and give them the tools they need to create a better future.
– by Alexa Renée Harrison, associate news editor