You know him best as Vincent Chase on HBO’s Entourage, but while Adrian Grenier certainly loves his job as an actor, his true passion is the ocean — more accurately, saving it. 

The environmentalist (and UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador) co-founded the Lonely Whale Foundation in 2015 after struggling to get involved in a cause he cares deeply about. “I was frustrated with existing foundations and organizations that felt inaccessible. What was being asked was so grandiose and daunting, it felt overwhelming to access. And as a conservationist, if I was overwhelmed, I could only imagine what the average person feels when they see all the stats and issues regarding the ocean or the environment,” Grenier tells Thrive. “I started the organization first to connect people with one another and their shared values — bonding them with the ocean. Once you do see all of the plastic in the ocean, you can’t help but want to do something. And our job, right now, is to make it as easy as possible for people to make better choices.”

One of his recent initiatives, the “Strawless September” #stopsucking campaign, was so successful that it drove the entire city of Seattle to go plastic straw-free. And he’s not stopping there — Grenier sat down with Thrive to share details about what brings him inspiration, what causes him stress, and his relationship with his phone. Watch his full Thrive Diary below.

Thrive Global: What is your approach to get people involved with Lonely Whale?

Adrian Grenier: First, hearts and minds, bringing people in through communications and activations. Of course social media, putting the message out there. And then also working with companies and businesses so they can start to make some of the changes. Eventually, legislation is the final step. But it really is a multi-tiered approach.

TG: What are ways we can make a difference as individuals? 

AG: The solution isn’t by being bigger than the problem. The solution is actually by taking really small steps towards and doing it across eight billion people, hopefully. But just you, as an individual, just try tackling what you can. When we introduced this idea of stop sucking — don’t use single use plastic straws — the idea was to stop focusing on the ten million tons, forget about the water bottles, and the to-go cups, and the plastic plates, and all of the different plastic waste sources. We asked you to do just do one thing. It really gave people permission to relax into a solution. Then, after the plastic straw? Now move on to the plastic water bottle and then the next after that. One step at a time. 

TG: How do you handle stress?

AG:  I think I’ve made a career out of stress-free living. One of the reasons I think I got the role of Vince in Entourage is because I was so easygoing and nonchalant. A technique that I use for life and also in the work that I do for the oceans is the “macro micro technique” — I think I invented it because I just made this up.When you’re dealing with such large things, like ten million tons of plastic in the ocean, it’s so overwhelming and big that you can become stressed. Things that stress us out are the things that we can’t manage or the things that feel outside of our control — and so it gives us anxiety; it makes us feel small. I think it’s important to be able to witness and realize the big things but always come back to something very present and immediate in the moment, something that’s tangible, something that’s here and now, something that’s personal. And that’s the way you move forward: baby steps, one foot in front of the other. You’re not always constantly looking at the big obstacles ahead you just look at each particular moment.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?

AG: I don’t think negative thinking is all that bad. Actually, people say to me all the time that I’m a little bit negative. Part of the way we’re built is to be able to peer into the future and think about possibilities — and sometimes things can go wrong, or maybe things can be great if you have a vision of how beautiful the future can be. I think they’re both important tools, but the key is not to hold on to any one projection because we don’t know the future, we can’t tell. Go into the negative thinking and really sort of go all the way with it. Sometimes people get into a negative thought because they’re only skimming the surface of what’s really underneath their negative thoughts. But if you go, if you allow yourself, almost nudge yourself into the true depths of what that negative thought is, you’ll realize how deep rooted that thought process is. It comes from somewhere and you’re probably not addressing what is really at the root of that negativity. So I think you really have to open up and witness and see what is actually going on, and it can be scary because a lot of negative thoughts come from some real dark places. But don’t be afraid to really look at it and give it light.

TG: What is your relationship with your phone?

AG: I can’t tell. Arianna will be mad at me. But really—I get my phone and I turn off my alarm because I use it as my alarm. I’m sorry, Arianna. I did buy an alarm clock to have so that I could actually keep my phone away from my bed. It didn’t work out. I want to give you the right answer, but I’m flawed, man. I’m working on it.

TG: What gives you hope?

Recently, I’ve been struggling, myself, with some dark stuff and some challenges, so the thing that gives me hope is that despite the continuous challenges that I have to face in my life, I feel like I have the capacity to endure, to sit in to all that trouble and come out the other side. And that’s what faith is to me — believing that there is something that will come out the other side if you believe that you have the capacity to breathe through it, stay present, and really take the lessons of the moment. Because I think beauty and hope and optimism are really just the wisdom that you receive once you’ve gone through a traumatic or troubled moment.

TG: What are three things that help you thrive in your life?

AG: Three things to help me thrive are mediation, playing music—which is basically mediation with sound—and my dog. Little Pip. @PipthePup. I’m obsessed; I live for my dog. This is the first time I’ve ever had a dog and I used to look down on people who were obsessed with their dog. I was like, “come on guys, really. It’s a dog. Let it be a dog; it’s not your child.”  But, Pip is my child, straight up. She’s a baby. She’s a real baby in a dog’s body.

TG:  What’s a quote or mantra that gives you life?

AG: Here’s one of my favorites: “He or she who procrastinates in their choosing has their choice made for them by circumstance.” It encourages you to make choices, right or wrong. You’ve got to sit in and make a choice. And then, wrestle with the consequences of your choice. Know that things are on the move and if you’re going to be a part of it, you gotta get out and get in there. Otherwise, your life passes you by.

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  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.