By Lauren Santye
Adrian Grenier sympathized with Rider students about the daily challenges they face trying to live a sustainable and cohesive lifestyle.
“The fate of the world is placed on you, the future, our youth,” Grenier said. “The survival of our species, the miracle of life itself, the nearly implausible chance of life’s very occurrence rests on you, and on top of that you have homework due.”
The Campus Sustainability Day keynote speaker on Oct. 24 stressed that young people don’t need to tackle all of the world’s problems at once. Instead, they can take small steps to make an impact.
According to Grenier, the burden of tackling the world’s troubles can leave a sense of hopelessness.
“We can’t individually take on climate change or environmental destruction alone because its reason for being is vast in nature and global in scope,” he said. “This can frustrate our efforts because when we make them, we don’t see an immediate change in the problem. We barely perceive the benefits of our efforts, yet the problem seems to get bigger.”
Although the star of Entourage and The Devil Wears Prada has always cared about the environment, he said his efforts growing up were immature and laid-back.
Grenier recalled his own road to sustainability and the trials and tribulations along the way. He said the desire to take on the battles of the world is overwhelming and can lead into a downward spiral of two extremes, neurotic obsession (fight) or abject apathy (flight).
“Fight with all you got, take no prisoners and wrestle our enemies into submission, or get the heck out of there — run away from the problem,” he said.
Roots to sustainability
His greatest influence for his sustainable lifestyle stems from his mother. He recalled a speech from a book called Chief Seattle’s Unanswered Challenges, which his mother would read to him as a child.
According to Grenier, a prophetic Native American preached to white men about their destructive ways. The earth should be thought of as our mother and should be treated with care and respect.
These lessons were instilled in Grenier’s life, but his misinterpretation caused him to torpedo into neurotic aggression and obsession.
“I was the crazy person, and I was miserable for those years,” he said. “I gained no goodwill and I found that I was met with resistance because people were afraid of me.”
Typical of most patterns, he reverted to the opposite extreme, to him this is the worst kind, the abject apathy.
“I couldn’t endure the hurt,” Grenier said. “The sadness of knowing, or thinking I knew everything, but feeling that we were being so cruel to ourselves and to the planet. So I retreated and crawled into the safety and comfort of, ‘Whatever,’ ‘Who cares,’ ‘Nobody,’ ‘Not me.’ But we all know where that leads: nowhere.”
His solution was to find a spiritual balance in a sustainable lifestyle. Upon changing his technique and attitude, he found more success.
“I saw that when I encouraged others by acknowledging their small changes and sharing mine, it actually became infectious and they made more changes, as did I,” he said. “We became a small group of kids sharing ideas and finding inspiration through each other. None of us individually were doing anything so absolute or grandiose. We were simply living through connecting and making small shifts.”
Grenier emphasized the impact of even the slightest effort.
“The key to helping the planet for me is you must start with you first, and make small changes, but meaningful and absolute changes that last a lifetime,” he said. “Don’t underestimate the power of small shifts to achieve big goals. Be creative, live well and take care of yourself in order to do your part.”
Accomplishments and balance
One of Grenier’s achievements is the co-founding of SHFT.com. He urges students to make a shift in their lifestyles.
“SHFT.com is where art, culture, music and the joy of life meets sustainability and commerce,” he said. “It’s a megaphone and a catalyst and it’s infectious. Our idea is to inspire and nudge ideas of sustainability into pop culture through the arts and lifestyle of the consumer.”
Grenier believes that the reins are in the hands of consumers, who will be the ones to propel society into a sustainable lifestyle.
“The consumer is ultimately going to drive the paradigm shift, especially in a financial economy and society,” he said. “SHFT.com is a lifestyle platform that celebrates the movement toward sustainability, not as a separate entity but as something that is reflected in our culture, through music, art, film, food, literature and design. We feel this message to be inspiring and accessible, not didactic and preachy.”
According to Grenier, when building SHFT.com, the goal was to distance it from extreme and radical ways without being careless. The founders were looking for balance or that sweet spot.
Grenier found that, in his own life, balance is priority.
“Finding balance in your everyday life is the first task, and folding your environmental discoveries into everything you do – the long goal,” he said. “Not to fight the big picture problems and not to run from them, but to simply embody the solutions in your simple everyday experience. Let governments deal with sweeping policies, which is also very important, of course. But first, as citizens and as humans, let’s do our part as consumers of the world.”
Value to students
Melissa Greenberg, Rider’s sustainability manager, was pleased with the impression Grenier left, and how much he integrates sustainability into his life.
“I think it was very educational,” Greenberg said. “He brought up some great points and showed what a true environmentalist he was. I think people were very surprised.”
Katelyn White, senior journalism and environmental science major, has been an Eco-Rep for the past four years. She finds that she is met with hurdles in her sustainability journey, and Grenier’s message proved to be very uplifting.
“I loved his point of view — that we don’t have to tackle everything at once,” she said. “Sometimes I feel criticized if I don’t do something environmental. It’s nice to be reminded that one little thing is enough.”
Grenier was thrilled to speak at Rider and believes the university is on the right track. He said he loves the idea of the water stations.
“I was very happy to be here and I’m honored and chuffed to be invited,” he said. “It seems like there’s a real robust sustainability presence amongst the students. At least it seems so, based on the turnout and that a lot of the questions were based on sustainability and not Entourage.”