Adrian Grenier has a very specific drink order: Iced coffee, no sugar, no milk, and most importantly, no straw.
“In the event that the server forgets, it’s an opportunity for me to share a little bit more about why I requested no straw,” Grenier tells PEOPLE. “It wasn’t just a simple preference, there’s a real reason behind it.”
That reason is the fact that 500 million straws are used every day in the United States, and it results in extreme consequences for the ocean — and for people’s health.
Bringing awareness to this fact has turned into a mission for Grenier. With the foundation he co-founded in 2015, The Lonely Whale Foundation, he’s now launching the campaign “Strawless In Seattle” to get the city to #StopSucking.
The idea is simple: Make the switch from plastic straws to a marine-friendly alternative, like paper straws. Then challenge friends and businesses to do the same.
“I think we’ve captured people’s imaginations and that’s the goal,” says the actor and environmentalist. “To sort of shake people out of their routine. Plastic straws are so ubiquitous.”
During the month of September, nearly 200 restaurants businesses and venues in Seattle have committed to switching their plastic straws for sustainable alternatives to help eliminate the half-billion straws that are harming marine life.
“We want to experiment and explore this model with a city that is known to be accepting and open to these kind of changes,” says Grenier. “We can learn from that process and then replicate it in other cities.”
It’s not just local Seattle restaurants that are joining the movement. Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, is taking on the challenge himself.
“He is such a hero,” Grenier says of Wilson. “I think he is going to launch this campaign into a different echelon because the reality is that the sports community is one that has a lot of fans and a lot of energy.”
The former Entourage star has made a name for himself outside of Hollywood in recent years by shining a light on causes that matter most to him.
“I realized several years ago that the ocean was the most underserved aspect of the environment,” he says. “It’s so out of sight and out of mind for most people.”
“Plastic is a toxic material and it’s everywhere,” he continues. “Seventy percent of sea birds have ingested plastic. Fish are eating it and it stays in their body and goes up the food chain. Next thing you know, who’s eating that plastic? You. Humans. It’s a toxic health issue for the oceans and for humans as well. In 25 years, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, so you’ll be fishing for plastic.”
Grenier embraces the challenges that comes with attempting to create massive change. In March, someone tweeted to him that plastic straws are very valuable for people with disabilities.
“There are people who have real individual needs and we just need to make sure we’re being sensitive to everybody,” he says. “The reality is that the ocean is all of ours and we need to make these changes together. We need to make sure that when we do make those transitions we’re addressing everybody’s concerns.”
Grenier says he doesn’t want to eliminate straws, he wants to improve them.
“The straw hasn’t had any significant innovation for over 60 years,” he says. “We’re in age of massive innovation. Why can’t the straw undergo that same innovation?”
He adds: “We want to attract people with levity and also a sense of optimism and aspiration. This is our country, this is our world, so let’s build it to be an image that we will be proud of.”