Susan Rockefeller, chair of this year's South Fork Natural History Museum Summer Gala, talks with her friend, actor and activist Adrian Grenier, who will be honored for his conservation efforts.
I met Adrian Grenier through our shared commitment to ocean conservation. Adrian and his band played in Southampton for an Oceana event we did a couple of years back, and I just love his intelligence, kindness, and commitment to conservation (he’s probably blushing right now). His dedication to cherishing the things that we all care about—family and the environment—runs deep and directly ties to my personal mantra: “Protect what is precious,” whether that be family, art, or nature. Adrian’s efforts are neverending. He cofounded SHFT, an online lifestyle portal dedicated to all aspects of sustainable living; he produces and directs documentaries and flms; and he recently partnered with Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an upstate New York farm and sustainable food education center, to launch the Mobile Kitchen Classroom, which gives young people a handson education about healthy, sustainable food.
Susan Rockefeller: First, I was hoping you could talk a bit about some of your conservation efforts? Adrian Grenier: My environmental efforts really refect a worldview and a lifestyle choice. It comes down to a connection to one another and the world. So many people don’t feel like they have a place in their communities, and they don’t feel a connection to the earth. That is at the root of what I’m trying to change. When you make that connection, you naturally develop the desire to protect and conserve.
One great thing you did last year was attend SoFo’s opening, so you saw what is at stake for the Hamptons’ healthy soil, land, and beautiful oceans. Do you spend a lot of time here in the Hamptons? It wasn’t until the past few years, when my mom started going to Quogue, that I started to appreciate the beauty of this place. What is so wonderful about what’s going on at SoFo is that the museum is fostering a connection to what is in your backyard. First and foremost, we have to make sure that what is happening immediately around us is being preserved.
What did you take away after visiting the museum? Last year I thought I knew enough about the environment, and yet there is always an opportunity to know more, another opportunity to be inspired. The one thing I took away was that you don’t have to travel very far to do what you can to help the environment. We can’t take for granted the beauty of nature, because if we don’t do what we can to protect it, it won’t be there for future generations.
There’s just so much that nature gives us, which is a nice segue to one of your projects, the Mobile Kitchen Classroom with Stone Barns. Why is it such an important cause to you? [Stone Barns] has inspired me in so many different ways and has been truly instrumental in helping us develop and grow the Mobile Kitchen Classroom. The classroom is a learning kitchen on a retroftted school bus that goes to schools and works with existing garden programs to give young people an opportunity to connect with agriculture and grow food. Then they get the chance to take what they’ve grown and cook it, and they receive an education about the world around them, environmental stewardship, health, and nutrition. [Eating] is something we do three times a day, and there’s no reason every bit shouldn’t be a refection of our values and shouldn’t make us healthier and stronger.
My new flm, Food For Thought, Food For Life, will screen at the Southampton Arts Center on July 23, and there is a lot of information about what Stone Barns is doing, as well as a lot of different farmers. Many people think it is overwhelming to change the world, but we can do it, like you said, three times a day. I think there are certain principles that we’ve come to agree upon: civil rights, human rights, freedom of speech, and access to education. But one uncharted territory is health. I think it is a human right—and a civil right—to have access to healthy food and the wisdom to be a healthier human.