Adrian Grenier, the star of HBO’s hit comedy Entourage and this summer’s film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, is relaxing in Brooklyn, tossing around phrases like “off the grid” and “r-value,” the term that identifies insulation’s resistance to heat flow. His Prius is parked in Hollywood, but his biggest commitment to environmental conservation is in the heart of Brooklyn, where he’s building a sustainable home. At this moment, he’s the opposite of his Entourage alter ego, Vinny Chase, who’s much more interested in finding off-the-hook parties than off-the-grid energy sources.
“I was brought up to be respectful and appreciative of the things you have,” explains Grenier, 30, who was raised in Brooklyn by his real-estate agent mom, Karesse, who is part Apache Indian. (Karesse, along with Grenier’s stepfather, Robert Sterling, also owns International Harvest, an organic foods business.) “When I was a kid, she gave me a copy of a speech by Chief Seattle—in it, he challenged the white man’s imperialistic idea of ownership, and it made me understand that caring about the earth is about respecting your friends and neighbors and environment. I have gone through stages of apathy and times of complete unhealthy obsession [about environmental issues]. Eventually I came to something of a happy medium.” Still, that happy medium has him pushing the envelope of sustainable design.
The house didn’t start out as a green project, but as a light remodeling of a landmarked building. Grenier and his mother purchased the home together as an investment, with plans to lease the upstairs apartment and create a crash pad-slash-headquarters for the actor’s music and film company, Reckless Productions, on the main level. But when their contractor broke the news that the beams were rotted, and that it would be easier to demolish the house (while propping up its landmarked façade and roof) than to rehabilitate the crumbling structure, Grenier seized upon the opportunity to go green. He noticed a nearby café powered by solar panels, and resolved to install them on his own roof. And that was just the beginning.