Actress, producer, and activist Alysia Reiner is using her voice and platform to tackle gender equity and protect the environment.

Known for roles on shows including Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and “Better Things” on FX, Reiner tells Food Tank that she became an actress “to tell stories that make the world a better place. It’s why I act, it’s why I produce.”

But Reiner was deterred by the stereotype of “glitzy” celebrities. “That felt really scary and not in tune with who I wanted to be on the planet. That’s why she was captivated by actors like Meryl Streep, who used her fame to make a difference. Watching her, Reiner says, “I had this aha moment [realizing] as an artist…it made me feel like there’s a path for this.”

In her home and on sets, Reiner is working actively to reduce waste. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she says that many productions have moved away from a traditional spread of food options, instead distributing individual meals for each person. While Reiner wonders if the shift may have helped to curb food waste, “I know that it’s increased plastic waste,” she tells Food Tank. “The containers, they’re all plastic as opposed to paper, and it’s a little heartbreaking.”

Reiner wants reduce plastic waste behind the scenes—and on screen—by working with the Plastic Pollution Coalition to flip expectations.

To do this, Reiner is drawing on lessons she learned as an Ambassador for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The Institute has worked to create gender balance, increase inclusion, and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media. Through their work, the organization has helped viewers become accustomed to, and expect to see, greater representation of different genders, sexualities, races, and more on screen.

Now, Reiner says, the Plastic Pollution Coalition wants to use this model to encourage viewers to think differently about single-use plastics. This may mean substituting plastic water bottles with glasses of water or replacing disposable coffee cups with mugs. “How much can we pull so that we’re not consistently normalizing plastic pollution and plastic waste on the screen?” Reiner asks.

But no matter how hard she tries to push for change, Reiner never wants to use fear to inspire people to act. “My biggest thing around any initiative and activism is not scaring people, not shaming people, not guilting people, but lovingly inspiring them with creativity.”

Read the full article about activism and the climate crisis by Elena Seeley at Food Tank.