We all know there are plenty of simple steps we can take towards promoting a healthier environment – and not just in our personal lives but on a grand scale as well. But with the many commodities modern life has to offer, these steps often fall to the wayside. Our generation has been more focused on comfort and facility, rather than sustainability and environmental friendliness. Rob Greenfield has taken it upon himself to remind us of the many benefits of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle on a daily basis. Through his blog and his many initiatives – TED talks, the Happy Healthy and Free non-profit organisation and his work with The Teeny Greeny – Rob has established himself as a Dude Making a Difference.
Rob is currently taking part in a Permaculture Design Course in Lago Atitlan, Guatemala. We caught up with him to learn more about his transition from “Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference”.
“For me, the changes really came one at a time. I made a long list of things I wanted to change: to start buying at local farmer’s markets and businesses, to ride my bike more, avoid packaged foods and stick to a plant based diet. These were all changes I was genuinely excited about making, because these are all things that are unquestionably better for the earth and for myself. It was absolutely a transition – the change by no means happened over night.”
Changing his eating habits was the first step towards a healthier lifestlye and opened Rob up to various other means to reduce his environmental impact on the world. He quickly came to realize that he could contribute to a healthier and happier earth by rethinking his living arrangements. In 2015, Rob purchased a $ 950 Tiny House on Craigslist and promptly moved in to his new digs on a small, San Diego plot – officially bill free and a 100% debt and credit card free.
“I’ve been simplifying my life for years now and when it comes to the Tiny House, there were two main facets to the decision: One was to live a almost money-less life and not be depended on a system I didn’t support, but more importantly, not to put my money into a system I didn’t support. The other thing was, reducing my environmental impact. So, there’s many ways you can do that but for me, it was living in a very simple, off the grid Tiny House. I wanted to, and successful managed to, remove money from being an essential part of my life. I’m not, at this point, trying to remove money from my life completely, but I don’t want it to be the main part of my life, I don’t want it to be the reason I make certain decisions.
By living in an apartment I’ve found that it’s really easy to over-consume resources. If you have electricity available at any time, it’s too easy to just leave the lights on, keep the heating running or shower for too long. For me, living off the grid forced me to wisely use resources and to live a more earth-friendly life. Of course that meant, harvesting rainwater, using solar panels to charge my electronics, etc. These two things – using less money and living environmentally friendly – just went hand in hand.”
For many of us, living in a 50 square feet house would present many a challenge. We’ve become so used to the many luxuries a full-fledged apartment or even a dorm room has to offer, we can hardly imagine a life without running water, let alone a flushing toilet.
“I find that in living a “normal life”, you know, with a lot of money, there are as many or more challenges. A lot of people get up for work every day and aren’t really excited about their job. For me, it’s a bigger challenge working forty hours a week on a job I don’t actually enjoy doing, than dealing with perceived challenges like harvesting rainwater or growing food. It’s just a matter of picking what challenges you want.”
Rob’s aim has always been to inspire others to follow in similar footsteps and to set an example in terms of earth friendly living, anti-consumerist lifestyles and clean diets. He does so in a unique manner, immersing himself in experiences which prove that a sustainable life does not have to mean missing out on things or becoming entirely radical. His stint at the Teeny Greeny accomplished this mission and when he auctioned off his 50 square feet abode at the beginning of this year, the profits made way for ten tiny houses for the homeless!
In the near future, Rob is planning on setting up a place for one year, where he will eat only the food he grows himself, before taking on the Mississippi River in a canoe and relying only on foraged and hunted food. This month sees the release of his documentary series Free Ride on the Discovery Channel and follows Rob and filmmaker James Levelle, trekking across South America with no money. Tune in to follow the crazy adventures of the Do-Good Dude!