It was a humid day in Costa Rica when I first heard from Rob Greenfield – an American-born environmental activist, writer, adventurer, and self-proclaimed “do-gooder”. A fellow writer for True Activist, he first asked me to cover a piece on his latest endeavor to fly to Panama City and find his way back home via the Sharing Economy.
As fate would have it, the article was soon written, but Rob still needed assistance getting from the country below the one I was in back to California… So with the approval of Finca de Vida’sowners (Bryan and Jodi Calvi), Rob stayed three days with us at the farm and in that time I had the pleasure of getting to know him and fall in love with his spirit.
To this day Rob is one of the most inspiring, authentic, and honest individuals that I have had pleasure to meet. He continues to dream bigger and bigger, stay true to his intent, give more than one would ever think possible, and remain committed to his plight for simple, more sustainable living to become mainstream.
This past summer he finished his second bike-across-America venture, but this time in effort to raise awareness for food waste. Quite a few media sites picked up his story – including the Huffington Post and The Discovery Channel – and many, many people were fed and educated on the fact that America is wasting 40% of the food it produces… when people are still going hungry.
Because Rob Greenfield is one of the most ambitious and interesting individuals I know, I figured it right that an interview with him via email start off the Social Entrepreneurship and Environmental topics of article featured on Bloom for Life.
He is testament that you – we – all of us can live lives we love and contribute more positively to the collective. Please enjoy the following interview with Rob:
What inspired you to trek the globe, dive for food in dumpsters, and live a radical life (in comparison to most)?
Ever since I was a child I had a strong desire to get out and experience the world. I grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, population 8,620. That’s not that tiny but it was pretty isolated as it was the largest town within a 60 mile radius. I think we were the only town in that area with a stop light, and by the time I moved out of there we had a few more. Growing up I read National Geographic, watched Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel, and soaked in knowledge through books including the encyclopedia. I thirsted to explore the places that I learned about and to meet the animals and plants that lived there. My aunt, my great uncle, and my dad had done quite a bit of traveling and I think they established a wanderlust in me as well. So I started exploring at a young age, at first just in my own neck of the woods. In elementary school my friend Hans and I biked to Iron River, 30 miles away. In High School I hopped on a bus and rode it 48 hours to Florida, which to me at the time was a dream come true with it is alligators, sting rays, and exotic birds. In college I started going to Mexico, my bordering country, and then took my first overseas trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. I did take it slowly, step by step becoming more comfortable with my abilities and finding out that traveling was more accessible than I had known.
Throughout college I visited 4 continents: South America, Europe, Australia, and my home continent of North America. Then upon graduation I embarked on a round the world adventure that took me to the continents of Asia and Africa as well as Europe again. I threw myself into the wilds of Borneo and Komodo National Park as well as the expansive National parks of Kenya, and after that experience was never the same. I had experienced how diverse and magnificent the world was. I realized how small I was and how little I meant in the grand scheme of things, but also how much I could mean in any moment or place in time. This knowledge was the power that lead me into my radical way of life that I now lead. I gained a desire to protect the natural beauty that our earth harbors as well as the precious life both in human and non-human form that exists here on my our home. This desire to protect the earth meant that I had to look into my own life and let go of my habits that did not serve the greater good of humanity and earth.
I shed my care of what others thought about me and decided to live life to the fullest extent that I knew possible. In doing so, I now show others that they can do so as well, if they should choose to.
A short time ago I would have been very timid to do the things that many know me for doing now. Traveling moneyless, giving up showers for a year, eating exclusively from grocery store dumpsters, shedding my credit cards and bills, all of these things seemed radical to me at one point, but now they are simply my simple way of life.
What is your biggest fear?
(I ask this because fear is deeply linked with attachment; you obviously have learned to live and need little, therefore have very little attachment. Some may find this inspirational for themselves to ‘let go’ and acknowledge that they really don’t need as much to survive / thrive)
I have no fear that I can think of. I do have limitations and I do deal with emotional challenges, but I do not recall having much in the way of fear for a few years. I do feel stress and anxiety which in some regards I would closely relate to fear. When I was younger I was scared of the dark and blood to name a couple of things. Those are easy to remember as fears. Now I can still feel fear if I’m standing at a tall height looking down or if I’m almost run off the road on my bicycle.
More than fear though I feel that those are instinctual feelings to protect myself. I realized as of late that death is as much a part of life as is birth and that I am just 1 in 7 billion humans, 1 in trillions upon trillions of lives. When I die it will all be fine. The earth will certainly absorb the physical part of my being, if something else is to happen with my “soul” then it will happen. Sure I would likely feel fear in a moment of near death but today it does not create a feeling of fear. This lack of fear in me is what has allowed me to live with very few limitations and to experiment with life in a greater manner than I would have been able to in the past when I was bound by my fears.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment to date?
I’m proud of my ability to take environmental issues and bring them to light in a different manner to help people understand them and care. To give an example earlier this year Huffington Post said my “dumpster diving might just change the way we see food waste.” I incorporate psychology into my activism with the intentions of molding my message into a way that will sit well in the brain and create a desire to positively act on the issue.
How do you see the world in 20 years?
If I had to guess I would say it might look a lot like it does right now. I’d love to see a more harmonious way of life but I doubt we are to that point yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some serious changes were forced in my youth but I also wouldn’t be surprised if we could continue to pillage the earth for a while longer without seeing life as we know it come crashing down.
I remember you once lived on the streets to experience a facet of what homelessness is like for a week. What was a profound take-away from that experience?
It’s very important to mention that I was not homeless or trying to be homeless during this experience. I had a home and support I could go back to at any moment so I could not feel what people who are forced into the situation feel. I was merely on the streets day and night for a week to spend time with some of the folks who sleep on the streets of San Diego. It may sound quite weird but it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my adult life. I felt so free and the culture on the streets was very generous and friendly. I was barefoot and every day people who appeared to have very little were offering me shoes. Everybody shared food and when you were out a toothbrush or a warm coat it was there for you from another person.
I’m not saying this is what’s happening everywhere but this was the case down there by 16th and Shelter in Downtown San Diego. It was very warming to be in a group of people that were accepting of each other and seemed to be watching out for each other. The generosity was unlike any other culture I have seen in the USA. There were two underlying reasons that I think created that generosity. First, all of the people had been in a place of need or were currently in it, this meant they had empathy for the others, and thus had a desire to help. That is beautiful. Secondly, is a very interesting thing though. Everything that they were sharing with each other, the food, the clothing, the bedding, well they got it all for free from people handing it out or from organizations such as church groups or shelters. They didn’t have to work or pay for the possessions which made it easier to give away. The value wasn’t created by having to earn the possession and there was also an abundance of all of these things available so they know they could just go get another for free when they needed it. I’m not saying this is happening everywhere but this is what I experienced on the streets of San Diego in December of 2013.
What inspires you to create new adventures, and where do you feel the ideas generate from?
I’m an adventurer by nature and by heart so it comes very smoothly for me to think up adventures and to then embark on them. These days I’m inspired because I see that people are positively affected by my adventures and that makes me want to keep it going. My ideas mostly come from me seeing a need for me to experience something and for others to experience it through my adventures.
10 Steps to a happier, more sustainable life…Go!
-Ride a bike, sell your car if you have one
-Eat a whole foods plant based diet. No processed, packaged food.
-Ditch the gym and get your exercise naturally and via your daily habits such as biking and walking
-Get rid of all of your unnecessary possessions and only keep what serves you well
-Surround yourself with what you want to be and remove negative relationships and situations from your life
-Go local. Eat local, shop local, play local when possible.
-Share your stuff with others and share others stuff. Buy less stuff and purchase used stuff when you can.
-Aim to live a mostly trash free lifestyle. If you’re making trash find an alternative.
-Live in the service of others. The more happiness that you give the more you will receive and there is no shortage of people that could use your service
-Find joy in the simple things in life that cost little to no money. Parks, the public library, exploring by foot, fresh air, and nature are some examples.
Do you have one (or two) favorite funny moments from your explorations?
While I was on the streets of San Diego a man – originally from Puerto Rico who spoke broken English – invited me up to his place. I thought he lived in the low income housing aimed at getting people off the streets so I accepted because I wanted to learn about this. He offered me a glass of water and we engaged in small talk for just a few minutes. His apartment was covered in photos of Jesus and some of his family back in Puerto Rico and that caught my eye. He walked over to the old TV, pushed the on button, and the screen flickered to two big black dudes having sex with a petite white women. I politely told him I wasn’t interested in watching porno and he somewhat unwillingly turned it off. I wanted to give him company because he seemed lonely so I asked about his life and his family. The conversation returned to sex. I asked him if he had any hobbies. He said, “I like to suck beak.” I said, “What else do you like to do?” He said, “big ones, little ones… medium ones.” I said, “I’m really not here to talk about sex with you but I’m happy to stay if you want to talk about anything other than sex.” His response, “black ones, white ones.” I got up and wished him a good day and walked out the door.
Unique situations like this are not rare in my adventures.
And finally, what are you up to now?
Right now I am taking it easy in San Diego and working on some larger projects. I am in a committed relationship for the first time in five years and so she and I spend a lot of time together. I am working on reducing my time on electronics and living more purely than ever. I am also currently working on a TV show with Discovery, in the beginning stages of producing a documentary called Trash Me, and I just had a Publisher pick up my book about my first bike ride across America. I am also doing some behind the scenes activism, which is new to me as most of my activism has been based on my own personal experience.
Connecting with Rob and becoming friends has been an incredible gift in my life. I’m so grateful he took the time to answer these questions for Bloom for Life readers and any other health, sustainability, and conscious-minded individuals who happen upon this article.
The world is truly changing to be one where we all have opportunity to live lives we are passionate about and personally love. If you are inspired by something, pursue it! On a spiritual and intellectual level, you are meant to go after and be a creator in whatever form that calls to you.
Rob Greenfield is just one example, but he’s definitely an inspirational one. If you want to get in touch with this eco-friendly activist, producer, writer, and adventurer, check out his links below:
Rob Greenfield Website: http://www.robgreenfield.tv
Until next time,
Bloom for Life! You Deserve to Live a Life You Love.