Extreme Sustainable Living With U.S. Activist Rob Greenfield

Adventurer and environmental campaigner on a European tour to raise awareness of waste
By Kat Piper
Kat Piper
Kat Piper
April 14, 2017 Updated: April 14, 2017

Rob Greenfield is trying to change the world, one piece of rubbish at a time. The low-impact-living environmental campaigner has pulled off some extreme stunts.

(Epoch Times)
(Epoch Times)

In 2013 he cycled across America from San Francisco to Vermont living only by his low-energy, low-waste criteria (see left) and carrying any rubbish he generated with him (he only created 900g / 2 lbs).

In 2016 he lived for a month like an average American in New York City, but carried every piece of rubbish he generated attached to himself in plastic bags. By the end of the month, he could hardly get out of the house.

He’s also highlighted food waste by “dumpster diving”, recovering perfectly edible food from the rubbish bins of supermarkets across the US – and he’s lived on that food too for months at a time.

But, he says, his message is really just about moderation, and getting people to think about what they can do individually to reduce their impact on the environment in little ways.

What happens when you casually throw something in the bin or flush the toilet?

Like many people, he thought he was living an environmentally conscious life, doing his bit to recycle and save water. But then, in 2011, he really started looking into it, educating himself about the issues and re-examining his lifestyle.

“I could have felt total doom and gloom,” he said during the first of his U.K. talks in Totnes, Devon, on Sunday 9 April. Instead he decided to change the way he was living.

He made a list of all the changes he wanted to make, and set about doing at least one each week. Over a year the changes soon added up, and the activism and adventure began.

In 2015 he lived in California in an off-grid “tiny house” (a five-foot by ten-foot shed on a trailer), with no car, no internet connection, a compost toilet and a small veg patch. Last year he auctioned off his tiny house to raise money for homeless charities.

Now he is living a nomadic life “in the service of others” with just 111 possessions to his name. And he’s much happier for it.

He measures everything with the question, “When something is easy, where is the burden being placed?” What happens when you casually throw something in the bin or flush the toilet? Or turn on a light? Or drive a car instead of cycling or walking? Certainly makes you think.

Rob is a humble man and recognises that no matter how hard he tries, he will never be able to live a fully “zero waste” life. Neither does he expect to change the world, but hopes he can encourage people to pause to think, change themselves, and beautify their own communities.

His talks are packed full of environmental facts and figures, but in a non-threatening way. You leave feeling inspired rather than pessimistic.

Rob Greenfield is currently on a speaking tour of Europe. He’ll be talking in London on 18 April at Farmstand. For more information see www.robgreenfield.tv

Kat Piper