By Simona Campli
Rob Greenfield finds his bliss in various, unexpected ways: this American adventurer, environmental activist, inspirational speaker, author and entrepreneur was a former materialistic boy who rejected a life of booze, bongs and babes when he realised it just wasn’t making him happy. In 2013, he set off on a cycling trip across America on a bicycle made of bamboo to inspire Americans to live more sustainably. On his 104-day ride he used just 610 litres of water, created a mere .9 kg of waste, and never turned on a light switch – but he found himself feeling lighter and happier than ever.
Since that trip, Rob has rejected even more of the comforts of Western life: no more gadgets, no more keeping up with the Joneses, no more bills (really – he has zero!) and not even a house. He has truly woken up to the wastefulness of the Western lifestyle, and the negative impact it is having not only on the planet, but the mental health of all of us who feel anxious for not having the latest fashion, the biggest house, or the fattest bank account.
Rob spreads what he has learned through many media: he is a frequent guest on TV, where he often talks about ‘dumpster diving’ – that is, rescuing the tonnes of perfectly edible food tossed out by supermarkets; he has a website and podcasts where he shares his experience of not showering for 1000 days (keeping clean instead by using natural water sources like streams and rivers), and has just written a highly engaging book called Dude Making a Difference, where he logs his bike trip and other life changing experiences and insights.
Rob has transcended much of not only material goods, but the material world; he is completely detached from his circumstances, but totally attuned to his state of being, and for this reason alone he is to be admired. But being an altruistic kind of guy, he’s trying to spread the word and show the world how how living with less is truly more.
In a few simple words what is your philosophy of life?
Live simple and you will live free.
You had many adventures in your life so far, some which you wrote about in your new book, Dude Making a difference. Which are some of those you cherish the most and why?
The adventures that abolished my preconceived notions are the ones that really stick out to me. At one time my longest bike ride in a day was about 30 miles. I never thought I could ride my bike all the way across the United States but I did it! The same goes for traveling without money. I never thought it was possible but landing Panama thousands of miles from home without a penny in my pocket was a challenge that taught me so much.
What key challenges did you face over the course of your journeys and how you manage to overcome them in terms of practical strategies or inspirational mantras?
Every day is a challenge in most of my adventures. I intentionally challenge myself so that my life becomes easier with time. By throwing myself out there so many times, what are mountains to cross for others, have become mere speed bumps for me. For example cycling across America, I took it one peddle at a time, one day at a time, and eventually crossed the entire country. For me it’s about setting little goals that build up to accomplishing a huge feat.
Raising awareness of sustainability issues seems to be the leitmotiv of your projects. What strategies you think are crucial in order to reach the wider audience and convey your message in a powerful way?
It’s important to make it fun and exciting because few people want to listen to negativity or the doom and gloom mindset. I make my work very enjoyable and very positive so that it inspires and influences positive environmental change. Also painting the picture in peoples minds literally with drastic visuals such as my Food Waste Fiasco’s. Also including important statistics to back up what I’m talking about.
On your Life Goals page there is a list of Lifetime Adventures to Come. Which one you’re preparing right now? How do you prioritize them?
I’m not preparing for any of them right now but my girlfriend and I are going to Central America in about a month and we’re going to be planting fruit trees and starting gardens for people all over the place. I’m very excited it. Priority usually comes from whatever I’m most excited about at the time!
Regarding the writing of your new book, Dude Making A Difference. How did that process go? Did you keep journals throughout your travels, for example?
Yes I kept journals every day and shared them on my blog and social media. My book is a compilation of all of my daily journals turned into the story of my entire bike ride across the USA.
Do you have any inspirational books that contributed to your personal growth?
Yes! The Moneyless Man and The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle influenced me greatly to simplify my life. The Responsible Company and Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard really inspired me to practice ethical business.
What about music? Which is the sound that supports your creativity and actions?
Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, and Medicine for the People are a few that really inspire me. They are all environmental warriors!
Do you ever get discouraged and how do you find your way back from a difficult day?
I do get discouraged every month or so but it usually only lasts about a day or two. Most of the time I am very positive. I do always look at the big picture of what I’m trying to achieve but when I am feeling down I think about the positive impacts that I’ve made. I remember that every life is precious and if I’ve helped one person to live with more health and happiness then I’ve done by job for the day.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?