Perpetually optimistic, tanned and in motion, Rob Greenfield is an American adventurer, environmental activist and entrepreneur. His best known for his Off the Grid Across America tour, during which he cycled across the USA on a bamboo bike, aiming to teach people how earth-friendly living leads to greater overall happiness and health.
Greenfield is also the host of Change the World with Rob Greenfield, where Greenfield brings guests on some of the adventures, and viewers vote on what Rob and his guest will do on their journey.
Which experiences from your travels most stand out in your memory right now?
On a penniless and nearly possessionless trip to Cabo I hitched 1,300 miles through the desert back to my home in San Diego. Over 50 hours on the road I got 11 rides and everyone was so warm and friendly. The highlight was a man giving me a ride for 17 hours all the way to the US border in the back of a fish truck where I had just enough room to lay sideways between the frozen fish box and the bed of the truck. The lowlight was arriving at the border at 3 AM and waiting three hours in the cold and realising that most of the people in line do that six days per week just to work in America and scrape by enough to survive. Then trying to hitch the last 150 miles back to San Diego I was rejected by 1,000’s of Americans when the Mexicans had been so willing to help just the day prior. I felt like an alien in my own country.
Of all the places you’ve been, which are your favourites?
Kenya stole my heart. I am in love with their heartwarming singing, simple way of living, and brightly colored glass bead jewellery and clothing.
Komodo National Park in Indonesia was like visiting another world with ancient dinosaurs. Wandering among the dragons in the wild and sleeping in the villages where the houses are raised up on stilts to keep safe from the dragons was quite the adventure. The guide told me that I was the first white man to ever sleep in their village and some of the people I met cried when I left. I didn’t know why they were crying over it but it struck me strongly.
And of course New Zealand where the beauty left my jaw on the floor at every turn. It’s a pristine country and the Kiwi’s intend to keep it that way. I respect that a lot.
What do you do to offset all those air miles?
I’m really grateful for this question. In the past I didn’t offset my flights because I didn’t realise how much harm I was causing to the earth. For that matter I didn’t realise how much harm most of my actions caused. These days I fly a lot less and try to only do it for an adventure that I believe will inspire many people to reduce their impact on the environment long term. Flying is probably the most negative thing I do but for local transportation I almost always ride a bike, walk, use public transportation, or use an electric car share program. Also thanks to this question, starting today I am going to offset my flights with Carbonfund.org. It’s by no means the solution but it will help.
Which people do you most admire for trying to make a difference in the world?
Jack Johnson for changing the paradigm of what it means to be a rock star and leading by example in big ways. He used 100% of his 2008 tour profits to start the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and is using his music and fame to help create community gardens, reduce plastic pollution, support non-profits and so much more.
I admire Yvonne Chouinard, Patagonia, and 1% for the Planet for showing the world how to use business as a medium for positive impact and teaching that it makes financial, social, and environmental sense to do so.
Russell Brand is great, for using his fame to raise the consciousness around the world and wake people up. He’s one rad dude, and I thank Annie Leonard and The Story of Stuff for teaching me and millions of others how much energy, resources, and labor goes into making the stuff that we end up throwing away.
Of course, I can’t forget Gandhi and Martin Luther King for fighting hatred and a lack of understanding with love and peace and dedicating their lives to the human race.
Of all your achievements, what are you proudest of so far?
I am proud that I’m able to inspire others to live in a manner that is beneficial to the earth, their community, and themselves simply by leading by example. It took a lot of practice and dedication to mold myself into who I am today and I’m very proud when someone tells me that my life has inspired them to be a happier and healthier person. I’m proud that I’m happy to live simply and in a dedicated manner to my fellow humans and the environment.
Tell us a bit about the Greenfield Group
The Greenfield Group is my environmentally active marketing company. It started off as a way to fund my adventures and environmental projects and show that business can be used to positively impact the environment. Over the last few years we’ve transformed from being a business that does good things with some of our profits to being in the business of spreading positive things and doing even more good with the money we make. Our product is online marketing, SEO, and social media management for companies with a positive environmental or social message or product to spread.
How is this different from the Goodfluence Fund?
The Goodfluence Fund gives micro-grants to fund small projects that benefit local environments and communities. We believe that a little money can go a long way in good hands so we give in amounts of $100, $250, and $500 to individuals and non-profits. The main focus of the fund is helping people grow their own food and get more people on bicycles. It’s actually just getting started and this year I plan to help start ten community gardens for under $1,000 each.
What plans have you got for the rest of the year?
The Goodfluence Tour! This summer I am cycling across America to inspire people to do more good. My job for three months will be to do good and influence others to do good as well. Before the trip I’ll be launching Goodfluence.com a social network that helps you do good things and influence friends and social networks to follow suit. By good we mean actions that are beneficial to the earth, your community, a person, animal, or yourself. Our focus is the Daily Goodfluence which a simple and small action that just about anyone can do anywhere in the world. Users do the Daily Goodfluence and upload a photo of it or a status and the website will visually show how many people do it. Sure it’s just one small thing but together our everyday actions will make a huge difference! People can also create their own Goodfluences and get others to do it as well. I’m pretty excited for the bike ride and for the impact the network will have!