Think people are generally bad? Believe more money will make you happier? Ecologist Rob Greenfield is here to change your mind!
By Chere Di Boscio
Perpetually optimistic, tanned and in motion, Rob Greenfield is an American adventurer, inspirational speaker, 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 he brings guests on some of his adventures. Viewers vote on what Rob and his guest will do on their journey.
Meet Ecologist Rob Greenfield
Which experiences from your travels most stand out in your memory right now?
Rob Greenfield: 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. I realised that most of the people in line do that six days per week just to work in America and scrape by enough to survive.
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?
Rob Greenfield: Kenya stole my heart. I am in love with their heartwarming singing, simple way of living, and brightly coloured 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. 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. The beauty left my jaw on the floor at every turn. It’s a pristine country and the Kiwis intend to keep it that way. I respect that a lot.
What do you do to offset all those air miles?
Rob Greenfield: 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. 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?
Rob Greenfield: 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!
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?
Rob Greenfield: 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. 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
Rob Greenfield: 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?
Rob Greenfield: 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. This year, I plan to help start ten community gardens for under $1,000 each.
In a few simple words what is your philosophy of life?
Rob Greenfield: Live simple and you will live free.
You had many adventures in your life so far. Which are some of those you cherish the most and why?
Rob Greenfield: 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? How do you manage to overcome them in terms of practical strategies or inspirational mantras?
Rob Greenfield: 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 mile 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 a wider audience?
Rob Greenfield: It’s important to make it fun and exciting. 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 people’s minds with drastic visuals such as my Food Waste Fiascos. 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 prioritise them?
Rob Greenfield: I’m not preparing for any of them right now. But my girlfriend and I are going to Central America in about a month. We’re going to be planting fruit trees and starting gardens for people all over the place. I’m very excited! 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?
Rob Greenfield: 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?
Rob Greenfield: 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?
Rob Greenfield: 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 if so, how do you find your way back from a difficult day?
Rob Greenfield: 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 plans have you got for the rest of the year?
Rob Greenfield: 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, animals, 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. 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!