Adventurer and environmental activist Rob Greenfield is no stranger to experimentation. You may remember him from 2017, when for one month, he wore every single piece of trash a typical person in the U.S. creates – 4.5 pounds per day!
Or you may have seen him riding a bamboo bicycle 4,700-miles across the United States in the summer of 2013 to raise awareness about food waste.
He lived in a 50-square-foot tiny house in San Diego before moving onto his next project: building a tiny house out of recycled materials for only $1,500. Oh, and he’s also growing and foraging his own food for one year.
Sound drastic? You bet it is. But Rob is doing this for a reason: to lower his own environmental footprint, and to educate people on how they can lower theirs.
Rob Greenfield wasn’t always a minimalist
Back in his 20s, all Rob Greenfield wanted to do was become a millionaire. He was living a traditional lifestyle, measure his self-worth by material possessions. To achieve his dream, Rob worked 80+ hour weeks selling educational books door-to-door and then started his own marketing company, The Greenfield Group.
“But then I started watching documentaries and reading books and learned my life wasn’t what I thought it was,” he said. “A lot of what I was doing was due to corporations with advertising budgets. They sold me on ideas. I thought I needed Old Spice Deodorant to fit into society and be a healthy human being.”
Rob had an epiphany. He realized these consumeristic actions were causing destruction to everything he loved: trees, rivers, lakes, streams, mountains and deserts.
So, he started with small changes that any one of us can do. Things like shopping locally, reducing the amount of trash we create, eating plant-based foods and ditching single-use plastics and containers.
Slowly but surely, Rob Greenfield transformed his life and his purpose.
The idea behind his $1,500 tiny home
“I want to help make tiny homes accessible,” said Rob. “The big idea of a tiny house is affordable housing for people who want to reduce their environmental impact and involvement in the monetary system. These people want to get away from bills and debt and mortgage.”
Rob Greenfield built his current 100-square-foot tiny house out of mostly recycled materials and created only 30 pounds of trash. The tiny home near Orlando, Florida has an outdoor kitchen with greywater, a rainwater shower and rainwater collection system, garden, biogas cooking system and composting toilet.
“The joy of it all is the simplicity,” said Rob. “I love the simple life. Having my one spoon and my one fork and just feeling organized. I can keep this tiny house clutter-free. Just that basic element of simplicity allows a blissful daily life.”
Check out this video to see a tour of Rob’s tiny home:
Rob Greenfield is also foraging all his own food
Rob Greenfield has embarked on yet another interesting experiment. For one entire year, he’ll forage or grow all his own food. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no leftovers from a friend’s fridge.
“It’s an amazing experience with deep immersion and connection to my food source,” said Rob. “It’s so easy to buy our food in the grocery store, which comes from a globalized, industrialized system. Everything I eat comes from my hands, either picking it from the garden or finding my food in nature. It’s been deeply meaningful.”
People around the world are so disconnected from their food sources. We have no idea how to survive if grocery stores shut down. Rob Greenfield says so far, he’s had no problem finding food out in nature.
“Most of us don’t have our eyes open to what’s growing around us,” he said. “You’d be amazed if you opened your eyes. There is food everywhere, even in cities! There is an abundance. I’ve eaten about 110 different foods so far and 30 to 40 of those are foraged.”
Rob’s impact on other people
Rob Greenfield knows not everyone will take as drastic of actions as himself. But he does hear from people on a regular basis who are doing small things to lower their environmental impact.
“Some people tell me they bought a reusable coffee cup for the first time at the age of 40,” said Rob. “Some people overcame their addiction to paper towels. Others have been following me for five years and totally transformed their lives, quitting corporate jobs and learning organic farming.”
He believes a lot of people are interested in changing their ways by downsizing or having a smaller footprint. Rob recommends starting small, like eating more whole foods and less packaged foods, supporting local farmers, ditching bottled water, and carrying your own to-go containers and utensils.
“A trash-free life goes hand-in-hand with a healthy life,” said Rob. “Everything you do to be healthier will just improve your overall quality of life.”
Even though there is a growing movement of people dedicated to making changes and helping the environment, there are plenty of large, luxury homes being built. People are still buying fancy cars and throw-away clothes.
But Rob Greenfield remains hopeful, that someday, we will see a larger cultural shift.
“It’s basic common sense that things aren’t going perfectly on earth right now,” he said. “It doesn’t take too much looking at things to realize that. Millions of people are waking up to this reality – the fact that we can’t keep doing what we are doing forever. It’s just not possible. That is the good news, that many people are waking up.”
You can follow Rob Greenfield on YouTube.
Or his website: Rob Greenfield
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.