Quantcast

I Am Only One Dude, But I Am Making a Difference

Five years ago I decided I had to turn my life around and take some drastic measures.

There was no moment of clarity or a profound realization. There was no near death experience or loss of a family member. I was actually beyond happy with who I was and what I was doing with my life. My business was a success. I was traveling the world. I was healthy and I had just moved out to San Diego, California from my homeland of Wisconsin.


Rob Greenfield, Dude Making a Difference. Photo credit: Rob Greenfield

So what happened? Well, the reality of the 21st century struck. I started to watch a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books and quickly learned that many of my daily actions were causing serious environmental and social destruction. The food I ate, the water I drank, the gas I pumped into my car, the trash I was creating and the electricity I was using all had much greater stories behind them then I had ever cared to look into. Just by living what could be considered a fairly normal American life I was responsible for so much pollution, destruction and inequality. The documentaries and books really hit home.

I could have thought that the task ahead would be too huge to take on. I could have decided that I didn't have to change because the people around me were doing the same thing. I could have felt overwhelmed or unempowered by everything I learned. But instead I was actually really excited. Excited to uncover the truth and live the truth. Excited to take my life back from the corporations and misleading advertisements. Excited to feel proud about my life rather than have a pit of anxiety in my stomach.

I knew it was going to be a long task ahead of me so I took it one step, one week at a time. I hung up a list of changes that I wanted to make in my kitchen and each week I had the goal of checking off one thing. It ranged from small things like ditching plastic bags and removing any disposable items from my life to big things like selling my car and going pedal powered. There were hundreds of small and large changes that I set out to make and with each checkmark I felt more empowered to tackle the next one. Each change also had a multiplying effect on other goals I had. For example one of my goals was to start shopping locally and ditch the big box marts like Wal-Mart. I sold my car to stop using gas and to stop wasting money but not having a car also prevented me from going the distance to Wal-Mart and not having the trunk to fill up made me stop buying more stuff than I could fit on my bike. It all went hand in hand.

Photo credit: Rob Greenfield

I decided that changing my life wasn't going to be a burden. Instead it was going to be fun and an adventure. To really engrain these changes into my life I decided to go on a wild ride. I set out to cycle across the USA, putting everything I had learned into practice and leave as little of an impact as I could for the entire journey. What that meant was eating 100 percent local, organic, unpackaged food or wasted food, drinking water only from natural sources (or wasted sources), creating no trash and carrying every piece I created to the finish line, towing solar panels to create my own electricity and pedaling the entire way without using any fossil fuels.

In 4,700 miles of cycling across America I used just 160 gallons of water, burned less than one gallon of gas, never turned on a light switch, created only 2 pounds of trash and ate nearly 300 pounds of food from grocery store dumpsters! That is 80 times less water, 200 times less trash, 600 times less fossil fuels and 1,000 times less electricity than the average American uses. It was a very extreme adventure but I've come to find that the average American life is also quite extreme and I was just living out the opposite end of the spectrum both to see if it was possible and to prove a point.

I did some wacky things like live off a leaky fire hydrant in Brooklyn for five days, pedal through a record setting heat wave surviving on dripping faucets, ride 700 miles with no bike seat to “stand up for sustainability" and eat out of hundreds of dumpsters across America. I also immersed myself in sustainability by visiting farms, grassroots environmental non-profits and staying in the homes of fellow Americans all along the way.

One hundred percent of Rob's proceeds from this book are donated to environmental grassroots nonprofits.

There were definitely people who thought I wouldn't live to tell the story but I indeed did. I wrote my book, Dude making a Difference, about this journey in hopes that it would inspire people to reexamine their relationship with the Earth's resources. The great news is that you don't have to do the crazy things I did in this adventure to transform your life. It comes down to simple changes in your life that can be done right at home, in your community and with your friends and family. It can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting journey, and I hope that my book will inspire you to take that leap of faith.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from this book are donated to environmental grassroots nonprofits. Get a copy here.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Food
Chris So / Toronto Star / Getty Images

Nebraska Lawmakers Want to Ban the Word 'Meat' From Vegetarian Substitutes

By Dan Nosowitz

Nebraska is the country's second-leading producer of beef, and is in the top ten of pork producers.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
A northern cardinal and finch in the snow. Mark Moschell / Flickr

Is Winter Miserable for Wildlife?

By Bridget B. Baker

While the weather outside may indeed get frightful this winter, a parka, knit hat, wool socks, insulated boots and maybe a roaring fire make things bearable for people who live in cold climates. But what about all the wildlife out there? Won't they be freezing?

Anyone who's walked their dog when temperatures are frigid knows that canines will shiver and favor a cold paw—which partly explains the boom in the pet clothing industry. But chipmunks and cardinals don't get fashionable coats or booties.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A green sea turtle, one of the animals whose population has increased because of Endangered Species Act protections. Mark Sullivan / NOAA

Marine Mammals and Turtles Protected by the Endangered Species Act Are Bouncing Back

The Endangered Species Act works. That's the conclusion of a peer-reviewed study undertaken by scientists at the Center for Biological Diversity and published in PLOS ONE Wednesday.

The study looked at 31 populations of 19 species of marine mammals and sea turtles in the U.S. that had been granted endangered species protections and found that around three-quarters of them had increased in size.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Students demonstrate in Brussels Thursday calling for climate action. NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / AFP / Getty Images

12,000+ Belgian Students Skip School to Demand Climate Action

Around 12,500 Belgian students marched in Brussels Thursday, joining a growing movement of young people around the world who have started skipping school to demand climate action.

"There is actually no point going to school if our world is going to die," 16-year-old demonstrator Mariam told BBC News in a video.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
A prototype of GE's massive new wind turbine will be installed in the industrial area of Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam. GE Renewable Energy

World's Largest Wind Turbine to Test Its Wings in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's skyline will soon feature the world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine.

GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday it will install the first 12-megawatt Haliade-X prototype in the Dutch city this summer. Although it's an offshore wind turbine by design, the prototype will be installed onshore to facilitate access for testing.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Colorful, fresh organic vegetables. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

A New Diet for the Planet

By Tim Radford

An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, whole grains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor's orders, tomorrow's farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Children's books about the environment. U.S. Air Force photo / Karen Abeyasekere

This State Might Require Public Schools to Teach Climate Change

Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and climate science. That doesn't have the same ring as the "three Rs" of education, but Connecticut could one day require the subject to be on the curriculum, The Associated Press reported.

A Connecticut state lawmaker is pushing a bill to mandate the teaching of climate change in public schools throughout the state, starting in elementary school.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
NASA's ICESCAPE mission investigates the changing conditions in the Arctic. NASA / Kathryn Hansen

These Eye-Opening Memes Show the Real 10-Year Challenge

Before-and-after photos of your friends have probably taken over your Facebook and Instagram feeds, but environmentalists are using the #10YearChallenge to insert a dose of truth.

Memes of shrinking glaciers, emaciated polar bears and coral bleaching certainly subvert the feel-good viral sensation, but these jarring images really show our planet in a worrying state of flux.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!