Rob Greenfield is an environmental activist making a difference, who owns only 111 possessions. His passion is not only to live a simple, clean and fulfilling life, but to teach others as well. Before living a healthy life, Rob just like many of us lived a life chasing false ideologies of happiness. He has been on TEDx Talks, has traveled the world, gone across the united states on a bike, and has even gone dumpster diving. These are some of the things he has done. To me Rob is an inspiring person, this is why I decided to interview him.
Q: Society teaches us that success is to become a millionaire, having thousands of followers on social media, and having loads of material possessions. When you were in your early 20’s you also believed the same, and now you aim to live a simple life. What changed and how has your lifestyle made you happy?
About two years after I finished university I started to watch a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books and started to realize that my life wasn’t what I thought it was. So many of my beliefs had come from corporations trying to sell me things, government trying to get me to do things their way, and in many ways a society that was vastly disconnected from many of our realities. I realized that most of my daily actions had been monetized and were causing distraction to the world. The food that I was eating, the car that I was driving, the electricity that I was using, the waste that I was creating… My life wasn’t what I thought it was and I decided I wanted to change it once I discovered this.
Truth has always been a very important part of life to me. And after transforming my life so that I could actually be living a life of truth, and a life that aligns with my beliefs, I have found myself much more at ease, much more connected, and much healthier and happier. Just eating healthier for example and riding a bike and instead of driving a car with two massive changes in both my physical and mental health and well-being.
Q: To those you would like to follow in your steps, to live cleaner, simple and produce less waste. How can they start making changes in their life?
What I did was I made a long list of changes that I wanted to make and then hung it up right in my kitchen where I see it every day. My goal was to make just one positive change per week and I knew that if I did that for two years I’d make over 100 positive changes. Some of those were very small, such as caring a reasonable shopping bag and ditching disposable plastic bags, and some were much bigger like eventually getting rid of my car. I would recommend sitting down and making a list of changes that you’d like to make and making realistic goals. The thing is the success of making the positive changes feels good and it adds up making it easier and easier to keep making more changes.
Q: After years of making big leaps, you now own 111 possessions. Many will believe it’s impossible to survive or thrive with such little material. How do you do it? And how has this made you grateful for the things you have?
I found it the more I simplify my life easier it becomes to live with less. The more that I want, of course that means the harder it would be to attain. So, to focus on the things that I truly desire rather than just wanting everything makes it much easier for me to feel purposeful and complete. People often think that giving up is sacrificing. But what I found is that the more that I give, especially to others, the more that I receive in return. I’m not talking about physical possessions. My priorities are the basic things in life like relationships, Love, a deeper connection with the environment and my community, education, food, and so on.
Ultimately when you begin to change your perspective you start to see the world changing around you right before your very eyes. I have become so grateful for the basics in life and thus my life is more complete.
Q: It’s shocking to see all the food, stores throw in the dumpsters, while thousands of Americans don’t know when they will get their next meal. Can you talk to us about what is dumpster diving, and how that can help those with no food?
In the United States, we waste about half of all the food we produce, which means we produce enough food to feed about two entire American populations. We have absolutely no shortage of food but rather a massive abundance, yet about 40 million Americans are food insecure. And the face of food insecurity is often children and elders, not only people living on the streets as many would imagine. To raise awareness about food waste and hunger I collect thousands of dollars worth of perfectly good food from grocery store dumpsters and put it on display in public places. The idea is to create a visual that really impacts people and helps them to understand the problem, while being there to talk about the solutions. The answer isn’t for us all to go dumpster diving. The answer is for no food to be put in the dumpsters in the first place and rather distributed properly to all our fellow citizens in need.
Q: You live a fulfilling life, full of adventures. You travel the world, meeting new people, and learn from different cultures. Most believe they must own thousands of dollars to do so. How do you manage to travel the world, and what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned while traveling?
A lot of people do think that they need a lot of money to be able to travel and experience the world. Through many years of traveling I’ve found that is not the case after all. It is if you want fancy hotel rooms, first class seats, top class meals and so on. But if your desire is to immerse with different cultures, to soak in the raw earth just as it is, and to give back to the places you visit then you don’t need a lot of money. By staying with people using websites like couchsurfing or warmshowers you don’t need to pay for a hotel room. By working on a farm through websites like WWOOF.net you can work on an organic farm in exchange for healthy food and a place to stay. By working and giving to others they will welcome you into their community where you can learn and be a part of something new. By traveling by bicycle across your own country you can spend very little money on transportation. These are just some examples of how you can travel with very little money. Another big key for me is that I live a very simple life. I don’t have any bills and I have very little stuff which means that when I’m traveling I don’t have expenditures somewhere else that I must deal with.
By traveling in the service of others I’ve learned that the more you give, the more you receive. By immersing myself in so many other cultures I’ve gained a better understanding of humanity and become more accepting of all people. By seeing so much of the world I’ve seen that it’s a small and fragile place that we as a human race have grown large enough to impact greatly through our daily actions. And I’ve seen that the world is full of good people and that the mainstream media that over prioritizes violence is not painting an honest picture of the world.
It also should not be overlooked how much beauty there is in our own communities and that in the 21st century we don’t need to travel the world to live a fulfilling, well educated, cultured, purposeful life.
Q: You emphasize on the importance of giving back and continue working with people making a difference. Why is it so important to give back?
We live in an era where as a human race we are using between 3 to 5 times the amount of resources than the Earth can sustainably provide. We have just one Earth, yet we are using 3 to 5 Earths. This can’t go on forever. We are stealing from possible future generations and we are stealing from the millions of other species that we share the Earth with. I feel that now more than ever we need people to stand up and say “hey, I’m going to give as much as I can to the world. And I’m only going to take my fair share.” There are so many people out there who don’t have enough basic resources. And most of us reading this article has far more than them. If we desire a sustainable and just world we must lead by example in our own lives.
Beyond that I have found that giving back is not selfless. It is far from it. Because the more that I give to others, the more they want to give to me. The more I share with others the more they want to share with me. The more happiness I spread, the happier I become. The world is certainly finite in many ways but it is not finite in happiness. There is no need to hoard it and it doesn’t do any good.
Q: If you could leave one important piece of advice to the readers, what would it be?
My biggest piece of advice is to drop social norms and to stop worrying what others think about you. I’ve found that this is what has held me back in the past more than anything else. Just the constant thought of what others will think about my clothing, my choices, my job, etc. Once I stopped worrying what people thought and stopped just going along with the grain of society I became a free human almost overnight. I freed up countless hours of thinking about meaningless opinions and could then dedicate those hours to pursuing my passion and living a meaningful life. My mind freed up not having to question all my actions. I started to do what was right for the Earth, my community, and myself and that became my new way of looking at things. That’s my advice to anyone who wants to awaken and break free.