Most who know me consider my life a shining example of sustainable living. I straight up represent this lifestyle more than almost anyone I know and it is my life, my work, and my greatest passion. This may sound a bit arrogant but I only intend to be realistic and transparent so that my next sentence will really hit home. In reality, even with my constant attention to the details of sustainability, my daily actions leave a massive footprint on Earth in comparison to the humans of a few centuries ago. To live sustainably today in the United States, and many other parts of the world, is a constant battle against destructive systems highly integrated into our daily lives. Every gulp or bite, every flick of a switch or turn of a faucet, every purchase you make or don’t make, every piece of junk you place in the black bin or the blue bin, every mile you move that magnificent body of yours, you my friend, have an impact. The problem is that the majority of the systems in place designed to accommodate these simple actions focus on profit and brush people and the planet off the plate like a couple of dried bread crumbs. It’s not easy to be the green man or woman of the 21st century, but it is very possible and I’m going to help you. Now you or I could simply run off to the woods and live off the land to reduce our footprint drastically but I want to hang out with all my friends, live in modern society, and enjoy my comforts and as I’m sure you’d like to do as well. So I’m going to help you wherever you are today on your path and I’m going to try to make it enjoyable for you and the people in your life.
Three years ago I started my journey of sustainable living. I wanted to understand my surroundings and stop being a part of the destruction. I knew there was a lot of crap going on out there and I decided I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. I watched a lot of documentaries, read some books, and started to pay attention to my surroundings. But what I did was different from most because I acted on what I learned. I made a list of changes I wanted to make and hung it up in my kitchen with a goal to check things off each week. I did a lot quickly, but even today am still making changes. My life has transformed over the three years and I’ve come a long way from the beer chugging, gas guzzling, packaged food eating, consumerist college student that I once was.
If you would like to be happy, healthy, free, and live in a manner that is beneficial to Earth, your community, and yourself, then I’d like to help you. I have cycled across the United States leading the way to a more sustainable nation. I’m going to lay out how you can get what you’re looking for. I’m going to explain both my philosophy of sustainability, and also some detailed examples of how I put my philosophy into action. First, the philosophy will explain the utterly important elements that I recommend you keep in mind to be successful on your personal journey of sustainable living. Second, the practical details and examples of how I lived on this tour across the United States will help you adapt simple changes into your own life. I speak of my own actions because I have chosen to let my life be my message and the best way that I know to do that is to lead by example. My purpose and my passion is to help you, and in turn help the world be happy, healthy, and free.
Part 1: The Philosophy of Sustainability
Self Education: You must constantly teach yourself to understand the world around you and how your actions affect it. We are not taught how our actions affect the world and are often prevented from learning intentionally in order to benefit the few at the determent of the many. The less you know, the easier of a target you are to the systems sucking the cash from your bank account and the freedom from your veins. It would not be to the best interest of their pocket books to educate you on their products and services, and our schools and government aren’t teaching much, if any, on these issues either. You must educate yourself to achieve freedom. I recommend documentaries, books, blogs, select non-profits and websites as tools to educate and inspire you.
Action. You can learn everything in the world but none of it will matter unless you act on it. The reason I am living as I am today is that when I learned I was doing something that caused harm I took action. It wasn’t always the next day or the next week but for the most part I’ve taken action to clean up my act every time I learned I was having a negative impact.
Be Conscious: You must pay attention to your daily actions and be alert. When you make decisions, take into account where things come from and how they were produced. If you don’t know, then find out. You’re going to read labels, ask questions, and confront evil. It is your responsibility to ensure that your daily actions cause no unnecessary harm and leave goodness where possible, but there is no way you can do that with an unconscious mind.
Live beyond yourself: When you take an action, ask yourself, “How it is going to affect other humans, animals, and the Earth?” Make your decisions based on the well being of everyone and everything, not just yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to be selfless, because in fact most of the time when your actions are done for the good of others it is good for you as well. Your choices should rarely be selfish.
Resourcefulness: Most of your problems can be solved with this attribute. There is rarely a need to buy a new product or to use precious resources to solve a problem when you simply have a resourceful mind. A lot of older people and country folk know how to be resourceful. Go spend a day with one of them.
Adaptability: Your surroundings are constantly changing, especially if you are traveling. Sources for food and water, transportation options, the ways things are made, how things are done, what’s available… These will always be changing so you must be willing to adapt to your surroundings.
Determination: In the United States it seems you must be constantly going against the grain of mainstream society to do what is right for Earth, your community, and yourself. You must be determined to stick to what you believe and stand your ground against the people who try to deter you. Be confident in yourself, forge forward, and you will look back with pride and joy.
Positive Attitude: Living sustainability is an uphill battle to start, but it gets much easier with practice. So especially to start you are going to need a positive attitude to help you stick to it and enjoy the experience. Also, if you want to have a positive impact on the people around you, it is best that you appear to be enjoying the experience in order to influence others to follow a similar path.
Surroundings: Something that has stuck with me since childhood is the saying, “You are your surroundings.” To a large extent I believe that is true. Surround yourself with the people that you want to be like. Immerse yourself into the environments that allow you to live more sustainably. Of course you don’t have to let your surroundings define you, but the journey will be much easier when the people and infrastructure are there to help you.
Simplicity: The simpler you live, the easier it is to be good to the Earth. Simpler living means having more time to do what you love and spending less time on mundane tasks and duties. Live simple and you will live free.
Convenience is not king: A major key to my awakening was realizing that if something was convenient it meant I was outsourcing my burden elsewhere. So when something was easy I would ask myself why it was so and if I didn’t know why, I would seek out the answer.
Let’s take transportation as an example: When you drive a car, you simply have to adjust the angle of your ankle and you find yourself traveling at speeds faster than any human could ever walk or run. Comparatively, when you use your own muscles to move yourself, you feel the energy you are exerting. As you can see, there is a lot of convenience in driving which means your burden is being placed elsewhere. When you burn fossil fuels you burden the habitats of nearby animals, the health of people breathing in the pollutants, and the citizens of the countries we destroy to get those fossil fuels, among many other burdens. All of our conveniences, from on demand electricity and water from the tap, to packaged food from far off lands and the garbage cans we toss the wrappers in, have their burdens placed somewhere. Convenience is not naturally detrimental, but it is a very plausible sign, so I simply recommend you analyze your conveniences.
All of these concepts must be practiced just as you would a sport or a hobby. Only with time and experience will these become a way of life for you. We’re all born incredible, but many of us have forgotten. It’s not an overnight process, but this is your time to start being the incredible human you desire to be.
Part 2: Practical Living of Sustainability
Every one of the following concepts will apply to you on a daily basis; however, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to our environmental issues, therefore my solutions may not be your solutions. That is where your skills of adaptability and resourcefulness will come into play. Also, some of the things I do are extreme in order to draw attention from the media and individuals. If it is too much for you please don’t disregard it, but instead think of how you can adapt the concept with moderation into your own life. Consider this as a general guideline to follow, and adapt your life how you see fit.
As an adventurer and traveler my life is constantly changing, as are my surroundings. I cycled across the United States on The Goodfluence Tour performing random acts of kindness, inspiring people to do good, leading the way to a more sustainable nation, and created ripples of positive action that spread far and wide. What I lay out in front of you is how I lived while on this tour. Some of these example will be specific to this, but for the most part I practice these concepts at home in San Diego, as well or wherever my adventures take me to.
In my opinion food should not cause harm to the Earth or our bodies. It gives us life, and it is absolutely vital for good health. I don’t grow my own food and it is my largest financial expense. However, I’ve found that eating healthy is not expensive by nature. I eat simply and follow these basic guidelines.
-Plant-based. This means that I eat primarily plants and not animals. My diet mostly consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. (Update: I learned that the problem was not meat, dairy and eggs in themselves, but that they were industrially produced on factory farms. I now support regenerative farming and sustainable, ethical means of eating meat, dairy and eggs. See more on this perspective here.)
-Whole foods. Forget long ingredient lists. Whole foods have only one ingredient.
-Non-packaged. I try really hard to not create trash or recycling, instead I choose pure food only.
-Natural/Organic. I don’t care about certifications. All that matters is that the food came from the Earth and no chemicals were used in the process.
-Local. The average dinner in the United States travels 1,500 miles to arrive on the plate. I like my food to come from nearby farmers and gardens, or at the very least from my own country. Apples from New Zealand? Forget about it! (Take a look at the label next time you buy an apple or any other produce item for that matter.)
-Grow your own. I’ve started the Freestyle Gardening Movement and am giving free seeds and support to anyone who wants to start growing food.
I also dumpster dive and I’m actually eating fresh raspberries from the dumpster at this moment. Getting food from the rubbish bins is a great example of resourcefulness and it really makes a lot of sense. It’s going to waste and it’s still good so why not eat it? Check out some of the food I’ve found in the dumpster!
I aim to use five to ten gallons of water per day compared to the one hundred gallons that the average American uses. The key for me is just to use it consciously and only when I actually need to. I never limit myself to drinking water, of course, but I recently lived an entire year without showering. A few keys for me are:
-Being conservative with the faucet, utilizing low flow and turning it off quickly.
-Flushing less often. If it’s yellow I let it be mellow.
-Do the little laundry I have by hand or combining with someone else’s load if there is space.
-Swimming in lakes, rivers, and the ocean rather than showering.
On the tour I took advantage of natural sources whenever I could for a swim or even to drink using my purifier. I also do my laundry using the Scrubba Wash Bag and SmartKlean Laundry Ball. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when we use water from the faucet we are also using other resources – such as electricity -to pump it and chemicals to clean it before and after it gets to the house. When we waste water, we waste a lot more than just water.
Most of the electricity produced in the United States is produced via fossil fuels. When I realized that my light bulb was burning on basically the same thing as my car, I realized that I should do a better job of turning it off. I try to use as little electricity as possible not only because it costs money it also causes a great deal of environmental harm.
My bamboo bicycle is rigged up with a dynamo hub which chargers my cell phone, headlamp, and bike lights when I pedal. I also carry a small solar panel.
Besides being off the grid most days and using alternative energy to power my devices, here are some ways that I keep my electricity to a minimal usage while I’m in civilization.
-I turn off the lights when I’m not using them, or better yet – just don’t turn them on when not actually needed.
–I always unplug things when they are not in use, and in general use very few electrical devices. Simplicity is key.
–I don’t use AC, heat, or fans. Instead I layer up clothing, strip down, or just deal with it.
Electricity is an interesting thing to pay attention to, and you’ll see how integrated it is into your lifestyle. Here is a blog I wrote last year about my experience of avoiding on grid electricity for 100 days.
I’m on my bike a lot and I avoid getting into cars, although I expect I’ll be in one from time to time. Here’s the order I try to stick to for transportation:
-Walk or bike
-Public transportation such as buses and trains
-Car Sharing, especially an electric car share program such as car2go
-Ride sharing on sites such as Craigslist
-Carpooling with others
I’ve found my happiness decreases when I’m in a gas powered car and I see that to be the case for a lot of my friends. If you want to feel true freedom you might want to sell your car like I did two years ago.
When I talk about waste I am usually talking about not creating trash. The average American creates about 4.5 pounds of trash per day, and I aim to create less than that each month on this tour. A few ways that I accomplish that are:
-Buying non-packaged foods and goods.
-Not using one time use items such as napkins, cleaning supplies, straws, tin foil, etc.
-Carrying my own dishes and silverware for when I am eating out.
-Using a reusable water bottle and never buying bottled water.
-Carrying my own bag to the grocery store, market, or anywhere I will need a bag
-Finding stuff that is already wasted. For example I found a roll of toilet paper on the road side that I used.
-Composting all of my food waste. This means carrying my scraps with me until I find a place to do this.
The key is to follow the 3 R’s, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. That’s pretty simple, but one thing that many people forget is to follow them in that order. Recycling comes last, therefore I avoid recycling as well since it is a very energy and resource intensive process. Of course I prefer recycling over throwing stuff in the trash, but I avoid both as much as I can.
At home I have a three bedroom apartment and I rent out the rooms while I’m gone (and while I’m there) so that I have money for adventures like The Goodfluence Tour. Paying a monthly rent holds many people back from traveling, but I’ve overcome that barrier by renting out my rooms on Airbnb and Craigslist. So instead of paying $800 for a room I have $800 to spend on traveling, which is a ton when I’m on my bicycle. On the road I never pay for a place to stay, but more importantly, keep my lodging impact to a minimum by not staying at hotels. I carry my tent, pillow, sleeping bag and sleeping mat so that I can sleep just about anywhere. Here’s what I do:
-Camp in nature. Sites include road sides, BLM land, parks, campgrounds
-Camp in cities. I’ll set up in a church yard, cemetery, dug out, or city park to name a few places
-Stay with friends and family
-Stay with friends of friends or people I know through social media
-Stay with hosts for free from Warmshowers and Couchsurfing
Money, Consumption, and Shopping:
I make some money because I run The Greenfield Group, an environmentally active marketing company. Running my own business allows me to practice the triple bottom line and put people and the planet before profit. Pretty much all of the money we make goes to making the world a better place and my activism adventures, and I’m able to do this because I’ve learned to live with very little money.
My only big personal expense on this tour is food. I brought $2,000 cash with me which I expect to last four months. I don’t carry a credit or debit card with me and I just switched to a local credit union. I spend some money on bike maintenance as well, but I’m learning how to do that on my own. I will never trade my time for money, but I will do something that I love that benefits the lives of others and make money as a byproduct.
I try to buy as little stuff as possible and that really helps me to live simply and to minimize my environmental impact.
I’ve found that the fewer possessions I own, the more pure my life becomes.
If I do buy things, which of course I do at times, I try to follow these guidelines:
-Support local businesses and shop local
-Support companies that practice corporate social responsibility
-Buy used items when possible
-Share others’ stuff rather than buying anything at all. I use the Sharing Economy.
I’m a pretty pleasant guy. Pleasant looking, pleasant smelling, and pretty well kept. But by no means do I have a typical way of pursuing personal hygiene. I aim to keep my body natural and do so simply by sticking to the basics. I’ve got a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste, coconut oil, Dr. Bronner’s soap, Lavender essential oil, and sun screen with me.
Here are the guidelines I stick to:
-Put nothing on my body that is synthetic or unnatural
-Everything I use has only one ingredient except sunscreen
-Wash up in natural bodies of water or using just a gallon of water from the tap
-Use soap only on my hands, not the rest of my body
-Use natural medicine over Western medicine. I don’t even use pain killers like Tylenol
For most of my life up until a few years ago I used shampoo, cologne, deodorant, face wash, hair gel, shaving cream and all those other things you find on the shelves of big box markets or grocery stores. I save so much time and money by living naturally, and the ladies like me now more than ever.
To follow this path will be challenging at first, but both the journey and the destination are ultimately rewarding. The idea is not to give up what you love, but to find a more pure love in what you didn’t know was there. The idea is not to cause zero impact, but to reduce it to a manageable level. You are always going to cause some harm and it’s best that you accept and embrace that.
We have proven that the Earth can handle some beating, but we are currently using 1.5 times more resources than the Earth can produce which simply means we are taking more than it can give. This is by definition unsustainable and will leave future generations with vastly different lives or quite possibly no lives at all.
Start small and take it day by day. Take small steps each week and the occasional giant leap, and before you know it you may be living a lifestyle that in the past you could only yearn for and dream of. You are not going to get to where I am overnight. It took me years to arrive at where I am today, and I am faster at taking action than most. But each week you’ll become less dependent on money, have more time to do what you love, and you’ll come closer to true health, happiness, and freedom. Take it from me, my heart has never soared so high, and my friends and family have never been more proud.
I hope that this page and my website have given you the knowledge and inspiration to be a human for all humans.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t matter, because you do, and so do all of your actions!