So many of our leaders and role models today are influenced deeply by money and corporations. So many of our politicians put corporate interests over what is best for the people they are elected to serve. Celebrities are paid vast sums of money to sell their fans on stuff they don’t really need. Social media “influencers” have pages that are as much about products as they are about their life or what their page claims to be about.
We live in a world where we are constantly inundated with ads to buy, buy, buy. We are told that we’ll be happier with more stuff. We’ll be happier with luxurious items. Love, sex, and success will come to us if we can attain a certain image through material items.
This is all something I refuse to contribute to. I stand against this.
I want to show people that happiness comes from within. That products won’t buy us happiness. That we are all complete, just as we are.
I want to be a leader who is not swayed by corporations. I want to be a leader who does not make my decisions based on financial or material gain. I want to be a good leader who says and does everything because it is the right thing to do.
I refuse to chip away at my ethics and morals for money. I won’t let companies gain access to the people who follow me simply because I want something they have.
One of the greatest tools available to keep me accountable is a commitment to personal transparency. By making each financial relationship that I have with companies public, I force myself to do what is right. I have no ability to hide my actions.
I also want to serve as an example to politicians, celebrities, CEOs and any people of power. I want to show how to practice financial transparency, and I hope to inspire others to do so as well.
I simply want to live an honest, ethical and transparent life.
First, I’d like to be transparent with how I make my personal income.
I have vowed to donate 100% of my media income to nonprofits for life. This includes TV shows, documentaries, books, TV appearances, product endorsements, etc. When it comes to any of these matters I do not enter them for a personal financial gain. I do not accept any payment and instead the funds are donated directly to nonprofits. This is all tracked here as well as more information on this subject.
I have been working for the last seven years to de-monetize my life and I have been mostly successful on this mission. I have committed to making very little money (no more than the federal poverty threshold per year) and having a very small financial net worth (I update my net worth here). I’ve intentionally designed my life to be as minimally involved with money as I can. Most of my life is based around relationships, skills and exchanges rather than money.
The way that I earn funds personally is by public speaking. I do public speaking first and foremost as a tool to affect positive change. But it’s also a great tool in raising funds. Often my speaking is used to raise funds for nonprofits as well. Funds raised for nonprofits via my public speaking can be viewed here.
A note of transparency, from 2016-2018 a majority of my speaking honorariums were donated to my former nonprofit, Happy Healthy and Free, for environmental projects. Details on Happy Healthy and Free later in this page.
Here is a breakdown of how I have personally earned money since 2016:
2020 – $0. I committed to not earning any money in 2020. I would normally make money from public speaking and committed to donating 100% of my speaking revenue to Indigenous and women-led nonprofits. Unfortunately my world speaking tour was canceled due to coronavirus. I started the year off with about $6,000 left from 2019 and lived on that. I did my work with Live Like Ally unpaid this year.
2019 – $9,670 total earned.
$7,600 from public speaking. ($1,000 CityWorks(X)po in Winterhaven, Florida, $600 Stetson College, $1,000 Northland College, $2,000 Western Technical College, $1,000 UW- Stevens Point and $2,000 UW- La Crosse)
$2,070 Live Like Ally Foundation for administering environmental projects.
2018 – $8,000 total earned.
$3,000 from public speaking
$5,000 Live Like Ally Foundation for administering environmental projects.
2017 – $5,000 total earned from public speaking.
2016 – $0 total earned. I had funds saved from previous years worked.
Prior to 2016 I ran The Greenfield Group, a marketing company I started in 2011 and ran until 2014. I did other sales at that time as well.
Next, I’d like to be transparent with the financial relationships I have had with companies since I started walking this path in 2013 as well as my ethics on how I decide to work with companies.
I commit to adhering to a set of ethics when it comes to working with companies. I will not accept money from companies in exchange for something that I should not offer them. This isn’t exactly a black and white issue that I can lay down exact guidelines for. However, I will practice complete transparency so that I can’t hide anything. As an example, I was offered $14,000 for a campaign with Ford in 2016. I did believe I could have a very positive impact with that money being donated to a nonprofit but ultimately, I decided not to work with Ford as they are not in alignment with my mission and I could not endorse them in good consciousness at the time. I turn down a vast majority of financial opportunities because they must be aligned for me to accept them. I’ve received hundreds of emails offering me free stuff, or payment to promote stuff, that didn’t align with my mission. I’ve taken less than 1% of opportunities offered.
The opportunities I do take with companies will be taken only if it can be done in a way that serves the greater interest of people in a manner and does not overly compromise my ethics. A key word that you might have noticed there is “overly.” Here is the thing… my mission is to create the greatest positive impact that I can, improve quality of life and live in service to Earth. There will be circumstances where the negative impact of working with a company are outweighed by the good that can be done with the funds. This will be decided on a case by case basis. I will not always get to adhere to my own personal desires of purity when I am confident that the positive done will outweigh the negative. I should be clear that this will be deeply thought out and analyzed in the big picture of life and of what I can do with my life while I’m on Earth.
Here is an idea of what I’m looking for when I decide whether to work with a company:
First and foremost, what is the mission of the company? Is their mission in alignment?
Can we work together to make our surroundings more environmentally sustainably and socially just?
What does the company do with their funds? Do they support initiatives that improve the world? Or does their money go into places that I don’t support?
Does the company have a high level of environmental standards in their operation? This includes everything from the materials they use, to the factories that produce their stuff, to packaging, etc.
Does the company provide a product or service that truly aids people in living a more sustainable and healthy life. I won’t be a fool for greenwashing.
Does the company have a high level of social values through the range of their business from who creates their stuff, to the communities where the factories are, to fair pay, etc.? Slave labor, child labor, prison labor, unfair pay, etc. are obviously not acceptable. Do the people who work at the company get valued and treated well? Are the people who work there happy with the company?
Does the company lobby or support laws that disempower people for the sake of profit?
Does the company have a meaningful practice of diversity, equity and inclusion?
Does the company have skeletons in their closet? Do they have a shady past?
Does the company push consumerism over meeting needs that people really have?
Does the company help me to live a sustainable life and demonstrate to others how they can as well?
This list is not exhaustive, but a good idea of what I take into account when looking at a company.
The most simple means of ethics I have created for myself is to work with companies who I would organically tell others about, even if they didn’t supply me with anything in return. By adhering to this philosophy first and foremost, I am more easily able to make the right decision based on my ethics, rather than based on financial or material gain.
The following is a record of all companies that I’ve worked with in a financial or material manner. Besides listing what the exchange was, I have also listed why I decided to make the exchange.
A few notes:
I have personally never been paid to promote a product or service.
I won’t list relationships that had a financial involvement of less than $50 because I don’t think there is really a need to.
You’ll see that I try to get imperfect items such as misprints, returned items, refurbished items, etc. I try not to get brand new items and utilize items that would otherwise go unused.
No business relations to report (updated 08/23/2020).
No business relations to report.
Live Like Ally Foundation provided a budget of approximately $30,000 to partner on a handful of environmental projects. You can see them here. Some of the funds were distributed to my former nonprofit to be used. I was paid $15/hour for some of the work. They are a nonprofit foundation.
Life Without Plastic supplied me with different items to live a plastic-free, zero-waste life and teach others about some tools. Examples include completely biodegradable toothbrushes and dental floss, biodegradable tape, reusable containers, and a charcoal water filter.
Retail value of $200 or less. Some of what they supplied me was used products and returns.
I shared some of these products on social media because I believe that people will be able to benefit from them in living a more sustainable life. I made a video about Life Without Plastic earlier in the year before this exchange. I’ve become friends with the founders of the company, and we support each other’s missions.
Abeego supplied me with beeswax food wraps.
Retail value of less than $100. They sent me their mis-cuts that couldn’t be sold.
I made a post on social media about this because this is a great way to reduce disposable plastic use.
ONNO supplied me with about 8 t-shirts.
Retail value of $240, however I asked for used shirts and they supplied me with ones they used for models and couldn’t sell.
There is no formal agreement, just to organically promote their t-shirts.
I am switching over to all-natural fiber clothes and away from plastic clothes (polyester, nylon, etc.). I think this is an important step in living a more sustainable life. I searched all over the internet and ONNO is one of the most ethical and sustainable (while still being affordable) clothing companies I could find.
Berkey supplied me with a water filter.
Retail value of $240. It was a “scratch and dent” unit.
The agreement was to organically promote them through using it at my tiny house and to make a post on social media.
Berkey is one of the most sustainable and affordable quality water filters on the market. I had one of their filters at my tiny house in San Diego that I had purchased and had been telling people about them for a few years already. I reached out to them to say that I was already spreading the word about them and would love it if they could supply me with a Berkey for my new place. They said yes. I would have purchased one if they said no and would still be telling people about them.
Read my post about the Berkey filter here.
(Update: I donated the filter to Sustainable Kashi November 2019).
HomeBioGas supplied me with a food waste biodigester.
Retail value $650. They were supposed to be bringing me a used system, but they ended up bringing a new one.
There was no formal agreement of exchange, but the idea was that people learn about it through visiting my tiny house and seeing it in my videos. This biodigester turns food waste in cooking fuel, and it is a great tool to inspire people to live more sustainably.
(Update: I donated the biodigester to Sustainable Kashi November 2019).
Fortified Bike supplied me with a bicycle and a few accessories.
Retail value about $560.
They sent me a returned bicycle and a few accessories.
They wrote to me one day and asked if I’d like a bike. They didn’t ask for anything in return. I needed a bike because I was auctioning my bamboo bike to raise funds to buy bikes for kids. This company doesn’t adhere to any environmental ethics that I know of, but they are a small bike company, and they are trying to get more people riding bikes. It’s not a 100% match, but a decent match. If I had to promote them I wouldn’t have said yes.
(Update: I gifted the bike and accessories to a deserving person in November 2019).
Piteba Press supplied me with an oil press.
Retail value around $130.
I made a post on social media about them in return. This is a great tool for living more self-sufficiently and something many people could benefit from in gaining freedom from the industrial food system.
(Update: I donated the press to Conscious Space November 2019).
GoSun donated $400 to Happy Healthy and Free and later in 2018 supplied me with two different solar stoves.
Retail value $700. They supplied me with a refurbished unit.
I produced a video about them because I think this is a great way to inspire others to switch to alternative energy and get people thinking about alternatives to the fossil fuel industry. The $400 donated to Happy Healthy and Free was used to produce more nonprofit videos.
(Update: I donated the stoves to Sustainable Kashi November 2019).
I raised money through Happy Healthy and Free to produce the Trash Me short film.
Goal Zero donated $1,000. There was no exchange, they were simply supporting the project and were listed as a sponsor.
BBTV donated $4,000. They are a media company that I have worked with to produce a video series called People are Good. They were listed as a sponsor of the videos and could use the content on their own channels.
Note: Some people have asked whether any company paid to have their product in my trash suit. The answer is no. Their were a lot of visible brands in the trash suit because I was living the average American life and consuming like the average American. That’s what was on display.
Xero Shoes supplied me with a pair of shoes and sandals.
Retail value of approximately $150.
The agreement was loose and that I would write a review, I believe. I never wrote a review because I felt the shoes didn’t work well for me (even though I’ve been wearing the sandals for four years) and didn’t want to write about them.
Endless Sun Solar supplied me with a solar panel and battery for my tiny house.
Retail value was probably around $500.
The agreement was that I’d do a video review of the solar panel.
The Grayl supplied me with a water filter. I think they sent me two.
Retail value under $100.
I don’t recall there being an agreement. Likely organic promotion just by using it.
Patagonia in San Diego supplied me with a few items of clothing for my Share My Way Home trip.
Retail value probably around $200 or less.
No agreement. Patagonia supports a lot of awesome initiatives without expecting anything in particular. Patagonia is my favorite large company on the planet. I’ve been a customer and fan of theirs long before they ever supported me. I will continue to support them regardless of any relationship I have with them. They are doing more for the environment than 99% of large companies in the USA.
About eleven companies sponsored my second bike ride across the USA- The Goodfluence Tour. They were all product sponsors. No financial contributions were made. I don’t remember the exact sponsorship value but have made estimates below.
Dr. Bronner’s, SmartKlean, Sparse, Scrubba, Brush with Bamboo,and Kala sponsored me with $100 or less in products.
Goal Zero, GT’S Kombucha, Klean Canteen sponsored me with between $100 and $250 in products.
Patagonia in San Diego, California sponsored me with about $900 worth of clothes.
The return for these companies was listing them as sponsors and organic promotion of their products through social media and media.
About eleven companies sponsored my first bike ride across the USA- Off the Grid Across the USA. They were all product sponsors. No financial contributions were made. I don’t remember the exact sponsorship value but have made estimates below.
Dr. Bronner’s, neat-os, Dinkum Systems and Bokashi Earth sponsored me with $100 or less in products.
Kala Brand Music, Drips Water, and PowerPot sponsored me with between $100 and $250 in products.
Goal Zero sponsored me with around $750 to $1,000 in products I believe.
Bamboosero sponsored me with a bamboo bicycle. The value of this was around $2,000. As part of the agreement, I raised $2,000 through my bike ride for the worldbike nonprofit to help bring bicycles to people in Africa to supply sustainable transportation and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The return for these companies was listing them as sponsors and organic promotion of their products through social media and media.
Happy Healthy and Free video production relation to businesses
(see below for explanation of Happy Healthy and Free)
Guerrilla Foundation (a nonprofit) donated $5,000 to co-produce a series of 10 videos on sustainability initiatives across Europe.
Onya donated $400 after HHF produced a video titled It’s Time to Ditch Plastic Produce Bags. This donation was made to support HHF video production and was not part of any agreement. They made the donation after the video was released. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
Landpack donated $500 to HHF after we filmed a video there. They wanted to support HHF video production and this donation was not part of any agreement. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
Nicholas Schwarz Design donated $500 to HHF in exchange for producing a video about his business of turning wasted pallets into furniture. The funds were used to produce nonprofit videos.
Happy Healthy and Free
Happy Healthy and Free is a nonprofit that I started in 2014 as a tool for affecting positive change and operated until it closed in good standing June 2019. I closed the nonprofit to simplify my work and collaborate with other nonprofits instead. You can learn more about Happy Healthy and Free here.
A majority of the funds were spent on video production, Trash Me campaign, Green Riders, fruit tree planting, bikes for kids, programs including Community Fruit Trees and Free Seed Project and paying independent contractors for miscellaneous work.
A majority of incoming funds were from public speaking donations, Patreon for video production a grant from Live Like Ally Foundation, Green Riders fundraiser, bikes for kids fundraiser, Trash Me fundraiser, and the Dumpster Divers Defense Fund fundraiser.
This a summary of gross receipts based on 199N filings:
2014-2015 – $6,600
2015-2016 – $4,688
2016-2017 – $32,000
2017-2018 – $36,963.58
2018-2019 – $9,009.59
Total lifetime receipts of nonprofit: $89,261
So there it is, my commitments to financial transparency and corporate relations transparency and a list of all financial relationships I’ve had. I first created this page November 6th, 2018. At the time I was very grateful to have look back at all of these relationships and to have felt good about it. Up to this point I think I’ve managed to do a great job and from here on I intend to do an equal or better job. The idea of transparency is to put it out there so other’s can make their own decisions. I might make mistakes and if I do you will have the chance to know about them.