Robin Greenfield’s Biography
Robin Greenfield is servant of Earth, humanity and the plants and animals we share this home with. He follows an action based philosophy of life, service and activism. First and foremost, he seeks to be the change he wishes to see in the world through an intentional life design of simple and sustainable living.
Living Simply so that Others May Simply Live
He lives simply as a means of resistance to oppressive, exploitative systems and the dominator culture. At the age of 31 (in 2016) Robin committed to a set of life vows including to earn below the federal poverty threshold, to keep his net worth to a minimum and to own few material possessions. Through years of self-work to overcome materialism he downsized to owning just 111 possession in 2016 and then further simplified to 44 possessions in 2020.
Equal Rights for All – Earth, Humans, Plants and Animals
As a firm believer in equal rights for all – Earth, humans, plants and animals – he has designed equity into his life. He has made a lifetime commitment to donate 100% of his media earnings to grassroots movements including from his books and tv appearances. This is part of his commitment to not pay federal tax for his lifetime. Instead of contributing to systems of injustice including war, the prison-industrial complex and police brutality, he has created his own voluntary tax system of distributing his earnings to people who are least provided for by government and most impacted by exploitative, oppressive corporations. He has been named “The Robin Hood of modern times” by France 2 TV and has redistributed over $100,000 largely from the wealthy to serve the underprivileged, while himself earning less than $10,000 per year.
Living in Harmony with Earth
He has dedicated his life to living sustainably, in harmony with Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives. When not traveling for extended periods of time he generally lives in a tiny home or other alternative dwelling, often off the grid. When he lived in Florida he built a 100 square foot tiny house from secondhand materials. Here he grew and foraged 100% of his food for a year demonstrating that it is possible to break free from the global, industrial food system. He harvested rain for his drinking and bathing water, created almost no garbage – instead building soil through composting – and even composted his own poop. He involved his community and turned six of his neighbors front yards into gardens, all of which he could easily manage by bicycle. He is dedicated to living by Earth Code before government laws – with the central belief that clean air, pure water, healthy food, safe housing and living in harmony are basic rights of humans, Earth and our plant and animal relatives.
Although he gave this tiny home away and currently lives on the road, this still represents his sustainable lifestyle. Humanity’s relationship with Earth is out of balance. Currently we use about five times the amount of resources than the Earth can provide each year. Robin believes that we are risking our own extinction as a humanity living in this extractive manner, with 2,000 species of plants and animals already going extinct per day. He lives sustainably as part of his experiment with truth and integrity and to show an alternative to our destructive way of existing. He lives simply and sustainably so that others may simply live.
Robin has been named “The Forest Gump of ecology” for his bold and provocative activism. He has cycled across the United States three times on a bamboo bicycle in the name of sustainability. On his third journey 30 people joined him to do good deeds as they cycled across the nation together.
He has dove into more than two thousand grocery store dumpsters and displayed what he’s pulled out in major cities across the nation to demonstrate the Food Waste Fiasco – nearly half of all food in the US is wasted while 50 million US Americans are food insecure.
In 2015, he landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil without a penny in his pocket. From there, he traveled to Colombia, 7,000 miles and seven countries away, while relying on the goodness of humanity (and his life skills). The mainstream media disproportionally shares stories of violence that create an environment of fear towards our global neighbors. By putting himself at the mercy of humanity he demonstrated that most humans care about one another and that we do not need to fear our global neighbors.
In 2016 in New York City (and again in 2022 in Los Angeles), Robin immersed in a month long experiment where he consumed like the average US American and wore all the trash he created. He was a walking billboard for the truth behind our consumerism and helped millions of people to visualize how much their trash adds up through their basic daily actions.
“My Life is My Message”
Robin’s life is his message and he is dedicated to sharing this message through whatever means he can. His work has been covered by media worldwide including National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, CBS This Morning, The Guardian and Discovery Channel. He has done over 1,000 interviews with media. He has delivered three TEDx talks in London, Paris and Los Angeles and has given over 200 talks in 13 countries. He has written four books, including two children’s books. Over 1.5 million people follow his social media pages and his videos have been viewed hundreds of millions of times. It is estimated that he has reached over one billion people – over 10% of the world’s population.
Although most don’t remember him by his name, his actions stick with them. His formula to reach the masses is to first entertain in order to reach the mainstream and bring message of truth and solutions to those who often don’t otherwise hear it. Once he has the ears of the people his formula switches to education on the issues and to sharing solutions for moving forward in harmony. His method is not to tell people what to do, but rather to instigate critical thought and self-reflection. Over the last decade he has gotten feedback from many thousands of people sharing the changes they’ve made in their lives – from recycling for the first time to quitting their corporate job, ditching the pursuit of materialism and dedicating themselves to a higher purpose.
All of this is done without a motive of profit, but of simply sharing his message of living in harmony as a humanity with Earth and the plants and animals we share this home with. Nearly all of his work is Creative Commons, free to be copied and redistributed.
In Service to Earth, Humanity and our Plant and Animal Relatives
Reading comments on social media you may see Robin’s compassionate way of being compared to St. Francis of Assisi and his dedication for truth to Mahatma Gandhi. This is not by mistake. He has modeled his life after leaders who inspire him including Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Vandana Shiva, Angela Davis, Leah Penniman and Robin Wall Kimmerer. From the time Robin woke up in 2011 and realized the “American Dream” he was living is actually the world’s nightmare, he has dedicated himself to being a global leader for change. He is dedicated to personal liberation, with the belief that he must liberate himself first from oppressive and exploitative systems and the dominator society if he is to serve in the liberation of humanity and our plant and animal relatives.
Liberation from Oppressive, Exploitative Systems
Robin recognizes that due to being born into this world as a US American, a white man and many other privileges, he is also the oppressor, the exploiter and the dominator. He has done extensive work to overcome his racial and sexist biases, to be of service to Indigenous Sovereignty and to make his service more representative and inclusive for all people. Although Robin has chosen to hold no official positions at this time, he considers himself a public servant and plans to be of service to the people for every decade ahead.
Although much of his major activism in the first decade has highlighted sustainability issues his movement is towards intersectional environmentalism and environmental justice. His belief has always been that humans and Earth are not separate. Humans and the plants and animals we share this home with are not separate. Although we have become separated through these systems of oppression and exploitation. His daily focus is on the liberation of humanity both because of a deep love for humanity and because he believes that without liberation of humanity their will be no liberation of our plant and animal relatives. Robin strives to be of most service to the communities most affected by these systems of inequity and injustice and is a strong supporter of Black Liberation and Indigenous Sovereignty.
At the age of 25 he got a vasectomy and has chosen rather than creating his own family – to fully embrace humanity as his family and Earth as the shared home for this family. By having no children, wife, financial assets, life savings or valuable material possessions, he is choosing to be a leader who can not be bought or corrupted. He has nothing that can be taken away and nothing to be used as leverage or control. Thus he can live with little to guard or protect and in hopes to stand strongly against injustice in difficult times. He has vowed to a deep practice deep of financial integrity and transparency.
Robin has also been likened as “The Jonny Appleseed of sustainability”. Through his Community Fruit Trees Initiative he has helped to plant 2,000 fruit and nut trees. Through Seeds for the People he has provided seeds to over 40,000 people with low access to healthy food. Through the frugal and creative usage of financial resources he turned $80,000 in seeds and work into what would have cost recipients of the seeds over 3 million dollars to purchase. He has distributed seeds, along with the how-to, that have the potential to grow 16 million dollars worth of food. He has built gardens for many people along with his colleagues, started Community Compost Programs and helped countless people to grow their own food, compost and live more sustainably during his travels and when he is based in a community.
An Experiment with Truth and Integrity
At the age of 37, this may all sound bold, but Robin has chosen to live – and to write – his life for who he will be in the decades ahead. Only time can prove his dedication to Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives.
Whether or not he becomes the global leader that he has set out to, he currently serves a model for what other leaders can be. By focusing first and foremost on living his life as an experiment with truth and integrity, he will be a positive force within his own community.
Community, Diversity and Biodiversity as Solutions
At his core, Robin is dedicated to incorporating community, diversity and biodiversity into all the solutions I bring to the world. He sees community as the root healing to all of our societal problems. He sees diversity and biodiversity as the core virtues to create a more equitable and justice society and a more harmonious life on Earth for all. He embraces and celebrates diversity as one of the key components to our liberation as a humanity. In a time when many feel disempowered, he believes that our actions really do matter and that as individuals and communities we have the power to improve the world around us.
Although, he is seeking truth, he rarely believes that he has found it all in any issue. He is dedicated dedicated to exploring and understanding the big pictures of life. With this he is dedicated to non-attachment and non-delusionalism. Perhaps his greatest pursuit of truth is to one day return to the Earth and complete the cycle of life when the time comes. But in the meantime his daily aspiration is to live in integrity, so that whenever the day comes, he can return to Earth with integrity.
The Early Years
Robin grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the small town of Ashland with his mother and three siblings. From a young age he had a passion for the outdoors. He spent seven years in Boy Scouts and achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout. In 2005 he left his hometown to attend University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where he earned a Bachelor of Science with a major in Biology, a minor in Chemistry and a focus in Aquatic Science. During his summer breaks, he worked 80+ hours per week selling educational books door-to-door and learned the skills of sales and marketing. After graduating from university he spent six months traveling through Asia and Africa gained an appreciation for how diverse and the world and humanity is. In 2011, he moved to San Diego where he started his own marketing company, The Greenfield Group.
During much of Robin’s teens and early 20s his life was focused on financial wealth, material possessions, his physical appearance and the pursuit of women. He had the goal of being a millionaire by age 30 and was successfully on this path. His life took a great turn at the age of 24 when he started to become aware of the environmental and social issues of his time. He learned through books and documentaries that he was contributing to many of these problems through his daily actions including the food he was eating, the car he was driving and the stuff he was buying and consuming. At that point he began his transformation to living simply and sustainably.
He started with small changes such as shopping local, reducing the amount of trash he created, eating a more whole-food, local diet, removing chemical products from his life and using reusable bags and water bottles. Building on the success of these small changes, he took greater leaps of change such as getting rid of his car, pulling all his money out of investments and banks harmful to the environment and decreasing his dependency on money altogether. Since he began his transformation, he has adapted hundreds of small changes into his life in an effort live in harmony with Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives.
Over time, he dissolved his company and started a nonprofit, Happy, Healthy and Free and later his current nonprofit, Regeneration, Equity and Justice. The rest of the story can be read in the biography above and in his life design and mission statement.
After 25 years of going by Rob he has returned to Robin. And yes, in case you are wondering… Greenfield is his real last name.