Why did I choose to live in Orlando, Florida?

Robin Greenfield posing with a woman.
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Many people have asked me why Cheryl and I chose to make our home in Orlando, Florida. I understand this question considering when most people think of Orlando, they think of Disney. Those that know me, know that I’m not into Disney. It also hosts more business conferences than any other city in the USA. Orlando often tops the list of being the most visited city in the nation and not for reasons I’m very involved in. It’s not thought of as the most environmentally progressive city. Nothing like a San Francisco or Seattle. Orlando is a large urban center, not the most nature-centered place.
And then there’s the state of Florida, one state that makes headlines for politicians that I sit on the opposite side of the spectrum to when it comes to my beliefs on humanity, environment, and the Earth as a whole. The state also makes headlines for making it illegal to live off the grid (not always the most accurate stories), toxic blooms of algae from Big Ag, and schools where it’s against the rules to use the phrase “climate change.”
So yeah, I understand the question of why the heck I’d chose to make Orlando, Florida my new home. Here are the reasons why:
Cheryl and I want to live in a warm climate. This leaves only a few options in the USA – Hawaii, California, Texas, and Florida. We don’t want to live in Hawaii because I don’t want to fly much and that would leave us isolated. I already lived in San Diego for 5 years. Texas doesn’t represent much differently from what I said above. That leaves Florida. It may sound like a last option, but the reality is that I love the region. It is one of the most biodiverse states in the nation for both plants and animals. Everywhere I go, even in the cities, there is life all around me. Alligators in the lakes: birds, fish, and lizards are everywhere. After 5 years in the desert of San Diego this place could not feel more alive, with its humid air. I’ve always loved this state for the ocean, the Everglades, the springs, and the forests.

The year-round warm climate has a huge advantage for my upcoming project of growing, foraging, and hunting 100% of my food for a year. I can grow food here year-round. It also has its challenges though, one of the big ones being the lack of soil. It’s mostly sand, with almost no natural fertility for growing food. Apparently, the harsh summers are the equivalent to the harsh winters of the north too. I’ve been told you can grow very little in the months of June through September. Any Florida gardener will tell you it’s not strictly a paradise for growing food. But I’ll take those challenges for the year-round warmth. The climate is also more conducive to living in a tiny house and having an outdoor kitchen and bathroom. With every up there is a down though, as many people flee from the scorching heat of summer here.

We traveled through here twice over the last two years and both times we felt extremely welcomed by the community. We felt at home and quickly made a lot of great friends. Orlando has an amazing community of people including the team at Fleet Farming, Orlando Permaculture, The Florida School of Holistic Living, and more. I’m extremely excited to be a part of this community. I know they have so much to teach me and I believe that I can also be of service to them. In all honesty I would prefer to be in a smaller, quieter town by the ocean, but the community here is strong and that means more to me right now than the comforts of a small town.

The standard narrative of Orlando isn’t the only narrative. My friend Chris Castro is the Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando and they are making huge strides. His goal is to transition Orlando into one of the most sustainable cities in the nation. They are proof that they don’t need to wait for the federal government to make changes, and they are taking local action into their own hands. I’m really excited to be a part of this and help Orlando transition to a more sustainable city.

San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle would be the easy life. There are many like-minded people striving for the same things as I am: easy access to food co-ops with healthy food, and no need to even say no to plastic bags, because they are already gone! But Orlando and Florida need Cheryl and me more than those places do. I aim to be in a place that needs change but also has a swell of people making change and striving for more. I think Orlando has a good balance of that and its the right place for me to be the most effective.

Those are the main reasons why Orlando is now home. At this point in life it feels like the right place to be. I’m extremely excited about moving here. It’s been a long two years of traveling and I’m very ready to be able grow my own food, consistently volunteer with local nonprofits, and positively affect change within the community that I can follow up on. My plan is to make Orlando my home for the next two years, and after that the future is completely unknown.

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