From Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference

A timeline of Robin Greenfield's transformation.
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Not that long ago, my main priorities included binge drinking every weekend, looking good, and macking on pretty much every good looking woman I saw. I also wanted to be rich and to own lots of really impressive things. I was pretty tuned into that life and didn’t really think too much about how my actions affected the environment, people around the world, and the animals that we share Earth with. I was pretty selfish and if I did think about my actions I certainly didn’t do much about it. I did recycle, shut off the lights and water and eat healthier than the average person I knew and I thought that was doing pretty well. But the list of negative environmental impacts was far greater than my positive impacts (which was nearly nonexistent). I owned two cars, shopped at Walmart for my food and my cheap crap, drank the cheapest beer I could find, took home my share of plastic bags, wasted plenty of water, ate too much factory farmed meat, needed the newest gadgets always and the list could go on and on. Not that any of these things are inherently bad, but they definitely were not deeply serving myself or Earth.

Then reality hit in 2011. I became educated. I decided to act on that education. 

I gave up on restrictive social norms and stigmas and embarked down a path of living for the benefit of Earth, my community and myself. Here I share with you the timeline of my last four years of transformation from an environmental and social nuisance into being of benefit to the environment and society. I share this to give a real life example of transformation and to show you that you too can lead a much more Earth-friendly lifestyle if you choose to. Most of the items on the timeline represent simple changes that you, or anyone, can take. But remember that every life is unique and this is not designed for you to follow exactly. However, most of these ideas can be adapted to your life if you truly desire for it to be so. 

For me, it was all about taking it one step at a time and continuing that from week to week, month to month and year to year. I made a list of over 100 changes I wanted to make with the goal of making at least one positive change per week. When I started this transformation, I would have had a really hard time believing that I’d get to where I am today. The only way that I’ve made it here is by taking it gradually, setting little goals and building on the momentum and excitement of each success. Then making those things habits. It wasn’t always easy, but it has been extremely rewarding and fun. I am happier and healthier than ever before, but most of all, I am living with so much more purpose. I’m no longer causing reckless destruction to Earth, to innocent lives, or to my own life and that is a huge relief and really has me jumping for joy. I’m proud of it all and know that it has come by taking responsibility for my actions. I am proud that I know how my actions affect the world, both near and far. I am proud to be of benefit to Earth and society. 

Here is my timeline. May it serve you well.

2005-2009 Went to UW-La Crosse for Biology but focused on beer, women and fun mostly. I also traveled the country and the world quite a bit, worked really hard during the summers and developed substantially as a human. I was driven to be successful and was, but I left the environment by the wayside and thought mostly about myself. I wanted to be a millionaire. 

01/2010 – 05/2010 Traveled around the world and gained an appreciation for how diverse and immense the world is and developed a desire to protect it.

10/2011 Left my homeland of Wisconsin indefinitely.

01/2011 Moved to San Diego, California, where I met more open-minded people.

09/2011 Started The Greenfield Group and joined One Percent for the Planet.

11/2011 Started to focus on wholistic practices to better my personal health at the influence of my new friends.

11/2011 Started to get into sustainability and began to pay attention to things like trash, resource consumption and growing food. I started to learn about how my actions affect the earth, other people and animals, from documentaries and books.

02/2012 Decided to take action on what I learned. I began a transformation into a healthier, more natural lifestyle and committed to reduce my harmful influences on Earth. There was no single moment of clarity or significant occurrence, just a realization through education that my simple daily actions were causing a lot of destruction to Earth, to fellow humans both near and far, and to the creatures that I share the Earth with. I was diligent about tracking my actions each day and over the course of each week to form new habits.

Got rid of all body care items with unnatural ingredients and switched to natural alternatives for the few products I continued using, such as toothpaste and soap.

Got rid of chemical cleaning products, plastic items, and the microwave and switched to natural cleaning products.

Switched to a mostly whole food, unprocessed diet and drastically reduced the amount of factory farmed meat I was eating.

Stopped using single-use products, like paper towels, tin foil, and plastic bags.

Greatly reduced my alcohol intake

03/2012 Pulled my money out of investments that had any involvement in businesses that do harm to the environment. Started to question whether I wanted to pursue making lots of money and paying taxes that contribute to war. 

05/2012 Sold my car, bought a bike, and started using an electric car share program. By getting rid of my car, I found that my consumerism became much more responsible. It was no longer as easy to go out and buy crap and I no longer had a trunk to put the crap in. I started purchasing less stuff, shopping local, and supporting ethical businesses.

06/2012 Inspired greatly by One Percent for the Planet, I began using business as a means to help improve the world around me. I began transforming my business so that every aspect was a part of the solution, not the problem. Projects I started included a community bike program, trash cleanups, and energy efficient light bulb exchanges. Around this time is when I really started to find purpose in giving back to others.

06/2012 Got a vasectomy so that I could dedicate my time on Earth to the masses, rather than raising my own child. Also to set an example of a man taking responsibility for birth control. (I know this one is extreme. This was a very personal decision and is not something I’m advocating for others to do. I do highly advocate being responsible and to be very intentional about having children.)

07/2012 Took my first long distance cycling trip and during that trip furthered my Earth friendly diet by:

Going zero waste, namely not buying any packaged food.

Eating local food.

Eating mostly organic food. This meant absolutely no GMO’s.

In the past, I had thought eating this way was too expensive, but by this point, I had absorbed enough knowledge to realize that it’s actually more expensive to eat packaged convenience foods.

08/2012 Was really starting to surprise myself doing things that I never thought I could. My body was in prime physical condition simply by having fun in the outdoors, living naturally, and getting around by bicycle (not by going to the gym). Time after time I found myself doing things I never knew I could do

09/2012 Learned that I could run barefoot pretty well when I ran an impromptu 10k barefoot race at a pace of seven minutes per mile.

10/2012 Started composting and vermiculture.

10/2012 Started growing some of my own food.

10/2012 Started to make foods from scratch that I would normally buy.

10/2012 Started to make things I would normally buy and learn how to be more self sufficient.

10/2012 Started to eat plant-based meals about five days per week. (UPDATE: In 2017, I transitioned to including meat, eggs and dairy in my diet again. Read about my perspective on veganism here.)

11/2012 Embarked on my first money-free adventure and flew one way to Cabo. This was my first experience living on much less money than I had thought I could.

01/2013 Officially changed my life title to adventurer and started a website for $100.

04/2013 Embarked on my first major environmental adventure, Off the Grid Across the USA. I cycled 4,700 miles across the United States practicing sustainable living to the extreme.

This meant:

Eating locally produced, organic, and unpackaged foods or dumpster diving.

Using water directly from natural sources or water that is going to waste.

Using electricity generated by solar panels.

Creating near zero trash and carrying whatever I created for the entire journey.

Using human-generated power and avoiding fossil fuels completely.

I managed to use just 160 gallons of water, create a mere two pounds of trash, plug into only five outlets, not turn on a single light switch and consume 280 pounds of food from grocery store dumpsters.

I also gave up marijuana, alcohol, and swearing for the summer and have held to it except for occasional drinks. (I do strongly support the responsible use of marijuana but it didn’t serve me personally at the time.)

09/2013 Got rid of the garbage can in my house because I was no longer creating much trash.

09/2013 Started to grow my own food for the first time.

09/2013 Parted ways with my last set of business clothes.

11/2013 Moved into a 6’×6′ closet in my own home to live rent free. Got rid of nearly half of my personal possessions. 

11/2013 Left my phone at home for Thanksgiving. This was my first time leaving my phone off and at home while in my own town (not camping, in Mexico, etc.). I had realized how addicted I was to my phone.

12/2013 Spent a week on the streets to learn about homelessness and gain perspective. Read a Gandhi biography and was deeply influenced.

01/2014 Embarked on my first major international travel without possessions or money. More than ever, I lost interest in money.

04/2014 Finished a year without showering.

05/2014 Finally installed water-efficient shower heads and faucets and LED bulbs in my house. I had overlooked this in the past because I thought it was too expensive.

06/2014 Cycled across the USA again, this time to spread goodness.

Canceled my last credit card.

Paid off my last debt.

Got my bills down to only my cell phone, which was $60 a month.

08/2014 Drew major attention to food waste by hosting Food Waste Fiasco’s across the United States and eating solely from grocery store dumpsters for two months.

08/2014 Traveled moneyless in the USA for the first time.

10/2014 Took my money out of the big banks and switched to a local credit union.

11/2014 Got rid of most of my possessions. Downsized to about six boxes, my bike and a bike trailer.

11/2014 Moved out of my apartment to live home free. Got a PO box.

01/2015 Canceled my cell phone bill, the last bill to my name.

01/2015 Retrospectively offset the carbon emissions from every flight I’ve ever taken and committed to a rigorous standard for future flights.

01/2015 Moved into a 50 square foot tiny home that I purchased for $950. Here I lived off the grid in the city using solar panels for my electricity, using only a few gallons of water per day from rainwater, using compost toilet, creating almost zero waste and living very simply at my little urban homestead. 

01/2015 Committed to donating 90% of all the money I make from media to nonprofits (later updated to 100%). This includes my TV show and my book, Dude Making a Difference.

04/2015 Over the years, I had been running a successful business and had saved up a fair amount of money. I donated all but $15,000 to good causes and committed to earning no more than $15,000 per year or owning more than $15,000 in possessions and $15,000 in assets. This is to keep my focus away from money now and in the future and to keep my focus on the beauties of life that are freely available to us all. See my vows here.

It’s been a wonderful life so far and the last four years of transformation have absolutely been the most meaningful years of all. At this point, I feel like I have made most of the changes necessary to live for the benefit of Earth, my community and myself. However, each day I gain more knowledge and with that I will be taking even more responsibility for my life. I encourage you to follow your dreams but at the same time live for the benefit of all.

UPDATES

08/2015 With more simplification of my life, I dwindled my total net worth down to under $15,000.

01/2016 Auctioned off my tiny house after living in it for a year, and raised $10,000 to build tiny houses for people living on the streets in San Diego.

03/2016 Simplified my life down to just 111 possessions, all of which fit in my backpack. I left San Diego, my home for the last five years, with the intention to travel my country and the world in the service of others.

06/2016 Closed my bank account to decrease my involvement with money even further.

This timeline reflects my life up until mid-2016.

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