These are my vows from 2015. See my updated vows here.
This page now serves as an archive, not my current vows.
My mission is to create happiness, health, and freedom on the earth and I don’t really find it fair to make a financial profit off this. Happiness, health, and freedom should be free. Who am I to charge money for these things? Health and happiness should be pure. All too often when you add money into the mixture it mucks up the purity. Even if it doesn’t muck things up it’s hard to tell if a person’s motives are pure when they are making a financial profit from their actions, no matter how much good they are doing. I want my work to be pure and I want to hold myself accountable. The earth has seen its fair share of well-intentioned people lose their balance when they got their hands on loads of money. To keep myself on track and to set an example for what can be done I have set guidelines for myself and am making them transparent to all.
In my ideal world money would not exist and I wouldn’t have to deal with it. But in our current society money does exist. I could choose to swear off money and one day I just may do that but for now rather than abandon it I will use it for good. To a large degree, I will use my money to help others decrease their need for money through helping more people grow their own food and make a habit of riding bikes rather than driving cars.
In summary I vow:
-to practice financial transparency.
-to donate 100% of my earnings from media.
-to earn no more than the federal poverty threshold per year.
-to own a minimal and reasonable value of possessions and financial assets.
And in much, much more detail:
I vow to donate
90% 100% of my earnings from media to nonprofits.
For anything that I am paid to do that involves spreading my mission I will donate 100% of my earnings to nonprofits, activists, and causes I believe in. This includes payments from TV shows, documentaries, books, appearances, etc.
I would like to donate 100% but at this point I still use some money to support myself and rather than having a separate job that would take away my time from bettering the earth I think it makes sense to allow myself 10% for my personal needs.
Update 07/18/16: I’ve now committed to donating 100% of my media income. See my updated vows.
I have just begun to get involved with the TV industry and it has paid me a few times so far. See Media Income for details of where my past earnings have gone. This page will be updated to reflect my donations.
I want to be a part of a society that is more about giving to one another than hoarding for ourselves. This is my way of being the change that I wish to see. I know that my example is extreme and most people in their current situation cannot give most of their income away. However, many people could give more to legitimately good causes and to each other than they currently are, even if it’s just 1%. If you own a business I encourage you to join One Percent for the Planet and if you do not I encourage you to give at least 1% of your income to grassroots environmental work.
I vow to earn no more
$15,000 per year (updated to $5,000 and then again to the federal poverty threshold).
My personal expenses are very minimal. I have vastly simplified my needs so that I can live in the service of others. This allows me to live with very little money. I have practiced living without money completely at times and found it to be quite enjoyable. I have also learned to meet my needs without making financial transactions and will continue to do so. Simple examples of that would be riding my bike instead of driving, growing my own food, sharing with others, using what others waste, spending time in nature, and being conscious of my consumption of anything.
Having money makes it very easy to cause environmental and social destruction, I don’t want to be able to do that. When we buy something there is almost always an environmental impact and most of the products on our shelves have a negative social impact as well. By keeping my personal money flow to a minimum I will largely decrease my ability to cause destruction. Not having an over abundance of money will keep my purchases and consumption in check and force me to not buy crap I don’t need, not waste stuff, be a steward to my possessions and buy used stuff. I am only a human and it’s all too easy to buy things that I really don’t need when I have the money to do so.
There are other ways that money is exchanged though and that is covered next.
Others paying expenses on my behalf
My mission involves being present with a lot of people and that takes a serious amount of my time and energy. As I have said my income is capped but my aim is to increase my ability to affect positive change with these guidelines, not hinder it. So I will allow for money to be spent on my behalf under the right circumstances. For example, if I’m invited to do a TV appearance in New York they could pay expenses to get me there and to host me. I will accept the necessary expenses but you won’t find me sleeping in fancy hotel rooms or eating overly fancy meals. I will even try to save the media outlet money and get them to donate what I saved them to a nonprofit. As an example, I got Discovery Channel to donate $2,000 just by forgoing the hotel room, private transportation, and upgraded plane seat on my trip to London to promote a TV show.
Non-monetary gifts and sponsorships
My policy is that I support the gifting economy and will gladly accept small gifts. On the larger end of gifts and sponsorships I will at the very least be 100% transparent with what I accept and will aim to keep what I receive to necessities.
I will likely work with financial sponsors at times to help me complete my missions. I will aim to always work with sponsors who share my ethics and morals.
I vow to own a minimal and reasonable value of possessions and financial assets.
I don’t have a strong desire for material possessions and this vow is to keep me from owning too many of them. I sold my car in 2012 and have been slowly getting rid of things since then. I’m down to a very small amount of stuff and currently live in teeny tiny home. Most of my possessions are tools that help me to accomplish tasks such as my bicycle to get around, my computer to do my work, a camera to document and spread my work and camping gear to spend time in the outdoors. I aim to own possessions that serve a beneficial purpose rather than for reasons such as social status or ego. (Update: See My 111 possessions.)
This includes cash, stocks, IRA’s, life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. I had investments like this in the past but most of them had connections to destructive industries so I took the money out. Now I am living in the present to help our current environmental situation. I’d rather do this for OUR future rather than save for MY future.
Happy Healthy and Free
I recently started a nonprofit called Happy, Healthy and Free. The mission of this nonprofit is to spread more of its name on earth and it will serve as a tool for me to do so without having to own money myself. Sometimes my earnings may be donated directly to this nonprofit but often the earnings will be donated directly to other causes and nonprofits as I prefer to be involved with money as little as possible while still being able to affect positive change with it. The nonprofit has bylaws to control the usage of the money and I have made sure that I cannot use it for my personal needs, only for my mission. Bottom line, the purpose of starting this nonprofit is to use it as a tool to do good things while still adhering to my personal vows.
(Update: As of June 2019 Happy Healthy and Free is no longer active. The nonprofit was closed in good standing, and done to simplify my work. Instead I will be partnering with other nonprofits to carry out my work.)
I bank with a local credit union (Mission Federal Credit Union) and no longer have any credit cards (A few years ago I had about five credit cards). Credit unions are nonprofits and invest their money back in the community and often give the money to good causes. I switched over from Chase Bank because they, along with most or all large banks, are some of the greatest destructors of the environment and in turn humanity. I pay with cash for most of my transactions and keep my money in the hands of locals rather than large corporations.
(Update: I no longer have a credit union or bank account.)
Charging for my work
There are many things that I think should be free in a just and intellectually advanced society. Some of these include air, water, food, simple housing, education, reasonable levels of health care and access to all nature. Those are just a few things but there are many more. I think information on health, sustainable living, and how to be good to the earth should all be free too. In my mind, it makes no sense to charge people for health and happiness. Maybe at times it makes sense in our current society but that is not the society I am functioning on. So because of that my work is free to access and free to redistribute under a creative commons license. This includes all the content that is on my website including my photos, videos, and blogs.
If I do work with another entity that owns the rights to the work then their policy must be followed. Examples of this would be a TV show or a book with a publishing company.
Although I will not personally charge for my work I will work with companies that make money from my work as it would greatly hinder my mission to not use some of these outlets. Again,
90% 100% of the money I make from this will be donated to a good cause.
Some of my writing will be printed in book form by publishing companies. Those books will be sold for money. However there will always be a free copy available as well. So if someone chooses to pay for the information they can, but there will always be an option to read the book for free. An individual who doesn’t pay may not get the exact same experience as a paying individual but they will get the same information, which is what I see as the most important. Books are not free to create in our current system and I am not going to limit myself the ability to put books out. I will do it as ethical as possible though.
Some of my work will be distributed for a cost by others. For example, if I have a TV show they charge to view the show through your cable subscription. If I have a documentary on Netflix a viewer would pay via a Netflix subscription. However, I will not be putting exclusive information on any of these shows that can’t be accessed for free as well. By that I mean the show may only be available for paid viewers only but the words I am saying and the lessons in health, happiness, and freedom that I am spreading will be available on my website or another free platform.
Simply put I will not personally charge for my work unless it is also available for free. In this manner, it is the choice of the person paying because they want the information in a more special manner rather than the free version I have available.
If you are deeply analyzing this philosophy you may find that it’s not perfect. It’s a heck of a lot better than what’s currently going on though.
My policy is to never advertise for a company or product that I do not strongly believe in. And by “believe in” I don’t mean that I just like them or they are my friends. I have committed to not advertise for anything that causes destruction to the earth even if it is to take the money and give it to a good cause. That would be counterintuitive for me. I no longer wreak havoc to spread good elsewhere. To give you an example let’s say I allowed advertising on a video about organic gardening and the advertisement was for a product that contains GMO’s. I would be supporting the very thing that is hurting the organic gardening movement by allowing this advertisement. That’s not going to happen on any of my outlets. My website is currently 100% advertising free.
I have and will appear on shows, news channels, magazines, etc. that control their own advertising and they will advertise for things I do not represent. This I will continue to do, as this is how I reach a large number of people, and it would greatly hinder my mission to not use these outlets.
I will only take on sponsors if our messages are deeply inline. My adventures have been sponsored by Patagonia, prAna, Goal Zero, Dr. Bronner’s, Klean Kanteen, among others, all of which are companies I strongly support and would represent even if they didn’t supply me with free products. I have only dealt with product sponsorships, not financial sponsorships so far. Through product sponsorship, I have been able to create a mutual benefit for the company and I. I was given their product for free and was able to represent their product to people that follow my work just by using it as I naturally would.
These vows begin today on 04/08/2015 and I am taking these vows initially for four years. Too often I see people make lifetime commitments and all too often I see these “lifetime” commitments last a fraction of their life. The frequency of priest celibacy scandals and the high US American divorce rate are two examples of that. So because of that, I am making this vow for four years until 04/08/2019 at which time I will be 32. I chose four years, the length of presidency in the USA, because I wanted to feel how long that is so I can understand how so many of them break their promises in that time. I would imagine that I will renew these vows after four years but only time will tell that.
The only exception to the date is that I still own more than $15,000. I am in the process of donating it to nonprofits and will have that done in no more than 2 months time.
Again the purpose of these vows is to keep me accountable and to keep me honest. My mission is to spread health and happiness to all people on Earth, all creatures on Earth, and to the earth itself. That genuinely is my mission and these guidelines will keep me to that and keep me from financially benefiting from my work. Of course, I’ll benefit vastly in other ways because every time I make someone happy I become happier and by spreading health I will be healthy as well since I lead by example. I will gain many friends and to me true security is in relationships, not money. I will be rich in experience, relationships, knowledge, health, happiness, and love but my “net worth” will be nothing to speak of.