The Cycling Do-Gooder: An Interview with Rob Greenfield

Rob Greenfield is one inspirational guy. He just spent four months biking across the country to raise awareness and funds for 1% For The Planet, and now he’s cycling from San Francisco to San Diego on “The Do Good Tour!” He’ll be arriving in Santa Barbara on Wednesday!

Rob Greenfield 1% for the Planet

Rob is a 1% For The Planet Ambassador, and his company, The Greenfield Group is a participating member. They do marketing for companies that have positive messages to send. On his cycling trip across America this summer, Rob ended his journey at the 1% For The Planet headquarters. Along his trek he was raising awareness for 1%FTP while also raising funds for a handful of different 1% FTP nonprofit recipient organizations.

Rob joins the likes of musician Jack Johnson and Kim Jordan,  CEO of New Belgium Brewery, as a 1%FTP Ambassador. These ambassadors are people who are out there making the world a better place through business or through their personal lives, whether it be surfing or skiing, music or adventures, and encouraging other businesses and individuals to donate to conservation and sustainability efforts around the globe.

I was able catch Rob by phone while he was pedaling away on the road to Santa Barbara. Read on to get a glimpse into his intriguing journey and soak up some words of wisdom along the way.

Who IS Rob Greenfield? Tell us about yourself.

Rob GreenfieldWell, I went to school in Wisconsin for biology and aquatic science. During college I did my best to get the heck out of Wisconsin as much as I could, and by seeing a lot of the world, I really became more and more passionate about how magnificent and beautiful it is. I think by being in so many natural environments all over the place, from jungles in Borneo to islands in the middle of the ocean, I just really started to gain an appreciation.

Slowly I got out of my college days of drinking way too much beer, and got motivated. I got out of Wisconsin and did a trip to Africa and Asia. I was gone for five months and I had raised money prior to ‘do goodness’ around the world; simple things like building small libraries at schools in Cambodia or making a rainwater collection system in Kenya; just whatever things I found.

When I got back to America, I moved to San Diego, started a marketing company called The Greenfield Group, and joined 1% For The Planet right away. I had always really respected 1% FTP, so as soon as I founded my own company, I joined. I got really involved with them, and really excited to use business as a medium for positive change, slowly making it more and more environmentally friendly.

In my first year, we put 5% of our revenue into environmental work. 3% of that was donated to 1% for the Planet nonprofits and 2% was for projects I did myself like trash cleanups in the community and starting a community bike program. I  got more and more active.  I’ve always been an adventurer so I decided to mix up my adventures even more, using use them to reach out to a huge number of people to inspire them to start treating our earth with more respect and to live a life beyond themselves – a life that’s good for them but also for the community that they live in, other creatures on this earth, and the planet in general. That’s the ‘fast-track’ that got me to where I am today.

Rob Greenfield bike

What inspired you to start riding bikes to create change?

The more you are aware of your surroundings the more you realize how you’re affecting other humans both near and far. A couple years ago I started to read a lot of books and watch a lot of documentaries and just kind of started to pay attention to what I was doing and how I was impacting my surroundings. I learned a lot about problems that oil and gas are causing around the world and decided I couldn’t support that anymore – as much as possible. I sold my car, bought a bicycle and decided that this would be my new mode of transportation.

For me, the bicycle is such a simple thing that’s allowed me so much freedom but without tying me down with registration, maintenance, insurance and all that stuff. With a bike, you can get exercise, be involved with your community and keep your life more simple. For me, it’s a logical form of transportation where instead of having someone else on the other side of the world doing work to get oil to power your car, you do the work yourself with your feet. I really wanted to travel long distances and inspire a lot of people, and the bike can do that very visibly without creating the negative impact associated with vehicle use. And, I just think that people are happier and healthier when they’re on a bike. I believe that the more human beings we can get riding bikes, the better off the world would be.

What was the inspiration for your cross country cycling trip?

Rob GreenfieldMy inspiration was to inspire America to start living a happier, healthier lifestyle. I don’t know exactly why human beings are on earth, and I don’t know what our purpose is, but I do believe that one of our purposes is to enjoy the life we’ve been given. I think the more people that I can make happier and healthier while I’m on earth, the better their lives will be and the better my life will be. That’s my goal and that’s why I did the trip; to inspire people to start living a happier and healthier lifestyle; for themselves, for the community, and for the planet. At the same time, I wanna have fun. So, it’s a fun way for me to challenge myself and do a trip I can be proud of.

What were some of your biggest challenges in completing this journey?

Rob Greenfield The hardest part was the beginning: adjusting to these new ways of living like having to find my water from natural sources and having to find and eat 100% locally grown, organic food every day after very long days of biking. That was the biggest thing- adjusting to this new way of living. After a bit, it became just that – a way of life that I got used to which became easy.

The other big challenge I had was biking across the flats of Kansas and Nebraska with 30mph wind coming into my face. Mountains you can take one pedal at a time, but when you got wind coming at you like that, day after day for five days, it’s really disheartening. And then I became over-exhausted – I think it was heat exhaustion on one day – and I just puked  the entire night. I had been set up under a little carport on the side of the highway and I was just dehydrated as heck for  two days after that. So that was really the most challenging aspects of the trip.

How did people react to you during the tour?

Most of the time, extremely inspired. The little things that I was doing is what they picked up on. In New York City, I lived off a leaky fire hydrant for five days and was the only water I used. I bathed in it, I washed my clothes in it, I drank it. A lot of people would tell me that after that, whenever they would see a leaky faucet or leaky fire hydrant, they would think of me and take steps to conserve water.

What goals did you have in trekking across America, and did you accomplish these goals?

Standing up for SustainabilityI kept statistics on most of the things I was doing, because that way I could point to concrete results. One goal was to generate almost no trash – I created 2 pounds. I used only 160 gallons of water for the entire trip while the average American uses about 100 gallons per day. I used under 2 days of ‘average’ water use  to bike all the way across America! I plugged into 5 outlets, never turning on a single light switch.

At the beginning of my trip, I was die-hard about ‘being perfect,’ but then I recognized that I don’t have to be. If I’m creating 2 pounds of trash on an entire trip when the average American creates 4.5 pounds a day,  I’m generating over 200x less trash than the average American – for me, that’s good enough! I became more okay with screwing up here and there, and accidentally generating a bit of trash, for example.

My final goal was to inspire as many people as possible, and while that’s a hard goal to capture, I can say that I know a lot of people that are living a happier, healthier lifestyle because of the little things they saw me do.

What inspired you to jump into this next “Do Good Tour” so quickly after your cross country trek?

It felt a little bit crazy to jump into something without even really giving myself much time to rest, but honestly, I think we’re in pretty dire times right now. We’re using 1.5 times more resources than the earth can produce, so if we’re gonna make things happen and make things right, we have to start right now – there’s not that much time to waste. And you know, you only live once. You gotta get out there and do the things you wanna do while you can.

Are your goals the same for this trip as your last trip or are they different?

The Do Good Tour This trip is very different. The first one was extremely environmentally oriented while this one is just to inspire people to do good. One thing that I believe is that in order to have a happy, healthy earth, we need happy, healthy humans. Things like music and dancing are all so important because it allows people to enjoy life more and be inspired to protect it.

I’d like to get people to be passionate about life. I used to be very focused on money, but then I realized that money isn’t what brings me happiness, so I decided that my new measure of success would be the number of lives that I can influence in a positive manner. So this is my job – to make people happy. I don’t try to make money anymore, I just try to make people happy.

LoaTree’s motto is “live for a better world.” What’s your vision for living for a better world?

To live for a better world you have to live beyond yourself. You have to live for the earth, you have to live for your community, you have to live for the creatures around you. When it comes down to making decisions, one must take into account how a decision will affect not just those around you, but all those in some way impacted by that decision. It really comes down to just opening up your consciousness, paying attention, and making wise choices based on such things such as where things are coming from and how they’re being made.

How can people get involved with what you’re doing?

Rob GreenfieldGo to my website and my Facebook page. I’m always posting things that people can do and ways  people can get involved in their community. Also, I’m creating a social network for doing good that we’re working on developing right now. It will feature what’s called the “daily do good” which gives you one simple, good thing that you can do that day, no matter where you are or who you are. I’ll  announce the launch on my Facebook page and website.

If you’re in Santa Barbara and want to meet Rob and hear more about his bike journey and “do good” mission, come to Channel Islands Outfitters (117 B Harbor Way, Santa Barbara) Wednesday night from 6-8pm for “The Do Good Tour at the Paddle Sports Center“. He’ll be talking about how to live a sustainable life and about his trip across America this summer. He’s also hosting a stamping party – a campaign by Ben & Jerry’s  to “stamp money out of politics” with the end goal to amend the Constitution so that corporations are not considered people and can’t spend unlimited funds ‘buying’ elections. Just bring a few dollar bills to ‘stamp.’ Then, all you have to do is spend the money, putting these stamped bills into circulation. You can also buy your own stamps and continue to get the word out.


By Laura Ingulsrud, LoaTree guest writer

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