Dude Making a Difference, by Rob Greenfield—Book Review.
Rob Greenfield’s message with this book is about sustainability, yet it runs much deeper than that. It is about his off-the-grid bicycle journey across the United States, but so much more is covered. It is about his goal to teach and spread the word of how to be good to yourself, your community and the planet, still once again it surpasses that heavily. This is a book with an important and immediate message that Rob and I both think is so very vital.
I believe his new book is required reading for the masses and the individual. He has additional information on-line to back-up all the this book conveys, so look to the web for that. The stories of his journey are only lightly covered, as it would take a giant manuscript to detail his every experience in this 104 day cross-country bamboo bicycle trek. Like seemingly everything I do that doesn’t follow the norm, this book review will be one that doesn’t tell the story, but gives my own take on it.
As I read his book (journal?), I couldn’t help comparing his life goals and actions to my own. His activism came to be at a much younger age than mine. We are on the same mission now, even if it is in somewhat different directions. If you were to split light with a prism to show all the levels (colors) of ways to make a difference, then he appears to shine in every spectrum generated. Mine are close, yet the beam is not as strong and maybe missing a couple of the brighter hues.
As he mentions in this book, his everyday life does not match the extremes of sustainability he maintained on his journey. It would close to impossible for most anyone to hit the levels he held for an entire lifetime. He is the first to admit that total off-the grid living isn’t his message. What he wants to do is light a fire in the human race for minimal waste and maximum use of every natural resources this world offers us. I follow the 3 R’s, yet now I know there are actually 5 of them.
I am glad to say that my household uses 1/50 to 1/20 of the amount of water than it did by the previous owners. Part of that stems from it just being the two of us compared to a family of 4. Much has to do with several other factors. Turning off the automatic sprinkler system (and then eventually removing it and the lawn) was one of the first things I did on moving-in day. We are still working on landscaping our property with water-wise and native plants. The colors flourish and we are doing 95% of the work ourselves.
We save all the shower water as it warms up for the washer or yard. We use a non-soap ball to clean our clothes and save all the water the washer kicks out for the yard. A method Rob outlines is how we maintain our toilet flushing. On the whole we do our best to only use the faucets when needed and reuse all we can that flows from them.
On Rob Greenfield’s ride he went to massive extremes with water use and conservation. He used filtered natural water sources—caught rain water—found discarded water—saved wasted water dripping from plumbed water sources and used as little as possible on every turn. His bathroom methods were ones I wouldn’t and couldn’t really use at home. He did it to prove to himself and the world it could be done, yet doesn’t expect you (or even himself) to recreate his methods used during his ride all the time.
His nearly 4 month trip found him using solar power for most every electrical need he had. That included writing his book text (to be edited later) and to keep his followers (including me) updated on his progress and activities. His cell phone allowed him to set up some overnight stays and many media interviews (and using that good old GPS too). The lack of enough power was an issue, yet he stuck to his plan almost completely.
I am proud to say my power bill is just a small fraction of most everyone I know. Someday if the local power company will get on-board, we will get a solar system, but for now we just do our best to use as little as possible. Here on the west coast most of our power is fairly cleanly made, some of it with solar and wind turbines, yet using a minimal amount is working well for us.
Rob was adamant about eating locally sourced food with no-to-minimal packaging. He is also a big defender of a no waste life style, so getting discarded food was big on his eating habits list (and is to this day). He hauled every bit of trash and recycling generated during his whole ride, so you can be sure worked hard to keep it to close to nothing. While you read his book you will be amazed at how he accomplished his eating and waste goals.
Years back I took on what my wife has been doing for close to 40 years. That is eating no meat or poultry. Rob mostly followed this lead, yet did seem to eat well most of the time. Honey was an important staple, along with massive amounts of fruit and vegetables. Although Rob ate dairy like we do, he made sure it was local or package free. We try for that, but can’t match it as well as he does. I must say that our trash is normally about a third of a bag (standard 30 gallon item) per week and even our recycle bin rarely fills between the twice a month pickup.
I often dream of hopping on my bike and just riding. Although I do that a lot, unless we are out of town I am always home by bedtime. I would love to copy what Rob has done, but am pretty sure I won’t. If I did I could never match his off-the-grid desire he kept strong. Of course some soul searching was part of his journey, how could it not be? Much of that insight is included in his book, yet I suspect only a small fraction. As you read, you easily put yourself onto his saddle and realize what a tough transformation that would be.
We were lucky to be at a party to see Rob off as he left for San Francisco to get started. We are friends, yet calling us acquaintances would probably be more accurate. I do what I can to get people on bikes, and Rob does what he can to go way further than that. I applaud him and give thanks for all he does, whether it is just his daily life, or this massive undertaking. The one thing I knew bothered him as I read “Dude Making a Difference”, is that it is a printed version made from trees we need. It was so nice to find on the back page that this book is made with 100% post consumer waste.
I suggest (in addition to reading this book) that you follow Rob Greenfield on his websites and Facebook. He will be featured in a six episode TV show very soon. He has many suggestions and ways you can make your own difference. All Rob wants you to do is to be good to the earth, your fellow man and yourself—at the level you can personally maintain. I am sure after you read his book you will step it up considerably. In Rob’s words—DO GOOD!
I shot this video at his book signing, fun day.