I wrote this for myself, but thought I might as well make it public because I could see it being helpful for some people. This is how I live when I am functioning at peak happiness, health, and freedom. These are the basic elements to way of living. It could seem rigorous but most of it is simply my way of being so it takes little perceived work. I write it down though to keep a constant reminder of how I want my days, weeks, and months to look. I find that when things are on paper and physically in front of me, they are much more real. It’s not an all inclusive list though, as some things that come completely natural to me are not included such as an abundance of adventure and travel.
You may have already heard a few appalling facts about food waste but just in case you haven’t, here are a few tidbits of information to catch you up on the issue.
-We throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food per year in the United States. That’s more than the budgets for the United States national parks, public libraries, federal prisons, veteran’s health care, the FBI, and the FDA combined.
-About 50 million of our 317 million Americans are food insecure yet we produce enough food to feed over 500 million Americans.
-To create just the amount of food that ends up in the landfills we waste enough water to meet the domestic water needs of every American citizen.
Even with these mind-blowing statistics you probably still need to see it to believe it. That is where I come in.
This weekend I arrived in New York City from my second bike ride across the United States living on food from grocery store dumpsters. On my first ride dumpster diving across the USA, about 70% of my diet came from dumpsters, totaling up to about 280 pounds of food over 4,700 miles of cycling.
As I write this I am traveling the USA without a penny in my pocket. I left my home in San Diego on June 2nd with $2,000 cash and on August 12th I took a leap of faith in humanity and gave the last $421 I had with me to a non-profit. I made the goal that day of finishing my ride to New York City moneyless just to prove to myself and others that it is possible. Today I arrived in New York City on my bicycle, still without a penny in my pocket. People have tried to give me money but I have easily refused it.
This experience is about much more than just not spending money. It’s about showing that you and I can be contributing members to society whether we have money or not. It’s about showing that there are much more rewarding ways to live than just throwing money at every situation. It’s about living a life that is truly beneficial to the earth, my community, and myself. It’s about being more involved in our communities and treating each other with respect. And it’s also about teaching you how to live with less money so that you can follow your dreams and live independently of corrupted systems that don’t serve your best interests.
I just received a notice to vacate from my landlord. They have given me 60 days. We’ve had a great relationship for the last 3.5 years and I’ve always paid rent on time. I was a pretty easy tenant for them and pretty ideal in my mind. The reason that they’re sending me on my way is that I rent the apartment from them and sublet out the bedrooms for short-term stays. I provide furnished rooms in a furnished home for people to stay at a great price and that allows me to live rent-free in my little 36 square foot closet room. I have done that for three years, knowing that it was against the term of my lease, but also assuming my landlords probably knew since a simple Craigslist or Airbnb search by them would have found my ads. Plus all the different people staying at my house all the time was a pretty dead give away.
I’m willing to bet that you’ve never thought about laundry detergent caps. I hadn’t either, until I found all of these in the basement of one suburban American home. I was pretty blown away, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. I found that the average American family uses 13 bottles of detergent per year. The pile that you see here has about 250 caps in it, so it took about 20 years for one average family to generate it.
Thinking a little deeper, I wondered how many caps are used in the United States each year. There are 115 million households in the United States, which means that’s nearly 1.5 billion caps! End to end, one year’s worth of America’s caps could line the equator nearly three times! That’s just the caps though. Imagine how much space all of the bottles would take up!
I’m 27 years old now and it’s August 24th 2014. At this point I don’t plan on being dead for quite some time. I write this only to be prepared for the possibility, and to make the information available so that it can be used upon my death. I’d like to live into my 80’s, but I’ve found life to be quite unpredictable. I’ve learned that I can rarely know for certain where I will be, even in twenty-four hours.
As much as I’d like to live on this earth in the manner that I am accustomed to for another half dozen decades, I’m also ok with dying because I’ve learned to look at the greater picture. There are seven billion people on this planet and I am just one. Beyond that there are millions of other species totaling up to an uncountable number of lives, each going about their own meaning. To think that I matter that greatly where my life is a necessity for this earth, well, I think that would be somewhat absurd. However, I do think that every move I make and every word I speak does matter. I believe everything that every creature or being does, does matter, and I believe that we all matter equally. But death is as much of a part of life as birth and I accept that. I know many people have not accepted that and when I die I know there will be some people that wish I was still here. They will be more than all right though, especially if they understand where I’m coming from by reading this will.
Dane and I are bike riding, dumpster diving, Wisconsin brothers with a simple mission- to show the United States how much perfectly good food is wasted and how Americans can be a part of the solution in their own homes and at the market. On August 9th we hopped on our bicycles at bank of the Mississippi River on a journey to cycle across the state of Wisconsin (250 miles over 7 days) eating nothing but food we find in dumpsters, ie the trash, rubbish bins, waste buckets, or as we’ve come to call them, treasure chests. We had a slight bit of worry that we may go hungry but our first dumpster proved otherwise:
I recently wrote a story called Lessons Learned from a Year without Showering that was picked up by The Huffington Post. If you haven’t read it the link is there, but basically I went a year without taking a conventional shower and instead just went for a swim when I found a lake, river, or ocean. The story created quite a splash, but why, oh why, would I do something so silly?
One word can sum it all up: freedom.
Freedom from ourselves, freedom from social norms, freedom from money, and freedom from systems that don’t serve our best interest. My activism goes much deeper than the simple act of bathing and it seems most people got the message but here it is again, loud and clear.
*Update 04/20/2015- Today is my 2 year no-shower anniversary! Enjoy the story I wrote a year ago today:
As of today it has been one year since my last shower. Yes, I know that sounds crazy and a year ago I would have agreed with you. I was a regular showering guy for the first 26 years of my life. Well, maybe not every single day, but just about.
So how does a regular showering guy end up going 365 days and counting without taking a shower? It started with a long bike ride across the United States to promote sustainability and eco-friendly living. I set a bunch of rules for myself to follow to lead by example. The rule for water was that I could only harvest it from natural sources such as lakes, rivers, and rain or from wasted sources such as leaky faucets. And I kept track of exactly how much I used too, with an aim of showing just how little we need to get by.