It’s been 4 months since I moved into my tiny house and life is splendid! It has come along a bit slower than planned because of travels and other projects but today I felt it was finally time to share my life, off the grid, in the city! I am living a very low impact lifestyle- harvesting rainwater, eating local, harnessing the energy of the sun, composting, and riding my bamboo bike around town.
Update 07/18/16: See my updated 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.
With some big announcements to come soon, I could easily begin coasting through life right now. This year I’m working on a documentary, publishing a book, and I’m also in talks with multiple networks about a TV show. Rather than coast though I am leading by example more than ever before. I’m not in this for the money or the fame. I’m in it to create a just world full of happiness, health, and equality for all. So I’ve vowed to donate 90% of my earnings to happiness, health, and freedom for all.
Not that long ago, my main priorities included binge drinking every weekend, looking good, and macking on pretty much every good looking girl 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 the 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 good. 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 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 the earth.
We throw away nearly half of all the food we produce in the United States while 1 in 7 Americans are often unsure of where their next meal will come from. To me that is absurd, a country with such an abundance of food with such an abundance of hunger.
I’m not down with this.
I’m not down with throwing away all this perfectly good food.
I’m not down with hungry children and elders.
I’m not down with the environmental havoc created by dumping billions of pounds of food.
I’m not down with all the animals that are raised and killed just to end up in a dumpster.
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.
It’s been a huge week in raising awareness about food waste. I created a little media frenzy and my activism was picked up in La Crosse, Madison ran with it, and it blew up in Milwaukee. 14 stories were done between news, newspapers, and radio, and their stories were syndicated by other news outlets around the Midwest as well. There is no doubt that a big impact was made in the Wisconsin region with this campaign.
Over the last three days I’ve been Dumpster Diving Across Wisconsin to raise awareness about our massive food waste issue here in the United States. Previous to this adventure I’ve been Dumpster Diving Across the USA for a year and a half so I expected this week to be a pretty standard for me. I also expected my home state of Wisconsin to do a good job of not wasting food.
But I’ve been completely blown away by what I’ve found in the supermarket dumpsters. Every dumpster I have opened has been FULL of perfectly good food. In a front page La Crosse Tribune story I did a few days ago, I confidently said, “If there’s a dumpster, there’s food in it” and so far I have proved that to be right time and time again. In just three days of biking across Wisconsin living purely on dumpster food, I have found tens of thousands of dollars worth of food. All of this at a time when 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. This waste of food is also a huge waste of water, fossil fuels, energy, and landfill space and is a root cause to many of the world’s most pressing issues.