06/12 (Day 54)

The morning wasn’t much to speak of. Lars and John were off at work and I lounged around the house on my own until nearly 3:00. I still had a full battery on my laptop from the day before and I had a lot to do online so I used it until it was nearly dead. It was cloudy all morning but the air was warm and humid. Rain was in the forecast but not until after 5:00 when my outdoor gathering would begin. I watched the weather mulling over whether to move the gathering to an indoor location but waited until last minute to make the call. I was pretty certain it was going to rain though because if I have a gathering it’s pretty much going to rain, even if I’m in San Diego where it almost never does. My last five or so gatherings have been rained on. I’m not sure how to take that. Mother Nature doesn’t like to take it easy on me. It could be taken very negatively but maybe it is a message that it’s not going to be easy to create a healthier planet but I’ve got to push through the challenges. I ask myself what the message is every time and I’m not sure what it is but I at least try to take the rain for what it is and give gratitude to the earth for the fresh water. 

I pedaled over to The North Face Madison around 3:00. The staff had heard about my trip and wanted me to stop in for a visit. I was excited to see their store and learn about what environmental actions they are taking at their store and company wide. Laura, Laurie, and Jeff were all working and I hung out with them for about two hours. Here are some actions they are taking:

Reducing packaging. Last year was the first year they stopped offering gift boxes and packaging. By doing so they kept a lot of stuff from being produced and sent to the landfill or being recycled, which takes energy. Over the holiday season a few people raised a stink but TNF held their ground. They also ask people if they’d like a bag rather than just giving it to every customer. This is a step towards consciousness and gets people thinking. Often people respond along the lines of, “No, I guess I don’t need one.” Simple actions like these have an instant impact and if done by a great number of people can create a massive impact. 

At the store they are big time advocates of volunteering in the community, commuting to work, reducing, recycling, and using eco friendly cleaning products. All of the employees get involved in the community and the store puts together days to give back to the earth in ways such as invasive species removal from the parks and cleaning up trash. They keep track of the commuting miles that are done via bicycling and walking. In Wisconsin it can be hard to bike or walk to work with the weather, especially in the cold winters. Laurie commutes about eight miles per day via bike and Laura lives close enough to walk to work every day. Being better to the planet often means changing the way you do things. Sure it takes an effort at first but usually it makes your life more enjoyable and healthy in more ways than one. Laura moved close to work which means less time spent getting there, less money spent getting there, and she can walk making her day more simple, enjoyable, and movement oriented. The North Face pays employees to volunteer in the outdoors for eight hours per year. 

Some of their products, including their sandals are partly made of recycled materials. The soles of the sandals are 50% post consumer recycled rubber. Some of the buttons on shirts are as well. A few pieces of clothing are made of 50% recycled material. They are removing petroleum from some of their products. The rain jacket they gave me to get through the stormy days is coated in castor oil, a plant-based oil, rather than petroleum based waterproofing material. 

Many of their clothing items are composed of Bluesign Approved Fabric. Having this certification means they are conscious of where the raw materials are sourced, what chemicals are used in the fabrics, what the conditions are like for the people in the factory, and have done what it takes to meet the Bluesign standard. Knowing a product from source to consumer is an intricate task that takes much time. Most businesses, like most individuals, have no idea where their products are coming from. This must change and many businesses are making the change. 

Laurie, the assistant store manager, biked to the capital with me and hung out at the gathering the whole night. I relocated the gathering from Olin Park to a restaurant near the capital that served local food, beer, and ice cream. About 15 of my friends came to spend the night together and many of them brought me good organic Wisconsin food. Abby brought me Organic Valley Cheese, Claire brought me lettuce and tomatoes from here CSA, Todd brought me raw milk from a farm near his house and jarred venison from the deer he shot last year, and Miranda brought me a zucchini and sweet potato from a store in Madison. It’s not easy to find stuff for a dude biking off the grid across the United States but they did and it warmed my heart. Almost everyday I am inspired because I am seeing people excited to live a more earth friendly life style. We are definitely in the middle of a revolution. A revolution of taking back food from the corporations, a healthier life style revolution, a go local revolution. I see it every day from my friends, followers, and people that I meet on the street. We’re going to make this happen one person at a time one day at a time!

This adventure is now a book! Dude Making a Difference is the exciting and inspirational story of my bike ride across the USA on a bamboo bike. Go to www.RobGreenfield.tv/Dude to get a copy or learn more about it. 100% of my proceeds are donated to environmental grassroots nonprofits!