off the grid living

A Year of Autonomous Eating - Rob Greenfield

Photo: Rob Greenfield via

Photo: Rob Greenfield via

People have a hard time wrapping their head around the idea of growing and foraging 100 percent of my food…There are zero exceptions: my salt; my oil; no grocery stores; no restaurants; no taking a nibble at a party; no gifts of food from others; no going to someone else’s garden and eating from their garden; literally growing and foraging 100 percent of the food.
— Rob Greenfield

This week’s guest is adventurer and environmental activist Rob Greenfield, whose societal-boundary-pushing projects have ranged from biking across the United States on a bamboo bicycle for sustainability (three times); to dumpster diving in thousands of grocery store dumpsters to raise awareness about food waste and hunger; to wearing 30 days’ of trash to create a visual of how much trash one American creates. Here, we focus on Rob’s latest extreme endeavor: Growing and foraging 100 percent of his food for One. Entire. Year.

From his 100-square-foot tiny home in Orlando, Florida (hand-built from 99 percent salvaged materials, natch), Rob shares the eating hows and whats of his aptly named Food Freedom project (think harvested salt and golf-course-foraged giant yams; oh, he also grows his own toilet paper). But with no shortage of self-reflection, Rob also digs deeper: into his own impoverished upbringing, the unintended consequences of living with no car or bank account or bills, and finding his true purpose in a life both inside and outside industrial capitalist society. 

Some of what we talk about:

  • What’s behind all the 1s: The launch of Food Freedom on 11/11 and Rob’s 111 possessions

  • The plan to grow and forage 100 percent of his food for one year; building his 100-square-foot tiny house in Orlando (and why Orlando?)

  • Staple crops, salt from scratch and the 160-pound yam 

  • How to make coconut oil; North America’s yerba mate

  • The 11 months of prep that went into the project 

  • Rob’s philosophy on foraging and pesticides

  • A sampling of the 300-500 foods Rob will be eating for the next 12 months 

  • Taking inspiration from subsistence cultures  

  • The paradox of Rob’s impoverished childhood: “We were consumers. My mom was a consumer; I was a consumer.” 

  • His awakening to “not living a delusional life”

  • What it’s like to live with no credit cards, no bank account, no driver’s license, no car, no bills and no taxes 

  • Consumerism and mortality 

  • Rob’s vision for the future 

You can follow Rob’s year of Food Freedom on his website, along with on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

Resources from the show:

Orlando Permaculture
Berkey water filter
Rob’s post: On Health Insurance, Age and Death
Rob’s post: My Net Worth Is
Rob’s TED talk: Be the Change in a Messed Up World

The Woman and the Little Cabin That Could - Ayana Young

Photo: Ayana Young,  For the Wild

Photo: Ayana Young, For the Wild

If there’s nowhere to hide, then it allowed me to stand where I love, and fight like hell for that place. For me, the temperate rainforest was what called me…This whole ecosystem called me back and said: ‘Now that you’re over your own little life, you will work for us.’ And I said, ‘OK, put me to work. What do you need me to do?’
— Ayana Young

In her mid-20s and a few years past her ecology studies at Columbia University, Ayana Young’s life had the makings of an off-the-grid fantasy. She lived with her partner in a cabin on an organic farm on an Oregon mountaintop. She studied herbalism. Then, Fukashima happened. The two, no longer feeling safe, set off on a journey to find “the promised land”—that untainted wilderness where they could live out their days sheltered from the toxic threats of industrialized civilization. Instead, Ayana found herself awakened to the harsh reality of her anarcho-survivalist quest: that it had clouded her true calling of working in service of something greater than herself.

This week, I speak with Ayana about that remarkable journey and the “something greater” that resulted: her creation of the trailblazing For the Wild collective—which now encompasses the 1 Million Redwoods reforestation project, For the Wild podcast, and a new spinoff series birthed from a preservation campaign around the Tongass National Forest. (She helms this all from yes, her handbuilt cabin in the coastal redwood mountain range of Northern California.)

some of what we talk about:

  • The making of “the little cabin that could”

  • “So lost and damn naïve when I started this endeavor”

  • Ayana’s upbringing in suburban Southern California

  • Living in an 1800s farmhouse in Pennsylvania and the birth of the For the Wild podcast (then Unlearn and Rewild)

  • The cedar cabin in Oregon, the journey to New Zealand and the awakening to the Anthropocene

  • The inevitable consumerist existence of cities

  • Human supremacy

  • The Bill McKibben question and “What are we really trying to save here?”

  • The 1 Million Redwoods Project, biomimetic reforestation and learning how to have a reciprocal relationship with nature

  • The off-the-grid fantasy versus Ayana’s life now

  • “We don’t have the time to be arguing about small things anymore”

Follow Ayana and her mission at For the Wild, where you can learn about the 1 Million Redwoods Project, subscribe to the For the Wild podcast, learn about her new spinoff series, sign up for her newsletter and make a nonprofit donation. She’s also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.