Dude Making a Difference (Book Review)

©. Rob Greenfield

How far would you go to make a difference in the future of the planet? Rob Greenfield's journey is a bit of an extreme one, but his example offers plenty of food for thought for the rest of us.

We've covered Rob Greenfield's adventures on TreeHugger before, from his dumpster-diving bike tour to his tiny house, but he's back again, this time with a book about his experiences in his journey toward "radical sustainability."

Greenfield's Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives and Other Extreme Adventures Across America book isn't a how-to book for greening up our lives or the planet. Which is probably a good thing, as there seems to be no shortage of advice from both online and print publishers focused on that, so another one might just get lost in the mix. Instead, Greenfield offers us a unique perspective on personal sustainability as experienced during his 4,700 mile bicycle journey across the United States, and along the way, he delivers insights about water use and food waste, clean energy and green transportation, and a host of other issues, all presented as a fun and funky travelogue.

Here's a quick video intro to the book:

"You want to do something for the planet, but what? Change a light bulb, install a low-flow faucet, eat organic? How about ride 4,700 miles across America on a bamboo bicycle, using only water from natural sources, avoiding fossil fuels almost completely, supplying your few electrical needs with solar power and creating nearly zero waste?" - Dude Making a Difference

According to Greenfield, his 3 1/2 month, 4,700 mile, bamboo bike tour resulted in him only creating 2 pounds of trash, using just 160 gallons of water, and eating almost 300 pounds of free food scavenged from grocery store dumpsters.

That's a tall order for most of us, and obviously one extreme end of the spectrum, but Greenfield's adventures aren't meant to serve as a specific roadmap to eco-friendlification (yeah, I just made that up) or as a prescription for what ails us, environmentally-speaking. After reading it, we're not all going to set off on our bikes instead of heading to the airport for our next cross-country trip, and most of us will probably not check dumpsters for free food on the way home from work, and we'll probably keep showering with hot water inside our house instead of taking a dip in the river.

However, we will be entertained and inspired by the book, and we might just come away with a new perspective on our own consumption of resources, whether it's energy or water or food, and then be moved to take action at home (and at work) to reduce our rate of consumption, as well as to educate others. I received an advance review copy of the book from Greenfield, and after reading it, this was my brief 'blurb' I sent back to him about it:

"Rob's book is one part cycling travelogue, one part exploration of the greener (and not so green) side of America, and one part educational experience about how to lessen your environmental impact, one small step at a time. His story is also a great window into what can happen when we make a commitment to make conscious and low-impact choices about how and where we get our food, water, and energy, and it has the potential to inspire positive changes, both large and small, in the lives of many."

Similar to what Doug Fine's Farewell, My Subaru did for those aspiring to rural and offgrid sustainable living, Dude Making a Difference has the potential to do for individual and urban sustainability advocates, as it offers the good, the bad, and the ugly of our modern culture, along with more than a few recipes for greening up our act, no matter where or how we live. And the money side of the story is also a win-win, as all of Greenfield's proceeds from sales of Dude Making a Difference are being donated to 1% for the Planet.

Find out more about Greenfield at his website, or check out Dude Making a Difference at New Society Publishers, or catch up with him on Twitter.