Activist brings good deeds to towns across America

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Environmental activist Rob Greenfield stopped at Whitefish last week as part of his 82-day “Green Riders” journey from New York to Seattle. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

Environmental activist Rob Greenfield’s motto is “take some, give back more.”

This philosophy is the backbone of Greenfield’s 3,700 mile bike ride across the United States, which is full of volunteering and good deeds along the way.

“We’re a bunch of people on a common mission to bike across the country doing good deeds, trying to leave each place we go through a little better than we found it,” he said after arriving in Whitefish and setting up his tent near the garden at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

Greenfield, his girlfriend and about 30 other cyclists took off from New York on their journey through the country on Memorial Day, set to end 82 days later in Seattle. They made it to Whitefish on Aug. 2.

They spent three days in Glacier National Park, which has been the highlight of the trip so far, Greenfield said.

“Every horrible moment of the trip – biking through the plains, the 100-degree heat and the headwinds – every moment of that was wiped clear the moment we got to Glacier,” Greenfield said with a grin.

In the last days of July, Greenfield and company stayed in St. Mary before biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road to camp at Sprague Creek last week.

The morning after camping out at St. Peter’s, the group dug into their bags of seeds and planted and weeded at the community garden before continuing their journey westward. They also make a point to pick up 45 items of trash in every place they stop. So far about 46 different people have joined along for any portion of the ride.

Greenfield’s big message is about food sovereignty. He said the one idea he can pass on to everyone he meets along the trip is that it’s easy, and rewarding, to grow food.

“So everywhere we go we have seeds with us. We give out organic seeds and we plant in different places,” he said. “Sometimes we just find a random patch on the side of the bike trail and we’ll plant that, hoping that it’ll grow and people will come by and eat it.”

Part of the reason for the focus on food sovereignty is the amount of wasted food in the United States, he said. Greenfield said about half of all the food produced in the U.S. is thrown away, roughly $165 billion per year.

Greenfield is raising awareness for the cause in an unconventional way.

“One of the things we do to raise awareness about food waste is we go dumpster diving and show how much we get. So far, between the group, we’ve rescued about 4,000 pounds, over two tons, just between us biking across the country dumpster diving,” he said. “We show how abundant food is by living off it.”

This isn’t the first time he’s biked cross country, having completed similar trips in 2013 and 2014 along with travels abroad as part of other awareness campaigns.

The fun part of this trip, he said, is playing Good Samaritan while doing something he loves.

In fact, Greenfield said the biggest challenge of the trip might be not having as much time and energy to volunteer as he’d like.

“Obviously biking across the country is something that’s really fun to do, and we all want to be doing it, but at the same time we get to be giving back to each community rather than just biking through and seeing the sights and taking what we need,” he said. “Everywhere we go, people want to help. Sometimes it can be hard to give as much as we receive because people can be so giving to us.”

After this trip concludes, Greenfield has another food-centric mission planned.

He’ll head down to Florida and attempt a full year of a grocery free life – growing, foraging or hunting for everything he’ll eat during those 12 months.

“So no grocery stores for an entire year, down to the salt, oil, everything,” he said.

While some of his projects might be a little extreme for the average person, Greenfield said the point of all of this – the bike ride, the freestyle gardening, growing his own food – is that anyone can make a small change for the better.

“The idea of all of this isn’t that everybody should try to grow everything, but that we can all put a fruit tree in our yard and we can all have a couple of raised beds and share food with others,” he said. “That’s what it’s really about, all of my adventures are just about getting people to think about the small changes they can make in their life that will increase their own quality of life while increasing the quality of life for the community around them.”

To follow along with Greenfield’s trip or to learn more, visit http://robgreenfield.tv/.

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