Rob Greenfield on the enormous power of small changes

“Radical transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with one small change, and then another one, and then another one.” — Rob Greenfield
Over the years I’ve found that one of the biggest obstacles to making positive change is a sense of hopelessness. What can I do? What difference will I make? Why does it matter? Who cares what one person does? I’ve asked myself those exact questions countless times as I’m faced with the impotency of my own efforts. Whether it’s reducing plastic consumption and waste, making ethical clothing and food choices, supporting organisations trying to make a difference or showing kindness in the face of anger or aggression, I so often falter when I realise that me and my changes are merely a single drop in a very large ocean. I may pat myself on the back for avoiding plastic for an entire day, only to walk home and see hundreds of straws and cigarette butts littering the street. Boom. Demoralised. In today’s episode I explore this issue with my guest, the inspiring and change-making Rob Greenfield, a self-described ‘dude making a difference’, and someone with a fascinating perspective on what is required in order to have a positive impact on the world. Rob is an activist, environmentalist and legend, and is very good at raising people’s awareness of an issue by doing big, bold things to grab our attention. In 2016 he collected the amount of rubbish the average American creates in a month, strapped it to his body and wore it around New York City like a big old swollen trash suit. It’s a sight to behold and certainly succeeded in gaining attention to the massive issue of plastic waste. But on the flip side, he’s also been the person making small, consistent change in his own life and in today’s conversation we talk about why that’s such an important lesson to learn, and one which will often lead to bigger changes down the line. 10 years ago Rob was living what he calls a “typical American life”. He was driven by money and ideas of success, obsessed with his car and didn’t consider the impact of his choices on the planet or the people around him. As he began to travel and broaden his horizons Rob began reading books and watching documentaries about the state of the world, and the more he learned, the more he realised he had to change. So he did. Slowly, one step at a time. Rob talks about the fact that making positive changes in your life is a has a snowball effect, and we both agree that while this slow steady approach might seem frustrating or overwhelming at first, it really is the only way to go.  He breaks down the changes he made, and how these eventually fed into the big, bold experiments and projects he’s become known for. We also talk about how he communicates these changes to the people around him, the idea of comfort zones, change and societal norms, as well as the need to practice compassion and get good it at, just like building any other muscle or skill. He shares an amazing story about a man named Guitar Johnny, that has stuck with me for many months and is such a simple and beautiful example of what it looks like to live with compassion and forgiveness. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear Rob share so honestly about his life, and is a much-needed reminder that we can all make choices in our daily lives to have a more positive impact on the world. I’m also really excited to see how Rob goes with his next project – growing or foraging 100% of his food for a whole year, and I’ve linked to this project in the show notes below. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this episode and take solace in the knowledge that every single change matters. No matter how big or small.


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