Rob Greenfield: How To End The Food Waste Fiasco at TEDxTeen (Transcript)

Rob Greenfield

Here is the full transcript of Environmental activist Rob Greenfield’s TEDx Talk: How To End The Food Waste Fiasco at TEDxTeen conference.

Rob Greenfield – Environmental activist

My name is Rob Greenfield and I am a dumpster diver. Now, at first, that might sound a little bit crazy, maybe even a little bit gross.

But there is actually a very important message at the bottom of these dumpsters. You see, I am an adventurer and an activist on a mission to effect positive change on Earth. And I tend to go about it in some pretty interesting ways. This is my first bike ride across the country. The idea was to travel across the country on a bamboo bicycle and leave as little of environmental impact as possible.

In a 104 days of riding, I used just a 160 gallons of water, created only two pounds of trash, plugged into just five outlets, turned on not a single light, and learned how to live an environmentally friendly life.

Today is a monumental day for me because it’s my first shower in 1000 days. A lot of you might assume I would stink like some sort of swamp monster, like this guy. But I was bathing in natural bodies of water like lakes, and rivers and waterfalls, or in leaky sources of water, like this fire hydrant in Brooklyn. The idea was to really get into people’s heads and get them to think about the crazy things we do on a daily basis, the crazy amounts of water we use.

Right now, I live off the grid in a 50-square-foot tiny house in San Diego without a single bill or debt to my name. I found the more simply I live, the more freely I live. And last fall, I landed in Brazil without a penny in my pocket on a mission to travel across the continent of South America. I found that by traveling with no money, I’m forced outside of my comfort zone and really get to see the world as it truly is. A lot of people say that the Earth revolves around money but I’ve seen otherwise.

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Now, back to the dumpster. Not only do I dive into the dumpsters but I actually eat out of them too. This is a dumpster banana. This is one of the many bananas that I got out of the dumpsters of London last night. Hmm! Who wants some? Over there.

It all started with that first bike ride across the country and this dumpster right here. I was crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains and decided to roll around the back of a local grocery store and see what I might find. Well, what I found was a surprising amount of what looked and tasted like perfectly good food. From that point on, I was hooked. City after city, I would roll around back of the grocery store to see what there would be.

And I found that dumpster after dumpster after dumpster was filled to the bream with perfectly good food. I was just blown away by what I was finding. This is a dumpster score in Nebraska. And this is what I found in one dumpster on a typical day.

It was enough food to feed about a hundred families. I was eating like a dumpster king and managed to even gain five pounds while riding my bike every single day. So, even when I wasn’t in the dumpsters, I was thinking about what was in the dumpster I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I decided to do some research.

And I found out that we waste a ton of food in the United States. By a ton, I mean a 165 billion dollars worth of food per year. Now, to put that into a little bit of perspective, that’s more than the budget for America’s national parks, public libraries, veteran’s healthcare, all the federal prisons, the FBI, and the FDA combined. But, still, that’s just a big number and most of us can’t really understand issues like this through a bunch of numbers. We need to really see it to believe it.

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