Rob Greenfield is at the height of trash fashion.
The environmental activist and humanitarian collects every piece of garbage he generates in a month and wears it. The green campaigner then takes his "rubbish" look to the streets of New York to make people aware of their environmental impact and inspire them to change their consumer habits. The founder of The Food Waste Fiasco, a campaign that aims to end food waste and hunger, also plans to live stream his experiences and even make a documentary about the project. Greenfield speaks to Metro about the importance of living a green life.
Why did you start wearing garbage?
The average American creates 4.5 pounds of trash per day but most of us never think twice about it. It's out of sight, out of mind. We've all seen photos of landfills and oceans full of garbage but most of us see this huge issue and don't realize that we are a part of that. I wanted to come up with a visual to help people understand how much trash we create as individuals so that we can see how much we are all part of the problem. What better way to show how much trash one person creates than wearing my own everywhere I go?
Have you always been aware of the impact you have on the environment?
About five years ago I was not very environmentally conscious. I created a lot of garbage, ate a lot of junk food, and didn't really think about how my actions affected the world around me. In 2011 I started to watch a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books and learned about so many of the environmental and social problems that exist today. I realized that I was a part of those problems and I didn't want to be, so I decided that I had to change myself. One step at a time I made little changes and they've added up to living a very environmentally conscious life.
What has changed your mind?
It was the simple realization through education that I was a part of so many of the environmental and social problems that I do not stand for. I believe that I must lead the change that I wish to see in the world and thus that meant totally transforming my life in order to make sure that I was living in alignment with my beliefs. I want to see a world that is more sustainable for all and I want to be a part of our shift in that direction.
Is the garbage we produce such a big deal?
The garbage that we produce has huge environmental and social tolls. Before the item is even available to us, there is the extraction of the resources from the earth through processes like mining and deforestation. Then there's all the fossil fuels used to transport the materials. Then there's the energy, fossil fuels, and resources used to create the item in a manufacturing facility and even more to distribute it to shops where it is purchased. We then use it for a very short period of time before it ends up in landfills, incinerators, the environment, or at best, recycled. In landfill it releases methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. If it comes into contact with nature, it causes destruction to other species as well as the resources that we depend on. Even recycling takes a lot of energy and uses a lot of fossil fuels.
How are people reacting to your "look"?
I can't believe how many people are so happy, smiling and excited to see me. My life covered in garbage is almost better than my normal life because people are so happy to see what I'm doing. Today is only day 11 and a lot of people have already told me that they are inspired to make positive changes to create less trash.
As an environmental activist, how could people produce less trash?
The good news is that much of the trash that we create can easily be reduced. You can carry a reusable water bottle and not purchase bottled water. You can use your own coffee cup rather than drinking from a disposable cup and you can start composting food waste. A huge one is to not waste any food and eat your food instead of putting it in the garbage. All of these things will save you money and some will even make you healthier.
What are your plans for the future?
For the rest of the month I'll be out on the streets of New York City where my team of filmmakers are producing videos throughout to raise people's awareness about the problem and teach them some solutions. Afterwards we will produce a film about the whole experience that goes deeper into the solutions to our waste problem. The suit will live on for public speaking and demonstrations and I'll continue to find different ways to inspire people to live a more environmentally friendly life. I intend to continue this work for many decades to come.