Get inspired to build with repurposed materials and introduce yourself to the world of food freedom. Rob Greenfield engages in extreme lifestyle experiments so we don't have to.

My guest today is Rob Greenfield, and Rob is not a conventional kind of guy. He’s currently living in a tiny house that he built with 99% repurposed materials. He doesn’t have running water in the house, and his current project is called food freedom. He’s growing and foraging for 100% of his food for an entire year. 

Before you skip this one: It might be easy to say “this is too extreme for me.. I’m never going to do anything like this”, but Rob is truly an example of somebody who is living intentionally and designing experiments for his life to show us all how we can live a little bit better.

Even if you don’t plan on living off grid, or foraging for your own food, this is a really unique and interesting interview and I think Rob’s mindset and his enthusiasm and positivity is much needed and will inspire you on whatever tiny house journey you are planning to embark on. 

You’ll Learn

  • What is the story of your first tiny house?
  • What it was like living in a 50sf tiny house? 📦
  • What’s the connection between bicycle travel and tiny houses 🚴🏼‍♂️ ➡️ 🏡
  • How rob found a place to “park” his tiny house in the city of Orlando 🌴
  • How and WHY to build a nearly 100% repurposed tiny house 💯
  • How to bust through the excuses so that you can make REAL change in your life. 
  • About Rob’s food freedom project 🍽️
  • What are the utilities like (water, power, etc.) at Rob’s off grid tiny house? 🚰🔌
  • About Rob’s sawdust/bucket composting toilet system 🚽


Rob Greenfield

Rob Greenfield

Rob Greenfield is an adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference. He is dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world. Rob is currently living in a 100 square foot tiny house made of 99% repurposed materials in urban Orlando, Florida.

00:00 - 00:10

Rob Greenfield: It's about starting where we are and not looking at, you know, so like, I can't do what he's doing. Instead, the question should be, what can I do?

00:14 - 00:56

Ethan Waldman: Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build, and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 38 with Rob Greenfield. And Rob is not a conventional kind of guy. He's currently living in a tiny house built with 99% repurposed materials that he built for under $1500. And his current project is called Food Freedom. He's growing and foraging 100% of his food for an entire year. Before you hit skip, it might be easy to say, this is too extreme for me, I'm never gonna

00:56 - 01:42

Ethan Waldman: do anything like this. But Rob is truly an example of somebody who's living intentionally and designing experiments for his life to show us all how we can live a little bit better. So even if you don't plan on living off-grid or foraging for all your own food. This is a really unique and interesting interview. And I think Rob's mindset and his enthusiasm and positivity is much needed and will inspire you on whatever tiny house journey you are planning to embark on. If you're serious about planning and building a tiny house in 2019, then I wanna let

01:42 - 02:18

Ethan Waldman: you know about something that might be of interest. I have an online community called Tiny House Engage. And Tiny House Engage is a place online where you can get your tiny house questions answered every single day by me and by a whole community of other people who are on their own tiny house journeys. Building a tiny house can be confusing, it can be frustrating, and being able to have your questions answered on a regular basis is 1 of the most important factors in getting through the process without going completely crazy. I only open registration for Tiny

02:18 - 03:10

Ethan Waldman: House Engage every 4 to 6 weeks, and as of today, Friday, December 21st, registration is open. You can learn more at slash t-h-e. I'll tell you more about tiny house engage after the show, but to learn more and register now head over to slash THE. All right, I am here with Rob Greenfield. Rob is an adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and a dude making a difference. He is dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world. Rob is currently living in a 100 square foot tiny house made of 99% repurposed materials in

03:10 - 03:13

Ethan Waldman: urban Orlando, Florida. Rob, welcome to the show.

03:14 - 03:16

Rob Greenfield: Thanks Ethan, Good to be on with you.

03:16 - 03:32

Ethan Waldman: Glad to have you. So this is not your first tiny house. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about yourself and your genesis of how you came to tiny house living and how that kind of evolved through multiple iterations.

03:33 - 04:15

Rob Greenfield: Sure. Yeah, my first tiny house was in 2015. I had been thinking about it for a couple years at that time. I'd just been working on simplifying my life, living with less money, living in a more, I want to say sustainable, but ultimately less destructive way. And all of those things were all reasons that I wanted to just shrink drastically the size of my possessions and my living abode. And in 2015 I had just gotten back from my second bike ride across the country. So I had plenty of experiences of traveling tiny on my bike with

04:15 - 04:48

Rob Greenfield: my tent. And the next step was where I lived to have a tiny house. And I was going to build my own. I went on to Craigslist to actually look for a camper that I could sleep in for the couple of months while I built it. And then I found this little 50 square foot tiny house. It said it was $950 and on a trailer and I thought, well, that's pretty interesting, pretty cool looking. So I went and checked it out. Next thing I knew it, I was giving them 950 bucks and I had myself the

04:48 - 04:52

Rob Greenfield: tiniest tiny house that most people have ever seen.

04:52 - 04:54

Ethan Waldman: It was 50 square feet?

04:54 - 05:28

Rob Greenfield: Yeah. So, 5 feet wide. So, not quite wide enough for me to stretch my arms and 10 feet long. So, it was basically a box for my bed and my little bit of possessions that I had. I had so few possessions. And the idea was that I wanted to, I had lived in a 3 bedroom apartment before that And actually I had downsized my life to I was sleeping in the six-by-six closet, which is 36 square feet, and renting out the rooms, plus giving my sister a free place to live as I moved her out to

05:28 - 06:01

Rob Greenfield: San Diego. And So I had already had some experience with tiny living. So it was small and only less than 6 feet tall. I couldn't stand in it. But it was really just a place to be comfortable and to not get stuck in, because the more stuff you have and the bigger space you have, the easier it is to get stuck and Rather to spend as much of my time outside in my community in nature You know just outside of the home. That was really what it was

06:01 - 06:34

Ethan Waldman: So I'll share an experience that what immediately preceded my tiny house was going on a 2000 mile bicycle tour, self-supported, and ended up doing a lot of couch surfing and stayed in several tiny houses. And I've actually, I know some other people who also came to tiny houses after getting really into bicycle touring or vice versa. And I'm curious if you, do you see a connection between bicycle travel and tiny house living for you?

06:35 - 07:07

Rob Greenfield: I never made an exact direct connection. I mean they're connected in the sense that like a bicycle is tiny compared to a car. You know Just 1 of the elements of that, for example, when I did get rid of my car in 2012, I didn't expect some things, but 1 thing that I realized is when I got rid of my car, I also got rid of the trunk, which meant there was no space for when I went to the store to buy huge amounts of stuff that I, turns out I didn't need. And so, you know,

07:07 - 07:52

Rob Greenfield: there's all these things when you make these changes that you don't realize the positive repercussions that will happen because you've never done it before. And so, yeah, I mean, they're definitely highly correlated because a lot of, you know, for tiny houses it's about simplicity. Bicycling is simplicity. It's about spending less money, often times, and financial freedom, and cycling, you know, the average American spends $7,000 a year on their car whereas a bike costs you know very, very little to maintain. And you know getting away from fossil fuels, living a more sustainable lifestyle. So, they're all, for

07:52 - 08:01

Rob Greenfield: me, they're definitely deeply connected. There's no way about that. But which came first, which was the chicken and which was the egg, I don't really know.

08:01 - 08:24

Ethan Waldman: Well, that's okay. They can both occur together for yeah for you and they do for me too. So how would you describe your your current lifestyle because and maybe you could talk about what about the 50 foot square foot tiny house you know what worked and what didn't work about it and what made you want to upgrade?

08:25 - 08:57

Rob Greenfield: Yeah. Well, it worked for what I wanted it and that was I was just planning on living there for a year or 2, partly because I was only planning on staying in San Diego for another year or 2. And I ended up living in San Diego for another year, and that's when I got rid of that tiny house. I auctioned it off to raise funds to build houses for people in San Diego without homes, which is still a work in progress. My friends that I donated the money to are working on building the first tiny house

08:57 - 09:43

Rob Greenfield: community there for homeless people. So it worked exactly what I wanted for the time. Now 50 square feet, too small forever for sure. And that's why my new tiny house is 100 square feet, twice the size, but it's actually 4 times the size when you look at volume because it's also lofty. It's got good 8 foot ceilings so it's probably 4 times the total size as the 50 square footer. And yeah, I mean the thing is then I was living extremely simple. So the average American has something like 20 or 30,000 possessions, just an unfathomable number

09:43 - 10:24

Rob Greenfield: of possessions. I had whittled my life down to 600 possessions, and that includes every card in the wallet, every cord, everything. That's 600. Every pair of underwear, you name it. So I was living extremely simply. Now I'm doing a project where I'm growing and forging a hundred percent of my food and when you're that, when you're working that much with the land, that you know typically requires tools, a lot of storage space for food, and so it's all about adapting your, it's, you know, It's about designing your living situation around your lifestyle. That's what I do.

10:24 - 10:34

Rob Greenfield: I look at my life, my climate, my goals for the years to come. That's how I design the living situation that I have.

10:35 - 10:46

Ethan Waldman: So you do it very intentionally rather than just doing what the people around you are doing or what you think of or what society tells you is quote-unquote normal?

10:47 - 11:28

Rob Greenfield: It's definitely very intentional. I mean, for example, I've only put out 1 video about my tiny house so far because it's still a bit of a work in progress, but a lot of comments say it's just a shed. And my response is, thank you, I designed it to look like a shed so it'll fit into this neighborhood and not be noticed actually. Because sheds are everywhere, backyard sheds, these kind of wooden sheds, and I, and you know, my tiny house is not technically legal as in most cities it's not technically legal fully up to code so

11:28 - 11:38

Rob Greenfield: I was you know that was a great compliment Whereas some people would see that as like this big burn like ah this guy lives in a shed I'm like wow if I designed my house. I tricked you just like I wanted

11:39 - 12:02

Ethan Waldman: That's awesome, and of course. There's there's not that much different Between a shed and a house. They're both shelter. I mean, I suppose there's some aesthetic differences and how they're finished. But there are plenty of people who take shed kits and then convert them into fully insulated tiny houses. So no problem there from my camp.

12:02 - 12:30

Rob Greenfield: That was what I was going to do, make the shed kit, but that's where it came in that I just, I really wouldn't, I wanted to make it out of repurposed materials and the shed kit thing. I just couldn't, I couldn't line up all the materials to match up a kit, so I had to go straight up like you know back to square 1 and just design it you know with the similar design to a shed but on my own way depending on what resources that I could find that were secondhand.

12:30 - 12:49

Ethan Waldman: I really want to talk about the the repurposed materials But before we get off the topic of your kind of your parking situation I was curious if you could talk about like what is your arrangement with you know who owns the house? D how much do you pay to be there? Sounds like you're under the radar. Talk a little bit about that.

12:50 - 13:18

Rob Greenfield: Sure. Yeah. I mean, that's kind of, you know, I don't know. I'm not super in the whole tiny house circle, but I know outside of that circle on my page, those are the most common questions. And I'm assuming the tiny house circle is people listening to podcasts are largely people who don't live in tiny house who want to. And it's probably that exact same question. Like how the heck does it work? Some of those, like how do you make it actually happen?

13:18 - 13:18

Ethan Waldman: Confirmed.

13:19 - 14:00

Rob Greenfield: Yeah? Okay. That's what I thought. So basically the situation is this. What I did here in Orlando and also what I did in San Diego is that I wanted to do a work exchange. So I have largely demonetized my life altogether. My net worth is right now I have a thousand dollars to my name, probably a little less than that. And all of my possessions including the tiny house are valued at less than $5,000. So, you know, my goal is to generate actually minimal money and live based on relationships and the resources that are freely available

14:01 - 14:41

Rob Greenfield: from the Earth and be connected to that, connected to people, connected to Earth. So what I did is I just put out a blog that said looking for a home for my tiny home. And what I explained was that I was looking for someone with an unused backyard because there's millions of unused backyards all across the nation that wanted to improve their land, wanted to grow food, to live a more sustainable life, have composting, rainwater harvesting, all of these things. And that in exchange for me building my tiny house in their backyard and for a period

14:41 - 15:12

Rob Greenfield: of 2 years, I would do all that. I would, you know, I would grow food, I would help them learn how to grow their own food. And the idea is that the relationship wouldn't be just a two-year thing. It's that when I leave, they will have all these skills that they didn't have before, and all the infrastructure that I build will be left behind. So I found a woman named Lisa here, and she's in her early 60s, I think 62. So it's a great relationship because she's at an age where it's hard to lift heavy things

15:12 - 15:54

Rob Greenfield: and it's been her dream to Homestead for, honestly, I think she said about 25 years or 30 years it's been her dream. So we're helping match each other's needs. And so we just do a work exchange, no financial exchange at all. And also the tiny house will be hers after I leave. So she'll use this hopefully as a place to host people. She's an herbalist and I'm hoping she'll host other herbalists and they can work in the garden and such and continue this nice added value to her property. But worst case scenario, it just turns into

15:55 - 16:36

Rob Greenfield: a very nice shed. And As far as permits go, I decided to go the route of just designing it like a shed, so it's in code in that way. I didn't put it on wheels because a trailer is $2,000-$3,000 usually and I don't want to ever move it. So that would have doubled the cost of the house for something that would never really be used. So instead I designed it this way and it's not, I'm not technically allowed to live in a shed, but the structure itself is technically legal. And I don't live quite, you know,

16:36 - 16:54

Rob Greenfield: people know, a lot of people know where I live. I'll have the news over for sure, the local news, and I have, you know, different media coming here. So I'm not like, I definitely don't live in hiding or anything like that. But I don't, I didn't call up the city and say, hey, here's where I live either.

16:54 - 17:02

Ethan Waldman: Sounds like the neighbors immediately around Lisa must know that you're there and they must be okay with it.

17:03 - 17:33

Rob Greenfield: I actually don't know if they know that I'm here or not. It's a nice... The other thing is when I, you know, when I was looking for a place, I was looking for a place that was enclosed and, you know, very private. So there's a fence all the way around it. And I assume the neighbors know that I'm here, but I actually haven't... It's kind of an interesting thing, because normally I would actually like to meet the neighbors, but in this scenario, there's a little bit of me who has actually just been sort of like keeping

17:33 - 17:53

Rob Greenfield: to myself. It's an interesting, you know, it's honestly an interesting thing for me because I live a very open public life, but at the same time there's this slight element of feeling like I'm a little bit tucked into this corner on the street. And I don't know if people know that I live here or not, to be honest.

17:54 - 18:32

Ethan Waldman: Talking about the repurposed materials, I really loved the video that you made because I think you did a great job of explaining just the timeline and the extra work and you know what it takes to build with repurposed materials. And I think that people look at tiny houses made from repurposed materials and they only see the end goal. They only see the end result and they only see the price tag and they're like oh I'm gonna do that but they don't really look at how much extra work went into it. So I was wondering if you

18:32 - 18:38

Ethan Waldman: could talk a bit about how long you sourced materials for the house before you actually could start building.

18:39 - 19:12

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, it is an incredible amount of work to build from repurposed materials. And so many times I went back and forth between, okay, just make a materials list, go to the hardware store, buy it all in a period of 1 day, bring it all back at once, have it all lined up correctly, and then just build the tiny house in a short period of time with a group of people, versus find each material in all these different places and have to have them either delivered or pick them up and do the research on whether that exact

19:12 - 19:47

Rob Greenfield: thing is the right type of wood or the right type of hardware. And I mean so much work went into that. I could have saved a hundred hours maybe, like you know 2 and a half weeks of what would be considered a full-time job. Maybe more, I don't know, if I had just gone with the straight up, you know, buying everything new. And yeah, I mean it was a lot, it was a huge amount of work because then, you know, you have to pull apart pallets, pull apart fence panels. I worked with a lot of inconsistent

19:47 - 20:21

Rob Greenfield: materials, so it's harder to make things square because some things are warped. And so it causes little frustrations and delays all the time working with repurposed materials. I am so glad that I did it because to be honest if I had a house built of all new materials I just wouldn't be proud of it. It just it doesn't represent me and it just it wouldn't be something that I'd be excited about whereas now you know I got through the hard times and now I'm really excited about this place. I'm so excited to be able to look

20:21 - 20:58

Rob Greenfield: at it and say, no, you know, I did not, I did not contribute to deforestation or even, you know, what they call sustainable forestry, which sometimes is and sometimes isn't. And just buying from these stores, like I didn't want to shop at any of the big box stores at all and I managed not to. I really don't like going into those places. And so yeah, huge amount of work but you know, so absolutely worth it. Because of that, I'm really in love with this. I mean, in love. I mean, not like I would love a human,

20:58 - 21:08

Rob Greenfield: but I really like this place a lot because because of the you know the the the repurposed materials aspect of it

21:09 - 21:32

Ethan Waldman: yeah, and everything just has a story you can look around the house and You know when you've just bought the materials at a hardware store that doesn't really... There's not much of a story there, but when you, you know, found the pallets for your foundation on the side of the bike path, that's something memorable. And every time you look at your house and the foundation, you're like, I remember that day that I saw those.

21:33 - 22:09

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, it's definitely there's little stories like the drip edge for example. My friend brought that over. It had been sitting in his garage for 15 years left over from a project. From when I was like what in high school. That stuff was sitting around just crazy. And I mean what I do, I design things not for the sake of myself really. I design things for the sake of the educational experience and the lessons they can impart on the others. And so that's what this tiny house really is. It's a demonstration site. It's a place to show

22:11 - 22:32

Rob Greenfield: sustainable living, simple living, being more connected with our resources and in tune. And so that's why this also matters so much because It represents so much more than just some it's you know, it's not just a home for me It really is my message 1 of my messages to the people out there.

22:32 - 23:02

Ethan Waldman: I'm sure that some people look at what you're doing and say, you know, that's too extreme for me. You know, I could never do that because I have kids or I have all this stuff or, you know, lots of excuses. But what do you hope that people can take away from what you're doing, especially when they're like, they are on that 20,000 possession, 2,500 square foot house end of things?

23:02 - 23:40

Rob Greenfield: Yeah. I mean, so I'm very upfront with the fact that I do live a fairly extreme life in comparison to the average Western life and I do that intentionally. Because here's the reality of the situation is that when you actually look at the American way of life, you know, America, the United States makes up 5% of the world's population but uses 25% of the world's resources. That by definition is extreme. We are the extreme country. We are the ones that are consuming resources to a degree that is, you know, not something that can be done forever

23:40 - 24:20

Rob Greenfield: and that only a small percentage of the world can do. So by definition that really makes us extreme. So what I've designed my life to be is basically a counterbalance to that. And I've gone to the other end of the extreme to show what can be done. And the purpose is not to, you know, get people to go this far. The purpose is to get people to edge this way, some, from the extreme but seemingly normal way of life that we have in the United States. And so It's really about starting where people are. And just,

24:20 - 24:58

Rob Greenfield: you know, it's really about, it's about triggering self-reflection and thinking about our lives and how we impact the world and what we can do in our own communities, at our schools, at our work, with our family and our friends, what we can do to live in a way that is more beneficial to the earth, our communities, and ourselves. And so it's about starting small. I mean, you know, it might mean, you know, simply riding a bike more and driving the car less. It might mean eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat. It might mean next

24:58 - 25:16

Rob Greenfield: time you do a little construction project at your house that is a large house, trying to do that with repurposed materials. So it's about starting where we are and not looking at, you know, so like, I can't do what he's doing. Instead, the question should be, What can I do?

25:19 - 25:38

Ethan Waldman: That's a really great point in that And I think you do a good job of pointing out How what you're doing is applicable to other people and I feel like that's a great segue into talking about your current project which is food freedom. Is that what it's called? Mm-hmm.

25:39 - 25:39

Rob Greenfield: All

25:39 - 25:40

Ethan Waldman: right, tell us about it.

25:41 - 26:19

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, so for 1 year, 365 days, I am growing and foraging a hundred percent of my food. So that means no grocery stores, no restaurants, no gifts of food from other people, no farmers markets, no going to a party and having food, no going to a bar and having a drink. For 1 year, everything that I consume, I will grow and forage myself down to the salt that I'm harvesting from the ocean, making my own coconut oil, growing food right here in the city, going out into the countryside, going to the woods and foraging, going fishing.

26:19 - 26:28

Rob Greenfield: So for 1 year, everything that I eat, I will directly with my hands be connecting with the earth.

26:30 - 26:33

Ethan Waldman: What inspired the project and how's it going so far?

26:34 - 27:18

Rob Greenfield: Well, what inspired the project is our globalized industrialized food system that is, you know, the center of many of our greatest problems that we face today. We live in this system where our basic food, the thing that brings us life, is destroying life all over the world. Whether it's people, animals, the ecosystems as a whole that sustain us and all the other species. And so, but you know that sounds glum, but I don't focus on the problems. I like to, I like people to know the reality of our existence, but focus on what can we do?

27:18 - 27:55

Rob Greenfield: Empower people. And so for me, this is growing and foraging 100% of my food for years. It's an extreme endeavor that's designed to immerse people through my journey in food and inspire them to do something. That could mean growing a little bit of food. Maybe they've never grown food before, so maybe it means growing their first tomato and basil plant. Or maybe going to the local farmers market and not going to the big box stores, meeting the local farmers, going out in nature and learning what grows wildly around us, going into our yards and learning that

27:55 - 28:30

Rob Greenfield: there's actually medicinal plants that grow everywhere. So that's what it's really about. It's about connecting people with our food and helping people to free themselves from this industrialized, globalized food system. And then at the same time for me it's just a wonderful experiment of is it possible? Now of course I know that it's possible because human beings did it for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions of years. How long have humans been around? Is millions of years right?

28:33 - 28:43

Ethan Waldman: I was an anthropology minor, so I should really know the answer to this question. I think it's, I want to say modern humans 500,000 years.

28:43 - 29:22

Rob Greenfield: Okay, cool. Yeah, I realized I should correct myself. Let's just say for sure hundreds of thousands of years. But in a Western society, I actually have not met anyone who has done this for a year, grown or foraged 100% of their food. So for me it's just an extreme challenge and also just a way to immerse myself in food and learn about it myself and more deeply understand it. And then how's it going so far? Well today is day 16. So I just finished up 2 weeks and I've got to say it's going good. I feel

29:22 - 29:50

Rob Greenfield: real good. My digestion is actually the best that it's ever been. My body feels great. I feel very mentally clear. You know, removing all the junk from my life Because you know I've always been a I've been a healthy eater for a while but you know it's hard to resist a lot of the cookies and processed food sometimes and So so far. It's it's been going great. I I've been enjoying it and I've had an abundance of different foods to eat.

29:51 - 30:12

Ethan Waldman: Right. And I, I think that doing it in Florida makes it possible to do it for a year. I, I mean, I don't think it would be completely impossible in Vermont, but I guess you would have to have cultivated a lot of food over the summer and then, you know, store it in like a cellar of some kind to overwinter.

30:12 - 30:45

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, I would say doing it in Florida definitely makes it easier because I can grow greens year around here. Our biggest challenge is the summer is so hot and humid that a lot of stuff doesn't grow very well during the summer. So that's actually the least abundant time here in certain ways. But when you learn about perennial crops then there's still a good amount of greens all through the summer. But it's so hard because here the weeds grow so fast that it's so much work in the summer to just maintain that what a lot of people

30:45 - 31:20

Rob Greenfield: do is they just take the whole summer off. And a lot of people just leave and go up to Vermont and Wisconsin and Ohio and Iowa and just get out of here for the summer. So Florida has its share of challenges. The other thing is the soil here is basically sand. It's almost straight sand in most places. So, you know, there's a lot of challenges here, but I think it is a more comfortable place to do it. With that being said, you can certainly do this in the northern climates. Of course human beings did it for

31:20 - 31:56

Rob Greenfield: a long time. And there's huge abundances there. I mean, like I was in northern Wisconsin this summer and I found 30 apple trees or 20 apple trees in a 2 hour walk and plum trees everywhere. There's wild rice growing abundantly up there. There's just an incredible amount of abundance in food up there as well. So it really comes down to up there you just have to prepare more. You just have to prepare much more for the winter. But also it's easier to preserve foods up there because of the cold where stuff spoils faster down here and

31:56 - 32:08

Rob Greenfield: there's more pest problems. So Everywhere has its pros and its cons and I am tempted at some point to do this in the northern climate if I'm successful down here.

32:11 - 32:29

Ethan Waldman: That's really cool. And it seems like you are kind of saving the summer for the end of your year. So maybe by then you'll really have everything down. Like what are your plans? What do you have in place for making it through that hot Florida summer?

32:30 - 33:09

Rob Greenfield: I don't know yet. I've actually been pondering that a little bit for the last few days, but it's not top priority pondering. There's nothing I need to be doing right now that will more prepare me for it. So I'm not unprepared, but I'm not fully knowledgeable on what I'm going to do. The main thing really though is calorie crops. So I grow sweet potato, cassava, and then I do wild yam foraging. And the thing is all of that is abundant now through like May. So the simple solution is that I'll have to preserve a lot of

33:09 - 33:35

Rob Greenfield: that, which will probably be drying and freezing. And maybe canning, but you don't usually can starches. I haven't looked into that too much yet. So yeah, but then that's, you know, summertime is also mango season and coconuts. And so There'll be an abundance of food and I will definitely figure it out. I'll figure some of, you know, a lot of this I'm figuring it out as I go.

33:36 - 34:01

Ethan Waldman: There was something that you said in the video about your tiny house that really resonated with me when you were talking about the number of hours that it took and you kind of, you kind of did the math. You're like, this would have taken me 3 months, but instead I had a group of friends in my community come and help me, and it only took 3 weeks. Or is that, how long did it take with the group of friends?

34:01 - 34:28

Rob Greenfield: Well, it was 2 weekends. 2 weekends. So really, it was 5 days, because it was a Friday through Sunday and then a Saturday and Sunday. So really, like, it was 5 days, but also that included a lot of other things as well, like building some outdoor stuff. So yeah, I mean, we really had the vast majority of the structure done, I think, in 3 or 4 days.

34:29 - 34:43

Ethan Waldman: Yeah. And I just loved how you said a group of friends could build each other houses over the course of a year of weekends. Everybody could have a house if everybody just helped each other out in building them.

34:43 - 35:20

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, and if you keep it simple, I know some tiny houses are, mine is the other end of the spectrum of tiny houses whereas you know some people have I've been to tiny house festivals I've seen a hundred 50000 dollar tiny houses and I gotta say they were incredible and amazing but this is the other end of the spectrum. This is a $1,500 tiny house. So that's a hundred times less. And with that, that means it's a little less convenient, it's less modern, but it's exactly what I want. But I do believe, yeah, friends could get

35:20 - 35:51

Rob Greenfield: together and do a house rotation of tiny house building with simple houses, you know, so I'd have to work for the right people that want them to be pretty simple. But it's truly amazing what community can do. And the thing is, it's not just a bunch of altruism, it's not just a bunch of people saying, I want to help this person. It's that, you know, people came out because they wanted to learn. It's like partly living vicariously through someone who's living in a tiny house. Like a lot of people want to live in a tiny house

35:51 - 36:24

Rob Greenfield: but they're not going to do it. But to get to be a part of the experience, they get to learn, they get to, you know, there's a level of excitement about it. And then it's also a social thing. You know, it's not like we were just building. It's getting together with like-minded people. A lot of people that came, they didn't know each other, so they got to meet new friends that are like-minded and care about things like this, which in a city like Orlando, they can be hard to find sometimes because it's a big spread out

36:24 - 36:36

Rob Greenfield: city and it's not a highly conscious city. So I created it as a place for people to come together and be in community, meet new friends that are like-minded, and work on something together.

36:36 - 36:51

Ethan Waldman: I was hoping we could get specific with your house because I know people will ask, you know, well what does he do for water? What does he do for electricity? So could we run through those systems? I know you mentioned rainwater harvesting. Maybe we could start there.

36:51 - 37:36

Rob Greenfield: Sure, yeah. So my house has no plumbing and no electricity built into it. So it's very simple structure in that regard. So for water, I harvest all of my drinking water, my showering water, dish washing is all rainwater. I do use the hose on site some for sure, but all of my systems are designed around rainwater. And so I have 600 gallons of storage. A hundred of that is on my tiny house and 500 is on Lisa's house because it has a much larger roof. And so the kitchen is an outdoor kitchen and I am not

37:36 - 38:06

Rob Greenfield: quite done with it yet, but I'm currently working on a gravity system where I have a barrel, 55 gallon barrel that's above the sink and then a spigot so it'll come out right into the sink and it's totally just from the pressure of the water. And then all of my water, which is called gray water, the water that's used to wash hands, dishes, etc. That currently goes into a 5 gallon bucket underneath the sink and then I use that to water the different plants around the property. But what I'm doing is I'm making it a little

38:06 - 38:45

Rob Greenfield: more streamlined and just having a pipe that will just go straight to the banana plants and so all of my greywater will grow bananas and I'll probably put taro and ginger around that as well. I have a compost toilet. So the compost toilet is a pretty closed-loop system. The poop will be composted for a year and then it's used for fertilizing fruit trees. So not direct contact with things like kale, although you can do that, but fruit trees are just the simplest way to go. And the pea is used to fertilize food as well. So it

38:45 - 39:19

Rob Greenfield: has it's high in nitrogen, 1 of the most important nutrients for plant growth. And then for electricity, I was going to do solar, but I don't use that much electricity, and I really looked at the figures and the environmental impact of the solar panels. I'm using less than $10 worth of electricity per month. So what really made sense was just to run an extension cord for the time that I'm here. And so I just have an extension cord running out that has 3 plugs. Having 3 plugs means I can only use 3 electronic items at a

39:19 - 39:52

Rob Greenfield: time, which usually there's not 3 in there, which just means I use very little electricity, which is about moderation. I'd love to be off the grid, but this time around off the grid wasn't quite in alignment because of my year of growing and foraging 100% of my food. I have a deep chest freezer to be able to easily preserve food. So that's why, that's the main thing, the main reason why I decided to be hooked up to the electricity rather than solar. Solar could be done, but I also have a very shady backyard, which is great

39:52 - 39:59

Rob Greenfield: because it keeps the house cool. So that's electricity and water and the toilet.

40:02 - 40:09

Ethan Waldman: Is the toilet just like sawdust style composting? Yeah. Like a 5 gallon bucket system?

40:10 - 40:46

Rob Greenfield: Yeah. So it's just a simple 5 gallon bucket and every time that I go number 2, I put a handful or 2, a scoop or 2 of sawdust over the poop. And the poop and pee go into 2 separate buckets and that actually is a great system because the poop has to be composted for a year, but pee can be used immediately. So why combine them and then have to deal with the pee over a long period of time when that can be used immediately. And also dry matter tends to smell less than wet matter. And

40:46 - 41:21

Rob Greenfield: so the key with a compost toilet is to have the poop basically be dry and have a large amount of carbon. That's what keeps any smell. So my compost toilet really has no smell Except for the times that I empty it, that I dump it into the system, there's a smell for that short period of time. And that's once a week. And then that smell fades after 5-10 minutes. And so yeah, that's basically how the compost toilet system works.

41:22 - 41:38

Ethan Waldman: Cool. Yeah, and that's going to be familiar to a lot of tiny house people. There's a really popular book that I'll plug called The Human or Handbook that is the Bible for composting human waste. And it's just an, it's an entertaining read and also very informative.

41:39 - 41:44

Rob Greenfield: Yeah, definitely a great book. I actually got to meet him last summer on my bike tour.

41:44 - 41:44

Ethan Waldman: Oh,

41:44 - 41:47

Rob Greenfield: awesome. He's called the Duke of Duty or the Pope of Poop.

41:48 - 41:49

Ethan Waldman: Joseph Jenkins.

41:49 - 41:51

Rob Greenfield: Yeah. That's awesome.

41:53 - 42:07

Ethan Waldman: So 1 thing that I like to ask all of my guests is what are 2 or 3 books or movies, just 2 or 3 things that have informed your worldview and have inspired you to do what you do.

42:07 - 42:45

Rob Greenfield: Oh man, do I recommend the writings of Mark Boyle, the moneyless man. A lot of people probably have heard of him. He's been viral on the internet a handful of times. And he lived without money for 3 and a half years in England. And his books are so amazing. Like this just is like unlike anything else I've read, that just really exposes you to the different perspective of the world and goes so much deeper into these issues. So the Moneyless Man, the Moneyless Manifesto are his first 2 books and his third book is called Drinking Molotov

42:45 - 43:25

Rob Greenfield: Cocktails with Gandhi and it's about what actually is violence. Our globalized lives have outsourced our actions, and we don't see how our actions affect the world, and this goes deeper into that so we actually understand the delusion that is our lives to a large extent. So, highly recommend those books. And some of the documentaries that woke me up, Food Inc. Was an early 1, Earthlings was another early 1 that really woke me up. And I do have a resource list for documentaries. It's at slash films. And for books, it's at slash books. And there

43:25 - 43:31

Rob Greenfield: I actually list out the films and books that have had an impact on me and that I recommend.

43:32 - 44:02

Ethan Waldman: That's awesome. And I'll definitely link to those from the show notes page. And I want to just recommend to anyone listening to follow along, follow Rob on Instagram, subscribe to his YouTube channel. I've just been loving following your journey since you started the Food Freedom Project and just seeing just the look of sheer joy on your face when you harvest a giant tuber out of the ground.

44:02 - 44:23

Rob Greenfield: Oh man harvesting a potato or a yam. There's something magical about pulling up a carrot or a beet like something it's like this it's just it's like this you don't know what's down there and it's this surprise and then this beautiful root of sustenance comes out of the ground. It's a really amazing feeling.

44:24 - 44:28

Ethan Waldman: Yeah and there was 1 that you harvested that was huge. I think it was a yam.

44:29 - 44:45

Rob Greenfield: Yeah that's the wild yam. Gaiascoria alata is the genus and species and it is, they can grow up to 160 pounds for 1 yam and the biggest 1 that I have harvested is 25 pounds so that's a big source of sustenance for me.

44:47 - 44:52

Ethan Waldman: That's so cool. Well Rob, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. This was really fun.

44:52 - 45:00

Rob Greenfield: Well it's been great to be on with you Ethan and glad you're spreading all the knowledge about tiny house living.

45:02 - 45:45

Ethan Waldman: You can find the notes and links from today's show, including links to Rob's recommended films and books, over at slash 038. Again that's slash 038. Thank you so much to Rob Greenfield for being a guest on the show. Now I wanna tell you a little bit more about Tiny House Engage, my online tiny house community that I mentioned in the opening of the show. In addition to being able to ask me questions anytime and get support and encouragement from fellow tiny housers and access the video training library, there's another benefit that I didn't tell

45:45 - 46:23

Ethan Waldman: you about. And that is that you get to listen to these podcast interviews live as we record them. And what's really cool about that is that if you have questions for our guests, this enables you to ask them. And so You can not only learn from me and the people in Tiny House Engage, but you can also learn from the guests on the Tiny House Lifestyle podcast. So if you'd like to learn more about Tiny House Engage and register for access, the website to visit is Again, that's I can't wait

46:23 - 46:35

Ethan Waldman: to meet you inside Tiny House Engage. Well, that's all for today's episode. I'm Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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