The industries of sustainability and environmentalism are awash with extreme views, political protest and big corporate green machines. But there is a growing number of individuals who are leading the charge in their own way, by example.
Their protests against our consumer way of life have all been approached from different perspectives, but the one thing they all do have in common is that their actions make us question our relationship to stuff.
From the full-on challenges of eating only by dumpster diving and wearing one dress for a full year, to the gradual transformation through minimising belongings and making your family home sustainable, their stories and the movements they now lead are an inspiration for doing more about changing the consumer culture of our world.
The best thing about these 5 pioneers is that they have gone before us. They have journeyed through the trial and error, they have experienced what sucks and what doesn’t, so that we can learn from what they have done, and what they continue to do.
Each of these people had a personal meaning and motivation that drove them to want to make a change. It is this meaning which drives someone through the tough days, when everyone tells you you’re nuts. And it is the massive followings that grew as they shared their journeys with the world that supported their convictions and continue to spread their message today.
Rob Greenfield, the Dude Making a Difference.
From cycling around America eating only free food and using only free water, to giving 100% of his media income to charity, Rob Greenfield is the real deal. His transformation since 2009 demonstrates that becoming completely sustainable as an individual takes commitment and gradual changes. His philosophy and the work he does to bring America’s attention to many issues around food wastage (and lack of real food) is eye opening and inspirational.
Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home.
One litre of trash a year. That is the ultimate goal of Bea and her family and the zero-waste lifestyle they have been living since 2008. From making your own notebooks (yeah baby!) to how to build a capsule wardrobe of under 35 items, she covers all of the family in showing how easy (and glamorous) it is to create no waste and reduce your landfill footprint.
Also check out Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers if you have a teen you want to inspire to go zero waste.
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists.
A growing feeling of discontent and the sense that their belongings owned them was the motivation for dramatically minimising their ’stuff' and focusing on what more they could bring into their lives. Now successful speaker, authors and all round nice guys, the Minimalists journey and the principles they teach are demonstrating that living a simpler life in effect is living a more sustainable life.
Sheena Matheiken, the Uniform Project.
One dress. For 365 days. Sheena adopted this mission as a way to initially give her life some sense of meaning as she struggled with an otherwise boring marketing career. Committing to donating all money raised to education charities, she wore the same dress (well, version of the same dress) everyday, changing it up only through adding donated or preloved accessories and clothing. The media and public loved this idea and her fun project quickly took on a life of it’s own.
Annie Leonard, the Story of Stuff Project.
Over 20 years of being interested in the lifecycle of the stuff we consume, Annie Leonard began the Story of Stuff Project with a 20 minute documentary. Now a series of short films, major campaigns and international status, the Story of Stuff aims "to empower people to fight for a sustainable and just future”. My favourite bit of what this group do is the excellent educational resources which can be taken into schools, community groups and even help you start your own grassroots group of Changemakers.
There are so many more people who are doing amazing things in the field of sustainable lifestyle, comment below if you have one you think we should all know about.