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Why You Do It – Jonathan Zaidman

One of the first things I thought after meeting Jonathan is that everything he says or does matters.

He and his housemates let me couchsurf at their place in San Diego, California for a week in 2012, before I’d found a place to live. But when I tell people about who he is or what he’s like, I don’t tell them what a caring person or good friend he is. He is those things, but what I tell them is this: everything he says makes you want to listen.

The idea that every single thing you do matters is also the philosophy behind the 1 to 1 Movement, the non-profit he founded in 2011. 1 to 1 teaches adults and kids that living sustainably and making a difference to the planet is easy – all it takes is one action to have one positive effect. Also, just recently, 1 to 1 merged into The Ecology Center, a nonprofit based in Orange County, California, which teaches people creative and simple ways to cut your water use,  grow your own garden ecosystems at home and make good decisions about the food we eat. And Jonathan’s their new Director of Regional Expansion.

Also, he and I once rode a tandem bike together and we were really bad at it. A guy standing outside our local bar pointed at us and laughed out loud.

Here are the things he does and why…


‘Let me start off by saying that I am the last person anybody should be modeling a routine after. I stop and start projects based on energy and enthusiasm. I can become obsessed with one thing, and work on it for hours on end and forget to eat, get dressed, or speak to anyone. And I fail at most of the things I attempt.  

That being said, I do have a few daily routines as well as some general guidelines I try to live my life by.  

In no particular order, here they are: 

  • After I wake up and say good morning to my lady and pups, the first thing I do is glance through the same 5 websites in the same order every day;
  1. – I am not a tech guy. And this is a tech blog. It’s a collection of the top tech products released daily. Again, not a tech guy. I do, though, gain a great deal of inspiration from the tech startup world. I feel that few sectors are marrying innovation, design, and communication in as great a way as the tech startup world. It doesn’t matter to me that I don’t need or understand anything they’re talking about. 
  2. – I used to be a sports fan. I no longer am. I don’t know why I still read sports blogs.  
  3. – I love Reddit. I’m quite proud of the list of active subs I follow (including r/worldnews, r/politics, r/vegan, r/nonprofit, r/upliftingnews, and 10-15 others), but for some reason I only dive deeply into the r/VanDwellers subreddit. Important to note: I am not a vandweller.  
  4. – I am an obsessive bargain shopper. I get on these weird kicks where I search every day for whatever I’m researching extensively at the moment – cast iron skillets, Patagonia apparel, pressure cookers, camper vans, an area rug, or vacant land anywhere in the world. I rarely buy anything.  
  • Sustainability is my personal and professional passion, so I have a few daily rituals tied to living as environmentally friendly a lifestyle possible. Again, in no particular order;
  1. I collect the water from my shower in a bucket, which then gets dumped into the back of my toilet’s tank. Manual greywater system.  
  2. I try to buy 100% of my clothes used (except for socks and underwear, which I am still working on). I also wear the same thing nearly every single day. So getting dressed is probably the easiest decision I make.  
  3. I recently leased an all-electric car, so all I have to do is plug and unplug her and I’m ready to hit the road. 
  4. I am a longtime vegan, and I love to eat, but I also only eat a few times (sometimes once) per day. It’s usually a rather large and filling meal. I am not a healthy example of a vegan.  
  5. This really isn’t a part of my day usually, but while I have you here – I always ask for “No straw please” at bars and restaurants. Over here in the US, we use 500 million single use plastic straws per day. They’re useless. And they suck. (Dave: Jonathan also did a TED Talk on this.)
  • Misc. Daily Routines;
  1. I talk to my dad just about every day and my older sister nearly as much. I couldn’t tell you one specific thing we ever talk about, but it’s comforting. 
  2. I have a conversation with my dog, Winston, about why he does the things he does. His current flavor of the day is shredding books which he carefully pulls out of the bookshelf.  
  3. I consume, obtain, or produce something packaged nearly every day of my life. I try to reduce as much unnecessary waste as possible, and I think I do a pretty good job, but I also wanted to say out loud that I am not doing a perfect job.  
  • I wouldn’t say that I live by a specific dogma. Actually I would say that I do not live by a specific dogma, but I do have a few beliefs that I try to incorporate into my daily life;
  1. Do no harm – this is impossible. We do harm to people, animals, and the environment by living the lives we lead.  We can, though, do our absolute best to minimize unnecessary harm. This to me means: living a vegan lifestyle (with the food I eat and the products I purchase), refraining from purchasing consumer goods which are produced in conditions which I do not see as suitable for human beings, and considering the environment in my daily decisions.  
  2. Act upon compassionate instincts – again, I fail at this all of the time. But I do try to listen to the little voice that tells me I should help as often as I can. Most often it means helping push a broken down vehicle out of an intersection, offering a neighbor an extra hand, or saying a friendly hello to the man who sleeps under the bridge I walk past on my way to the office. Every time I do any of these things I get more out of it than the person I helped.  I hope to one day not have to remind myself to act on my every compassionate instinct.  
  3. Make time – I get frustrated by claims from friends or family that they don’t have time to do the things they want. Now, I don’t have kids, so I can’t comment as to the time-suck they seem to be, but I genuinely believe that we can all do the things that add value to our lives. When someone tells me they don’t know how I have time to start (and run) a nonprofit organization, coach a collegiate sports team, show up for friends, and buy and re-sell camper vans (only 3 times), I’ll ask them what their day is comprised of. Most times, they have a hard time naming 5 things they do in a day. If pressed, they’ll realize they waste a great deal of time on things that don’t make them happy (TV, commuting, shopping…). I believe that if you prioritize any one single thing (and often times many things) you can always make the time to do them.  

That’s all I’ve got for you. Go do cool shit.’