Vicki Robin

Vicki Robin is a prolific social innovator, writer and speaker. She is coauthor with Joe Dominguez of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Viking Penguin, 1992, 1998, 2008). It was an instant NY Times best seller in 1992 and steadily appeared on the Business Week Best Seller list from 1992-1997. It is available now in eleven languages.

Her new book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us; what eating closer to home can teach us about food, community and our place on earth (Viking/Penguin 2014) tells how her experiment in 10-mile eating not only changed how she ate, but also renewed her hope and rooted her in her community. She calls this “relational eating.” She went on to investigate how we might restore the vitality of our regional food systems so everyone could have the benefit of relational eating – healthy food, healthy communities. She calls this building “complementary food systems,” not to replace but to work along side of the global industrial systems we now depend on for almost 100% of our food. Her book offers many practical tools for transformation, from changing our attitudes, to changing our habits to changing our food sources to getting active in social and political change.

Called by the New York Times as the “prophet of consumption downsizers,” Vicki has lectured widely and appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America” and National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” and “Morning Edition”; she has also been featured in well over 100 magazines including People Magazine, AARP, The Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day, Newsweek, Utne Magazine and the New York Times.

Vicki has helped launch many sustainability initiatives including: The New Road Map Foundation, The Simplicity Forum, The Turning Tide Coalition, Sustainable Seattle, The Center for a New American Dream, Transition Whidbey and more. In the 1990’s she served on the President’s Council on Sustainable Development’s Task Force on Population and Consumption.

In addition to her sustainable consumption work, Vicki has been a leader in the field of dialogue. She co-created the Conversation Cafés method and initiative, promoting it first in Seattle and then throughout the world. Conversation Cafés are hosted conversations among diverse people in public places on subjects that matter. Vicki has spoken at workshops, conferences and to the media (Readers Digest, National Public Radio, Utne Magazine, The New York Times, The Seattle Times and many local media) about the Conversation Café method and its possibilities for revitalizing our public life.

For fun, Vicki is a comedy improv actress, appearing frequently with her troupe, Comedy Island.

Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Vicki grew up on Long Island and graduated cum laude from Brown University in 1967. She received awards from Co-op America and Sustainable Northwest for her pioneering work on sustainable living. Vicki’s one of 61 visionaries featured in Utne Magazine’s book, Visionaries: People and Ideas to Change Your Life. A&E Entertainment’s show “Biography” honored Vicki as one of ten exceptional Seattle citizens. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.

Vicki In Her Own Words

I jokingly say that I’m terminally curious. I love to learn. I love to put thoughts together like a jigsaw puzzle and then wrap them in words. I love to tinker with social norms, seeing if a push here or there might make the system work better. My personal memories and my public works all have this flavor.

I’m also quite fearless in the beginning of things – the fool who rushes through doors when others just see walls. The resulting projects usually arrive with a splash, but they survive because other people had the talent and drive to makes something of them.

In my 20s I lived in several rural communities – Rhinelander, Wisconsin (the coldest part of the lower 48) and Florence, Arizona (one of the hottest) and this gives you a clue about my approach. I call sustainability an extreme sport. I think it’s cool to get into a hot issue by living the solution, not just conjecturing. My first book, Your Money or Your Life, came out of living as much by my wits and as little by money as I could. I wanted to question our dependency on money and on buying stuff. My partner, Joe Dominguez, developed a systematic way to spend less, earn more, save like a demon and get out of “making a dying” with enough years left to enjoy life. Together we wrote the book which ended up selling a million copies around the world.

My current passion is local food. Local because I think the most common, wholesome and sustainable way of life is people in communities solving their problems and meeting their needs together.  Food because everyone eats – and eating closer to home works for a host of reasons: food security, sovereignty, freshness, fairness and health.

In 2010 I undertook a hyper-local diet to test myself and the sufficiency of my island’s food system. The experiment turned into a blog which turned into a book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us: what eating closer to home can teach us about food, community and our place on earth.

I’m nearing 70 and I now know what those “old people” meant about the older you get the less you know. For all my adventures when I was younger, I feel free-er now, more open, less “agenda-ed,” and more in mystery about how anything might turn out. When I was younger I believed my friends and I were going to “save the world.” Now life seems like an infinite faceted gem, a marvel as well as a terror, full of possibilities rather one big job. Like Alice in Wonderland. I think life just gets “curioser and curioser.” I still dive into experiments in truth, but Truth? I’ll get back to you on that after I die.

Studs Terkel said the purpose of life was “to make a dent.” Maybe that means to have some small impact – make your scratch on eternity. Maybe it means to take all our shiny ideas and dent them a little so we can drive around in them without pretence, enjoying a sunny day.