Eco quandaries

Aaron Fletcher has the smallest carbon footprint of anyone I know.

He walks everywhere. He uses electricity only a few times a week to charge his phone and a rotary tool he uses to make copper drinking straws.

He's preparing to travel to California this month — on a homemade skateboard.

All of his possessions fit in a backpack.

Fletcher, 29, is homeless.

Unlike many people on Ashland's streets, he's homeless by choice. In fact, he prefers to call himself home-free.

Six years ago, Fletcher was days away from signing paperwork to buy a home in Kansas City, Mo., where he spent much of his childhood. He was working three jobs: putting up fliers for concerts, selling ice cream out of a truck and stocking merchandise at the retail store World Market.

Then, he had an epiphany about the kind of life he wanted to live. "When I had those three jobs to try to buy a house, I was so busy, I only had time to sleep in my house," he said. "And I realized, 'I'm going to be doing this for the next 30 years. Why am I doing this?'

"I decided to get off the hamster wheel. And in doing this by choice, I've realized that it actually opens up my choices."

Instead of buying a house, Fletcher sold most of his possessions and began sleeping outside in a hammock.

He's been homeless since. He traveled across the country on a bicycle and did guerilla gardening in the beginning. For the past two years, he's lived in Ashland, which he discovered on his way to the Pacific Crest Trail. He plans to continue to call Ashland his home, although he frequently travels elsewhere.

"I firmly believe that when we're in one place for long periods of time, our lives become routine and routine is definitely the enemy of learning," he said.

Fletcher's homeless because he doesn't want to own a lot of possessions, because he wants to sleep close to the earth and because he doesn't want to deal with mortgages or banks. He occasionally works odd jobs on organic farms in exchange for food or money. He grows much of his own food and also forages for edible plants in Ashland's forests.

He's written and bound a tiny field guide about edible plants that he distributes to other homeless people for free. He also makes YouTube videos about sustainability using an iPhone — with a cracked screen and no phone service — he got on a trade a few months ago.

He's uploaded 18 videos to his 123Homefree YouTube channel so far. He uses an application that speeds up the footage 1.5 times to make the videos shorter. Titles of his do-it-yourself videos include "DIY Tire Sandals," "DIY Food Recycling (dumpster diving)," "DIY Wearable Winter Tent" and "DIY Homefree Hammock System."

"I'm not giving people more fish," he said. "I'm teaching them how to feed themselves. I care about helping other people to live a more efficient life."

Fletcher has a long list of other videos he wants to make. Before he makes a video, he goes through a written checklist:

1. Does it help others learn?

2. Has it already been taught well elsewhere?

3. Is it industrious?

"I want people to learn water independence, food independence and government independence," he said. "It's really not hard to live by the Golden Rule."

Fletcher is homeless and jobless by most people's standards. But by his own, he's home-free and working on projects that matter to him.

Homelessness is a complicated issue. Many people who are homeless would prefer not to be. They'd like to have a bit of a bigger carbon footprint.

Fletcher is not one of them.

He's an example of someone who has taken sustainability to the extreme.

Is he a role model or an antihero? You decide.

Those of us in the mainstream culture seem to talk a lot about sustainability these days. Whether you support him or not, Fletcher represents a side of sustainability we don't often see. To see more of Fletcher's life, visit and search for 123Homefree.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or For past columns see

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