The Freegans

I don’t know where I’ve been the last 20 years that the term “freegan” has never crossed my path, but there you go – now it has.

The word is a combination of “free” and “vegan” and people who practice freeganism live a lifestyle deliberately with little or no money. (I know…don’t we all?) No, but freegans, (who have been around for at least 20 years under this particular moniker and forever as a general concept) do not wish to participate in the conventional economy and strive to leave the smallest possible ecological footprint.

They are vegans, they believe in community and sharing and cooperation and freedom and are social activists combatting materialism, consumerism, greed, conformity and environmental damage.

They get most of their stuff, including food, from other people’s cast-offs. They “forage” instead of buying, They rummage through dumpsters, and the “garbages” of retailers, hotels, restaurants, residences, offices and other places. And before you turn up your nose at the concept of “garbage” you should know that the recovered goods are all safe, clean, useable and in perfect condition – including the food.

What they can’t find among discards they can always get for free on websites Freecycle or the free section of  Craigslist. Some communities events like“Really, Really, Free Markets” and “Freemeets” or a  free store. Goods (and sometimes services) are given or exchanged. No money is involved.

Freegans are also behind Food Not Bombs. They cook up recovered food and serve meals on street corners to anyone who wants them.

Freegans avoid using cars as much as possible, though realize they are often a necessity. They try to use diesel engine cars converted to run on leftover fryer oil from restaurants. (Yes, apparantly this is not only possible, but very efficient! Who knew?)  For the most part, freegans walk, bike, skate, or hitchhike.

They believe housing is a right not a privilege and so squat in vacant properties that landlords have boarded up. Freegans feel it’s an outrage to have people living on the streets freezing to death when there are structures all over the place just sitting empty.  Don’t equate freegan squatting with TV images of squatters in crack houses, though. No, these people make real homes out of these empty buidings. In addition to living areas, squatters often convert abandoned buildings into community centers with programs including art activities for children, environmental education, meetings of community organizations, and more.

They also turn garbage-filled abandoned lots into community garden plots, growing their own vegetables and edible and medicinal plants. And what they can’t grow they forage for in urban green areas.

Some freegans have moved out of the urban centers altogether and have set up communtiies in wilderness areas, living more primitive lifestyles.

And Freegans believe that the concept of a nine-to-five work grind is soul destroying  — which most of us nine-to-fivers already know. We sacrifice such a large chunk of our lives just to buy stuff we’re going to throw away eventually. We sacrifice our freedom to take orders from someone else. We live our days with stress, boredom, monotony, and in many cases risks to our physical and psychological well-being

So, without the need to buy stuff and pay mortgages, freegans can get by with very little need to work. They devote their days to caring for their families, volunteering in the community and joining activist groups

But, because it’s difficult to find some things for free, employment of sorts is often necessary. But even here, they stand firm in not allowing a boss to overrun their spirit of cooperative empowerment. Employee-led unions like Industrial Workers of the World ensure, safe, free and fair workplaces.

The documentary, Bin Appetit, explains more about the principles behind freeganism.

I love the idea behind this. In some ways it’s a step back to a kinder, more caring, more community-centered era. In other ways, urban freegans couldn’t exist without the throw-away consumerism so rampant in this era.

Some people call them freeloaders because of this, but they’re not lazy or shiftless; nor do they sit around waiting for handouts. Foraging is hard work, too. Making a home and a garden out of garbage is hard work. Volunteering, sharing food, goods and services is work – even if it’s not our conventional concept of “work”.

Lately I’ve been following the blog of Hallie – a woman who seems to be very much a part of this sort of lifestyle (even if she’s not vegan). She seems to need very little, has built herself the tiniest, cutest  living space and is free of pretty much all of the encumberances the rest of us have yolked ourselves with.

I wonder if I could live like this? Could you? I spend way too much money on food now because I’m picky about the quality of the stuff I eat. I think the transition to dumpster cuisine might be a difficult one. Other than that I wouldn’t have a big problem. I have very little interest in my home. I like it to be vermin-free and have hot and cold running water, but I don’t spend my weekends picking out colour swatches or down at HomeSense matching fabrics and dinner ware.

The only reason I’ve even made half an effort is for my daughter. And I love foraging for free and/or cheap stuff. And I already live car-free. It’s just the food thing…

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49 responses to “The Freegans

  1. I attempted a much weaker version of freeganism a few years back. In 2003 I went car-free and sold my house, which allowed me to pay off my credit card and student loans and get back to zero net worth (rather than a large negative value).

    For a while I worked one part-time job, rented a relatively inexpensive studio apartment, and bused and walked anywhere I needed to go. Life was fine.

    Eventually I got another part-time job though, as my original calculations as to what it would cost to just get by were wrong. And then one of those jobs turned into a “soul destroying” full time job. Sigh.

    But in any case, thanks for turning me on to Hallie’s blog – she’s a fellow Oregonian, and living my “tiny house” dream!

  2. Well, that makes two of us, I never came across the word (or concept) of Freegan before.

    Would I do it? Today probably. Everything about my life seems to be soul crushing today, but that’s no doubt just hormonal, I’ll get over myself quick enough.

    On the other hand, living in an abandoned building (no matter how cozy you make it) not so much, seeing as there probably is no hot water available, or electricity for that matter. And food out of a dumpster, I don’t care how good it is, that wouldn’t work for me.

    It actually seems way harder a life than the soul crushing corporate world, seeing as you’re spending your time scrambling to survive.

    I like being able to put on Mile Davis and putting my feet up with a good glass of wine.

    Evil consumer that I am.

  3. I’ll admit that my house is much bigger that I really need, but I’m not about to give up running water and heat to squat in an empty building. Sure I guess I could shower at the Y or something and have a bucket to use as emergency bathroom. But I would never do this by choice. I would work the most soul crushing job if I had to have a warm place with power and plumbing.

    That and the food thing.

  4. Funny, I was just thinking about freegans last night. Were we on the same wavelength? I first heard about freeganism from an episode of Wife Swap earlier this year.

    I was surprised at the quality of food that is thrown away by stores and restaurants. A coworker and I had a discussion the other day about food waste so I admire that aspect (and some, though not all, of the other aspects) of freeganism. But, no, I couldn’t live like that unless forced to by circumstances. Besides, I’m a hermit at heart. All that communal togetherness would drive me insane.

  5. I’ve had scavenged food before, but I agree that too much good food goes to waste. This is why I always let stuff rot in my fridge before throwing it out.

    – RG>

  6. Do they also attend Memorial services of people they did not know for the free food & try to sneak into weddings, gallery openings etc for the hors d’oeuvres?

    Speaking of the free section of craig’s list, I adore this site:
    http://itemnotasdescribed.com/

  7. I would like to live a more simple life and have been slowly downsizing all the junk I have accumulated. Does giving stuff to your daughter (the ultimate saver) count?

    But, I have this thing about having my own piece of land to live on. I know, you really cannot own the land, but if the title says I have the right to live there, I am happy.

    Then, I can live in a tent and grow my own food.

    No tv, no phone sound good.
    No computer, not so much, but I could do that too.

  8. Those freegans should thank their lucky stars that most of society works regular jobs to support their lifestyle.

    If we didnt’ have farmers tilling the fields, factory workers smelting iron ore into steel, and tradesmen making buildings out of bricks and mortar, there wouldn’t be any surplus scraps to scrounge for in the first place.

    If everyone were a freegan, we’d go back to the stone age, hunting and gathering.

  9. Friar: my thoughts exactly. They are living off of exactly what they have such disdain for. Quite the hypocrites.

  10. i often think of simplying. yesterday i opted to unplug the 50 inch plasma. it was awesome. i even blogged about it. it was a peaceful, simple day.
    a small step, but very meaningful for us.

  11. Dave – Ah! That’s cool that you and Hallie are “neighbours”. I think what you were was not so much a “freegan” as just “poor” – ha ha.

    Jazz – I didn’t actually find out what they do about water and electricity. How cosy could a place be without either of those things, after all? Electricity I might be able to manage, but hot and cold running water? Never!

    Woodsy – Ah ha! Interesting point. I wasn’t even thinking of “that”. That’s not very community-minded, charitable or “sharing” of them. I wonder if that’s true across the board or just for a few individuals?

    MG – Ya, I don’t know what I’d do if it were just me. I think I would have had tremendous difficulty sticking to a job even I didn’t have any real responsibilities. I’m pretty sure I would have lived more of a vagabond lifestyle; traveling around, etc. But that’s all moot because I have a kiddie to raise and it seemed like she’d be better off with stability, a steady income and a real home.

    Louise – They had freegans on wife swap?? How odd. Why would they want to be on a reality show? (Free real house to live in for a while maybe??) I hadn’t even considered the living-on-top-of-each-other aspect of it. I assume you can be a freegan without living like that though?

    Dr. Monkey – I hear ya – dumpster food…eeewww.

    Grouchy – Ha ha. Lately you’ve been a lot less “grouchy” and a lot more “comedian” – what’s going on?

    Elaine – Well, if they didn’t before, they certainly will now that you’ve given them the tip! (thanks for the link, too – ha ha ha)

    Sheryl – Ya, I think they key would be a happy medium between being a freegan and being a big old pig about everything. I’m sure we could all stand to cut back on some of the crap we accuulate.

    Friar- I knew you were going to say that! I guess the point they’re trying to make is how amazing it is that an entire sub-culture can live abundantly off of stuff the rest of us throw away. I think they’re very much aware that they (at least the urban freegans) can only do what they do because the rest of us do what we do.

    Elaine – See my note to Friar. I really don’t think that irony is lost on them — it’s kind of hard to miss. It’s as if you see a guy wheeling a barrow full of money along the road one day and the money is blowing out of the barrow all over the place and you gather it up and try to give it back to him, but he waves you off saying he’s in too much of a hurry to get his money to the bank and he keeps going and losing more money. You think he’s a freakin’ idiot, but that’s not going to stop you from keeping and using his money, right? (Is that even a relevant analogy?)

    Meanie – I shall go and read your blog about you going rustic. I think that’s why people still insist on going camping and going to cottages and even BBQing their food outdoors — a small reconnection to their simpler roots, perhaps??

  12. XUP, that’s a pretty decent analogy.

    Friar and Elaine: Hypocritical would be complaining about society’s waste, and going and making more of it. At least these people are trying to make sure that ‘every part of the deer’ is used, so to speak.

    If society doesn’t (and you as members thereof don’t) like their ‘freeloading’, stop wasting so much useful stuff!

    (This grouchy response was not prompted by XUP’s comment 😛 )

    – RG>

  13. I only point this out because you are a word slash grammar maven, as am I. One is “yoked” into a life of drudgery. If you were “yolked” into it, you couldn’t be a vegan! Ba-da-boom. Sorry.

  14. @XUP

    I think of it as a pride of lions making a kill. They overeat and gorge themselves. But there’s always a bit left over.

    That’s the cue for the jackals and hyenas to come in, and finish off the scraps.

    Kinda like the Freegans. 😉

    @RealGrouchy

    Not necessarily saying they’re hypocrites. But what I’d like to know is how do they contribute to help pay for the infrastructure that supports them?

    I know some Freegan have jobs and pay taxes. I don’t really have a problem with those.

    But for the others (i.e. those that squat), where do they think public drinking water and and toilet facilties come from?

    If they get pneumonia, or food poisoning from dumspter diving, will they expect to get free medical treatment?

    Will they expect police protection if they get harassed?

    Wasteful society or not….someone’s still gotta pay for that.

  15. @XUP — Only the wives get to swap houses and families, and they were both fairly horrified by each other’s lifestyle. I’m not sure that the freegan family in this case was a good freegan example (though they did make you think about your own overconsumption and waste) — they were also “Jesus Christians“, which gave a kind of cultish, kooky overcast to their lifestyle. Why would they do the show? Perhaps they jumped at the chance to educate some conspicuous consumers while evangelizing about Jesus at the same time. I also presume that Wife Swap pays a sum of money to people who take part (after all, Trading Spouses pays $50,000 to each family) and I’m sure that was probably useful.

  16. I’m tending to side with Friar and Elaine on this. While I do admire their resourcefulness, one can never live truly as a “freegan”. As Friar says, would they expect the cops to come running if needed? Or would they want the firetrucks to roll up and save their – or their kids’ skins in case one of the spots they are squatting in goes up in flames?
    I could go on and on about the common goods that they are consuming even if they don’t realise or admit it.
    Still, I do have some sympathy and understanding for thier goals… however unattainable they may be.
    Could I come even close to this lifestyle? No way man. And I make no apologies for that. We are a VERY wasteful society – at least here in the West – but I think we will get better at this and it is not neccesary to give up everything to do so.

  17. Grouchy – It’s a complicated issue. Though “scavengers” has a negative connotation, they serve an important function.

    Julia – Thanks, I didn’t even catch that. (Oddly, I am now in the mood for an omelette)

    Friar – And the jackals have a very important role in the whole food chain thing. The freegans are keeping a whole lot of stuff out of landfills. A small thing perhaps, but one that does have an impact in many areas. And they’re organized enough that they are able to help others who are out there because they have no other choice — people who are homeless for any variety of reasons. Having a community like this to help them learn how to take care of themselves; a community that will help care for them is a very useful function in a society that does not allocate enough resources to the disenfranchised. And why shouldn’t they expect to receive health care if they’re ill? Or basics like potable water? Or police protection? Are you saying only people with jobs who pay taxes are entitled to these things? Because there are a lot of people in this society who do not “pay taxes” per se, but who, as human beings and Canadians are still entitled to these things. I’m pretty sure that those who are paying the lion’s share of property and income taxes in this country aren’t too happy about subsidizing the benefits people like you and me receive from their contribution either. But hey, that’s what makes us a society and not just a collection of individuals who only get back a percentage of services directly equal to our individual contribution.

    Louise – You DO always bring an interesting twist to the discussion, don’t you? Jesus Christian Freegan Reality Show Wife Swappers. Ha ha ha ha. I think I need to watch more TV. That must have been some crazy-assed show!

    Trashee – See my long, long response to Friar and get back to me. And no, I don’t think I could completely live this lifestyle and I don’t think any reasonable person would expect you or anyone else to do so. I DO live fairly simply now and I think we could all stand to think a little bit harder about some of our purchases and excesses, but deprivation for deprivation’s sake doesn’t make sense.

  18. While it’s mostly moot at this point, I’d just like to add that police would be socially redundant as well if they were to succeed in eliminating crime (to make a sweeping generalization of their job description). There are plenty of occupations/lifestyles that exist simply because we live in an imperfect world: social workers, food bank workers, healthy-living promoters, etc.

    – RG>

  19. On Ripley’s Believe it or not several years ago, there was a story about a man that chucked it all, moved to Mexico and built a plywood island on top of plastic bottles and fishnet. Using a kayak, he then transported sand from the beach to his platform. In the end, he had a 40 x 40 island complete with vegetation, pets, desalination system… truly awesome. This man is my hero and I often daydream about living on floating plastic.

  20. Oh lordy, I’m not a freegan. That is pretty hard core, and I don’t oppose people who choose it, but it’s not really what I’m doing here. I do work, just very occasionally and on a cash/contract basis only.

    I like free food, I prefer to accept whatever seeds someone else isn’t going to use and not be too fussy about which veggies they are. You know, or sell produce at a farmstand and trade whatever melons are left at the end of the market with other vendors there for variety. Help out a friend and allow them to bring us some fresh tuna steaks when they get back in to dock; that sort of thing.

    For the folks who bristle at others making profit from their waste, you need to remember that this has always, always been the way of things. Read here (the first few pages are available online) about the mid-19th century England’s version of ‘freegans’. As long as there is waste of things that still have value, there will be those who re-use and recycle those things and eke out a living from it. It’s fine if this isn’t for you, but it doesn’t convey moral superiority. If you still feel you’re terribly put-upon as the producer of profitable waste, remember that it’s a very tough way to make a living (isn’t that why you don’t do it yourself?) and that not all worthwhile work comes with a W-2.

    I’m not shocked that there’s hostility toward the poor; class warfare is what keeps the fat cats at the top as fat as they are. If you are reading this blog, it’s unlikely that you’re so well-off that playing by the rules the upper-crust in society make and enforce compensates you well enough to defend the status quo.

  21. I remember reading an article in Marie-Claire magazine (the original version from France) quite a while ago about freegans living in New York City. They just seemed like the ultimate recyclers to me, but the people interviewed seemed to take up a lot of ink in the article just to justify their chosen lifestyle. As I recall, they all had real jobs and real apartments (so I guess they’re not “hard-core” freegans like you’re writing about), but they did a lot of dumpster-diving for food and clothing … and a lot of explaining about why what they had chosen to do was “good” and how the way the majority of society lives was “bad”.

    So yes, I think that freegans have some good points. And no, although I could certainly cut down on my consumer consumption (and in fact, do consume less than many of my friends), I do not wish to adopt their way of life. But it takes all kinds to make a world, and I think they do serve a purpose.

  22. I thought they were called “hippies.” I myself can afford most things but I actually enjoy repurposing “junk” into “stuff.” And I love a good bargain. Also since I drive a truck, it is a struggle for me not to pick up junk that people have put out for trash. I have to warn myself that there might be bugs in it. Otherwise I would be all Fred Sanford over here. I’m with you and Jazz on the food, though.

  23. Geewits: whenever I have tried to engage in this here hippie shit, mostly thru freecycle, it has only served to reinforce my general notion that people are a complete and utter pain in the ass and left me with a feeling of freefloating annoyance, not an overwhelming desire to hug the world.

    Forsooth: I put an offer up on freecycle and dozens of people replied DESPERATE to have the item. So I replied to the first one and arranged a time for them to come pick up the item and left it out on my porch. I came home after they were supposed to pick it up and it was still there. So I emailed the next person who wanted it and made arrangements. There was massive confusion about directions (who does not know how to use mapquest in this day and age?) and that fell thru. This got repeated once or twice more until, thoroughly disillusioned with all of humanity, I just threw the damn thing in the trash.

    I’ve done this with 4 orchids which were done blooming and also a bottle of Miralax (hey, that shit is expensive – don’t judge).

    Then as a taker on freecycle, I was going to go get a cat tree someone had left on their porch for me but they emailed to ask me if I had already picked it up. I said no, that I was planning to get it that evening. She said “Oh, well, I guess someone stole it off my porch. Never mind.”

    I mean, it’s a hoot but it does not fill my heart with hippie love.

  24. @XUP

    Oh, Geez. I didn’t mean we shouldn’t provide social services. Yes, we’re all human, and no one should be deprived just because they dont’ pay taxes.

    Just that it annoys me how some people CAN contribute, but won’t. And how people who DO contribute are almost resented.

    Tax freedom day in Canada is around the end of June. Which means that ~50% of what we earn, goes towards tax in some way or another.

    Someone putting in 1800 hours to earn $80K a year, will pay about $40K in taxes. Of which a good chunk ($10,000) will probably go towards social programs or health care.

    But do people get thanked for this? No. Instead, they’re constantly reminded that they’re making too much. And they’re scolded for not giving enough back, or throwing out moldy pizza.

    Meanwhile, the freegans are romanticized, and are smugly perceived as working class heroes, because they dumpster-dive.

    Well, whatever.

    Who knows? When the Apocalypse comes, we might ALL end up being Freegans.

  25. Grouchy – Not moot at all. Your point, though a generalization, is well taken –that we’re all interdependent, right? Without excessive consumerism, freegans wouldn’t exist and without law-breakers, police wouldn’t exist.

    Mayopie –I looked it up! Spiral Island built by eco-pioneer Richart Sowa. It was destroyed by Hurricane Emily in 2005, but he’s built a Spiral Island II. Very cool. The whole story is apparently available in book form – Spiralogically Speaking. I am going to read this book! Thanks.

    Elaine – See my comment to Mayopie. Let’s both read the book!

    Hallie – Ya, I know you’r not a hard-core freegan, but I wanted to point people to your blog by way of illustrating how it’s possible to live a perfectly happy life more or less off the grid. An, as I said in some of my other comments, you’re quite right; different people contribute to society in many different ways – ways that don’t involve paying taxes directly. If a group of people spend a day gathering discarded food products and cooking that food up into a big old pile of hot meals which they then give away on a streetcorner to whoever wants it, feeding perhaps 100 people every week, then they’ve made a significant contribution to their society. They give of their time to feed people, help house people, work for social causes…in many ways time is a much more valuable commodity than a few tax dollars.

    Pinklea – I don’t think they, or anyone else, is trying to say everyone should adopt this lifestyle. I think they would wholeheartedly agree that we need doctors and dentists and builders and farmers and manufacturers and factories, etc., etc., I think mainly they just want people to be more aware of waste and excessive consumption. But I’m speaking generally and I’m sure there are as many different types of “freegans” as there are people living that sort of lifestyle.

    Geewits – I was actually thinking of you reclaiming all that old furniture and other stuff you turn into works of art. I guess hippies had a similar mindset, but they existed before we really started to go crazy with big box stores and throw-away technology and super-sized eating and stuff.

    Elaine – Ya, I’ve had similar issues, but I guess you just have to be Zen about it. Next time place the ad saying you’re going to put the damn thing at the curb at 6:00 pm on Sunday night – whoever gets there first, gets the thing. Much simpler.

    Friar – Ya, I know you and Trashee didn’t actually mean that. And we middle class dupes get shat upon from all sides. But I don’t think anyone but other freegans think of them a heroes. And no one is chastising you for throwing away mouldy pizza. It’s stuff like buying a new cell phone because it’s cooler than last year’s cell phone and just tossing the old one out. Or solitary people driving around in big-assed SUVs in the city when a small car would do. Or buying $500 worth of olives at Costco because they’re there and then figuring out you don’t really like olives, so you chuck ‘em. Yesterday I saw a perfectly good pair of cross-country skis, poles and boots in someone’s garbage in front of their house. And every freakin’ garbage day there are half a dozen sofas and armchairs out in front of the apartment complex in my neighbourhood.

  26. >>Jesus Christian Freegan Reality Show Wife Swappers. Ha ha ha ha. I think I need to watch more TV. <>And the jackals have a very important role in the whole food chain thing. <<

    Very true. But they don't lecture the lions about waste and consumerism while they are scavenging. *That* is what annoys people most, I think. I quite admire people who can adopt a freegan lifestyle, but scavenging doesn't make you morally superior to the consumerist wasters. (I find it somewhat amusing that aunthallie and I are seeing moral superiority, but as demonstrated by opposite "sides". Perhaps there is a little too much smugness all around when it comes to issues like this.)

  27. Darned HTML code. Between “Jesus Christian Freegan Reality Show Wife Swappers. Ha ha ha ha. I think I need to watch more TV.” and “And the jackals have a very important role in the whole food chain thing.” should have been a comment that said that you really should, that you’d also missed an episode about raw foodies that was even scarier.

  28. While I admire people who do this, I don’t think it’s for me. It sounds like a full time job. I’m sure there must be a huge sense of accomplishment finding food that way. I read a blog by an American living in France who does a lot of that. It’s sort of an obession in a way.

  29. Louise – Again, I don’t think it’s all freegans that feel morally superior and lecture the rest of us, just like it’s not all non-freegans who feel smug and superior. But you’re right – it’s annoying when anyone does it: adults lecturing those gosh-darned kids who don’t know how good they have it; to Jehovah Witnesses lecturing everyone about their only hope for eternal life; to exercise fanatics lecturing the couch potato; etc., etc. Live and let live would be a good motto for the most part –unless someone asks and then you can feel free to hold forth…or if you have a blog – then you can blather on at will.

    Linda – It DOES sound like a 24/7 occupation, doesn’t it? I like scrounging around for good deals on clothes and shoes and household stuff. I like clothing exchanges and yard sales and flea markets and auctions and estate sales — you never know what little treasure you can unearth. I would much rather get stuff like that in places like that than in malls or big box stores. But food? No. I like to know where my food has been and I like to be able to pick exactly what I want – not just what’s there.

  30. Helen – Well, apparantly some of them have already been on Wife Swap. So, no – an entire freegan reality show can’t be far behind.

  31. @ Friar – “Just that it annoys me how some people CAN contribute, but won’t. And how people who DO contribute are almost resented.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. ‘CAN contribute’ … what, exactly?

    The backlash resentment you’re referring to (freegan’s disdain for wastefulness) doesn’t carry the same weight as resentment of the freegans’ way of life – or of any other alternatives to our consumer-and-tax based system. However irritating some of them may be in the way they express it, freegans are *responding to* criticism they experience for the differences they express in operating outside that structure, not originating a conflict: Being the ‘contributing member of society’ is seen as morally superior in the popular view, just like being thin is fashionable and favored, and being male and/or white conveys advantages that being fat, female/gay/transgendered or of any color other than white cannot. People who are in an unfavored group often bitch among themselves about the hostility they encounter, and I try not to engage in it myself, but it’s understandable.

    In other words, while resentment these freegans express is not attractive, pretending the disfavor is equal isn’t honest. Knowing nothing else about us other than our employment status, one of us will be favored socially over the other. Let that sink in for a minute. *Knowing nothing else about us* it is assumed that the person with a job is considered superior to the person who hasn’t one. Unless you find yourself at a freegan dinner/campout, in which case you’d be in a rare situation where you were the minority.

    When people object to being seen as ‘less than’ for being unable/unwiling to contribute to what is essentially an unjust and broken system, it’s backlash against constant criticism. It’s important to remember that. It doesn’t mean we’re not contributing. We are contributing, according to values that are important to us rather than values that are important in a consumer-driven class-war model of profiteering.

  32. Hallie – Well said. The funny thing is that reading Friar’s blog, he should be the last person to be defending the established order. Here’s a guy who loves being “one” with nature – fishing, canoeing, hiking, etc., and he hates his job with a passion so strong that he’s willing to give up his lovely rural home and move to the city just so he doesn’t have to work at this soul-sucking place anymore. Everything he says about his workplace is exactly why some people have opted out of that freakshow. I’m really surprised he’s been defending it.

  33. Pingback: imagine « pure drivel

  34. @XUP- a little bitterness can go a surprisingly long way. HAY FRIAR YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS HA HA WE NON-CONTRIBUTORS ARE LAFFIN’ AT U

    [psst! Friar? I’m kidding. I hated everything and everybody for a long, long time. I bitched about anyone who was different than I was, because I was suffering For A Reason! You know, kinda like how dieters get mad at fat people for Being Fat At Them! Who do they think they are, enjoying their food, they should be miserable and counting points like me and all the other ‘good’ weight watchers people, because otherwise we’re just suffering for nothing.}

    But what if some of us *are* suffering for nothing?

    There’s nothing wrong with living under the consumer model and paying for your hot-and-cold-running-everything, if that is what you want to do. It’s your right to be happy with that (or satisfied in your misery, or anything else you want to feel about it). I try to resist the blaming. It doesn’t do any good, me least of all.

  35. If we’re measuring contribution to society through direct contribution to the economy and tax base, wouldn’t a freegan be comparable to a housewife (or whatever PC term you want to use)?

    – RG>

  36. The food is what hangs me up every time too. I actually don’t have a problem with eating throw-away food simply because someone has thrown it away. We waste so much that is perfectly edible! It’s that the stuff that’s thrown away is such crap! lol I’m very picky about what I buy – I tend to support companies that try harder to be more socially conscious.

    The conclusion I’ve come to is this: grow your own!
    I’m not a Vegan – will never be. And I’m pretty sure that if I had the time, I could easily convert even our modest suburban plot into enough of a ranch that I could feed my family. There are things we would go without at some points, but in the end, we would be so much happier!

    Thanks for posting about the “freegans”. I had never heard of that term, either, so I’ll be doing some reading!

  37. omigosh, I missed some really good posts! I looked at that spiral island…that is incredible!

    Also, I’m always surprised at what riles folks up. The story about the freegans made me happy to know they’re out there. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that others would be so irked by them. Jeez, we’re all so different.

  38. Grouchy – Hmmm. I don’t know; housewives, students, children, people on disability, people on welfare, the unemployed, retired people…

    Jessiker – Never say never!! With all the tainted animal products we might not have a choice one day but to all become vegan.

    LoLa – They don’t seem to be hurting anyone and are only using stuff we’ve thrown away anyhow, so what’s t he big deal, right?

  39. Hey you Freegans I Love your way,, I am the guy on the Plastic bottle Ysland,,,Lets make more eco space on planet earth,,,,more oxygen for the Ozone,,,,and share this Gem of a planet,,in LOve, peace and wisdom with all creatures as one Family***

    wishes of cosmic eternal Goodnes to ALL***

  40. Congrats on the Just Post! (I was surprised to get one too this month).

    I’ve never heard of this term either. I have to say, I’m not sure I could live to this extreme. I’m not a terribly big consumer – I try to buy only what we truly need (often from thrift stores) and I love free stuff (am a regular on Freecycle both giving stuff away and taking stuff from others that we can use). But like you, I have become way too picky about what I eat to dumpster dive. I respect it in a way – since so much goes to waste – but I’m not sure I could do it myself. Interesting concept though. Definitely something to chew on (so long as the chewed material is used).

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  44. To the argument a few of you have made about your eating standards being the obstacle to diving for food, I ask whether you’ve ever actually dived before?

    It took me a few tried to get a really good haul, but once I did, I was hooked. Bread, cheese, juice, STILL FROZEN ice cream, perogies, unblemished vegetables, pudding, pastries… all from one dumpster in one night. Often when fruits and vegetables are pre-packaged they just throw the whole package away when one item goes bad…

    Another aspect of this that I haven’t seen mentioned much in this discussion is just how FUN it is to dive. I always walk away with a strong sense of accomplishment and a big grin on my face. Like there’s some hunter-gatherer part of my brain that doesn’t get stimulated normally and loves the opportunity.

    One more thing I like about it is the sense of community around this whole scene. Once I was a bit late getting to a bin I used to frequent and there was someone there before me just finishing up.. I asked if he found anything good and he gave me a bag of these raw chocolate+gogiberry+almond treats… surely one of his better finds. It’s all about sharing, really…