Monday, October 8, 2007

Freeganism - Living off Your Wits Without Wal-Mart

Have you ever wondered if you could live without buying anything? Could you have survived during the Great Depression or during the rationing of WWII? If you're a Freegan, then you know the answer.

A Freegan is a person who lives the concept of the 3R's - reduce, reuse, recycle. My parents generation did this out of necessity. Freegans do it as a way of protest against a capitalist, consumer-driven society.

New York City has the largest organized Freegan group. They rely on for trash collection schedules to plan the best time for dumpster diving. They use to set up feasts in a Freegan's home where they cook and share the foods they collected by foraging through refuse at grocery stores, restaurants, and food chains.

You may think they are risking their health by eating food that others have thrown away. But Freegan's don't feel that way. They see our throw away lifestyle at its worst - or best for them - bins of sealed loaves of bread behind a bakery that cannot be sold the next day, but when opened, fill the air with fresh baked aromas or barrels of unsold fruit in the summer that has to be discarded to make room for the morning shipment.

Freegan's dumpster dive for household items, too. One such event was organized around the move out date at a New York City college. A few dozen people pulled working televisions, IPODS, Stereos, small appliances and furniture from the containers in front of the school. The students in this affluent area will no doubt bring brand new items next year and not even give a second thought to the discarded $150 IPOD.

Freegans recommend lists like, the free section of, thrift shops, church sales, and Freeswaps (gatherings where items are traded, no money exchanges hands) to furnish your house and cloth your body.

They avoid stores and buy nothing unless it's absolutely necessary. If they have a motto it would be this, copied from -

Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.

It's extreme, I know, and most of us could not and would not choose to eat food rescued from a trash bin. But still, I think there is something to be learned from Freegans.

In a time when our planet is crying out in pain, anything we can do to help is better than nothing. Try reducing your carbon footprint by growing your own food - at least a pot of tomatoes. Buy one pair of new winter shoes instead of four. Eat the leftovers in your refrigerator instead of throwing them out. Check out the local thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. You never know what you will find. And next time you make a purchase, ask yourself a few simple questions - Do I really NEED this new thing? Will I even want it or care about it in six months? Can I fix the one I already have?

Go Freegan if it suits the radical in you or give Freegan-lite a try. You might find that you save money and live less encumbered and healthier. Listen as our planet breaths a sigh of relief.


Mr. Grudge said...

I've heard of the Freegans. Your article shed more light on them. What a creative and industrious group!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Mr. Grudge,

Freeganism is a little extreme for me but I like what they stand for and admire them for stepping out for their cause. I could certainly learn how to be less wasteful.

Best Wishes,

Lynda Lehmann said...

I agree that this approach is a little extreme, but the extreme sheds light on the destructive status quo. Short of picking up garbage, we can all do a lot to consume less and waste less. Small things like recycling grocery bags; eating the leftovers; starting swaps at interests groups (artists can exchange tubes of paint, plant lovers can trade houseplants, book lovers, etc....); turning down the hot water temperature and the heat, etc. Why do we always have to wait until we're in crisis and then blame the next guy/country instead of ourselves?

Interesting post, Lisa!

Lisa McGlaun said...


Amen! That's exactly why I wanted to profile this group. I think they are radical and still they are on to something important.

And the blame game, we all seem to love to play it. Would be nice if we didn't, wouldn't it?

Thanks and Hugs,