Freeganism – Extreme Frugality or Extremely Crazy

dumpster_freegan_bagels

You are probably asking yourself what is Freeganism. Freeganism is an extreme form of activism against waste and over consumption. Freegans try not to participate in the “regular” economy and minimize their use of resources. What this actually entails may appeal to you or appall you either way it is rather interesting. The core concepts of the freegan life include a truly anti-capitalism life of sharing, squatting, working less, and foraging.

Sharing

This of course isn’t limited to the freegan lifestyle. But freegans take special care to minimize the amount of participation in the economy by sharing goods, space, food, and services.

This is a great method of reducing consumption we can all take on. As a neighborhood we already practice this. I have an extension ladder that has hit most of the roofs in this neighborhood. I don’t mind because each of my neighbors has something I might need one day.

Squatting

Why pay for a place to live? There are all kinds of free places to live out there, may not be safe, clean, or habitable but they are free. The idea here is that by not paying you are staying out of the economy, being “frugal”, and making use of an otherwise useless resource.

Working less, or not at all

The man is just trying to keep you down, don’t let him work less or not at all. All that money supports the capital markets, besides what do you need all that money for if you aren’t buying anything. Freegan’s believe in consuming less, reusing, and not supporting capitalism. Working is keeping up the machine

Foraging

This is where it gets crazy. A big part of the freegan lifestyle is avoiding capitalism by not buying anything. This includes food. Where does one get food if they aren’t willing to pay for it? The garbage sir, the garbage.

Freegans, forage for food. Some do research and forage for food in the wild, which is extreme but not crazy. Others do some urban foraging, in dumpsters. The amount of food people throw away is astounding, a good bit of that food is probably still edible. Freegans will hit the dumpsters up for anything we leave behind, brush it off, and eat it. They actually go so far as to say you should physically damage trash compactors so they don’t damage your potential bounty.

The freegans aren’t completely crazy, they take frugality to the extremes to try to “boycott” capitalism and have less of an impact on the environment. Some of the practices they advocate are illegal, like squatting, and some them are probably less than healthy, like getting your food from the garbage. Other practices are great for everyone, like reducing your consumption of new products and using services like freecycle to share your old goods for free. What do you think about it? Crazy or not?

Photo: (hippiepeace)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ctreit October 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm

My daughter is big time into Freeganism. Sometimes I am the beneficiary, too, since she drops off some of her findings when she finds just too much. For example, we all love the ripe avocados many supermarkets throw out. She keeps 5 herself and gives me 5, since these avocados need to be eaten quickly. Always delicious. – Amazing how much waster there is, especially in light of hunger right here in the good old USA.

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2 Little House October 1, 2009 at 7:21 pm

I can see where reducing your consumption, reusing and recycling are great things to do, but I have to say that Freeganism is taking it a bit far. I’ve read about this on other blogs, specifically No Impact Man the year he was trying to be as eco-conscious as possible, and I do think there are some lessons to be learned. However, dumpster diving is pushing the limit.

Some things I’m curious about is how Freegans take care of basic health necessities. Such as food poisoning due to spoiled food? Hypothermia sleeping in freezing temperatures? Or, heat stroke living in very hot desert areas over the summer? Are Freegans just another term for homeless?

Just curious-
Little House

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3 MLR October 2, 2009 at 5:03 am

I think your stance on their views towards work is a little condescending. I think they have the right idea: If you cut consumption 90%, you can cut the amount of work you need to do 90%. We all strive for that. Isn’t that what retirement is? Cut back now so we can save and eventually retire and continue to consume at sustainable levels. They just cut back work as they are cutting back expenses. To each his own.

As far as the dumpster diving is concerned, I don’t think that’s too crazy. If I order a full meal at Outback and then send it back because it was overcooked, the restaurant has to throw it away. People I know who lived this lifestyle just befriended restaurant workers and would get mad leftovers. Some stores are actually “freegan” friendly and will put their “trash” food (day old bagels? “not ripe” fruit?) in a separate container on top of the dumpster.

Props to whoever does it!

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4 Kyle October 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

I didn’t see my views as condescending, and retirement to me is not eating out of garbage cans so I don’t have to work. If that is what fits your bill as retirement, why wait? The freegans have proven that by living in a building owned by someone else, and eating the food someone else paid for you to could retire early.

In all honesty, if someone wants to eat my garbage feel free. If you work out a deal with a bagel shop to get their day old bagels, awesome. But better yet, why not find a way to help people who are actually starving as opposed to feigning activism by digging through the trash.

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5 Perry Santanachote October 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I went on a freegan trash tour last week. Check out the video and interviews I posted and see if you still feel the same way:

http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/interactive2010/2009/10/17/let-freegan-ring/

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6 Kyle October 18, 2009 at 10:34 pm

I commend anyone willing to go to the levels the freegans go to, I am not going there though. There are parts of the freegan lifestyle everyone can use, like reducing consumption and reusing where appropriate. Great link although I found the short interviews more interesting than the video of people digging through the trash.

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7 wendy October 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

The only thing I get when I work too hard is money and STRESS which has cost me thousands in Dr. tests just to find out its due to stress. Ive had lean times yrs ago, and guess what, no phone, no one bugging me, few possessions, less to care for, etc. it goes on and on, some of my simpeler times were the most carefree and fun times, very stressless. I did lots of dumpster diving, found great gourmet foods every day at hollywood mkt. I fed many neighbors, and stray animals, and all my pets good meat almost every day. When you get 1-3 big boxes of fresh meat a day from a store known for fresh meat, storage bacame a problem, so I used an old van in the winter as a giat freezer. My home always smelled good and several chickens might be in the oven, or great fish on ice right from the store, or shishkabobs. The neighbors started to cop an attitude because all my fat dogs (Several plus all the neighborhood strays in the inner city I lived in)where eating so good and these people ate no where as good as the animals I came in contact with. SO……I HAD TO SHARE WITH THE PEOPLE! It was great fun and saved me money on the entertainment side also, because there was the thrill of the catch which was exciting.

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8 Ben November 1, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I find your dislike of capitalism to be kinda funny. Your not against the system your bumming off of it

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9 Mike Piper November 1, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Honestly, I think freeganism is great. I had a number of friends who did it in college. They’d come back with produce that was still quite fresh and still in the cling wrap. To the best of my knowledge, none of them ever got sick from it.

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10 Mike August 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm

That’s the problem. You only find out if you’re going to be sick until you actually are sick. If you purchase your food instead of taking it from dumpsters, you have a better chance it’s still good. Food safety is simply too important.

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11 RT November 1, 2009 at 9:31 pm

There doesn’t seem to be much difference between “freeganism” and being a bum by choice. It is basically saying “hey I don’t wanna work anymore, so I am gonna find someplace to camp out for a while and eat out of the fucking dumpster like an animal.” What the hell? Why would anyone want to do this by choice? Quit being weirdo hippies, get a haircut, go to work, and support yourselves and your families like you should. BTW I am neither a Republican nor Democrat, and I am an atheist so you can’t blame religion or political views. It’s just common fucking sense.

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12 Amber October 31, 2012 at 2:16 am

I somewhat agree. It is not about political views or religion. But I don’t believe it is about what they state is “against consumerism” either. It comes down to being selfish and not wanting to pay for food. Squatting, I am completely against. Housing is not a right unless you build the house yourself. So taking up space in property that you did not work, or pay for is just plain greed. I tried dumpster diving for food but found it was easier and safer to grow my own. I do sometimes find furniture that I’m able to fix up and look beautiful. All my furniture is garbage day items left by the curb or inherited. I take pride in my craftsmanship and every piece of decor and furnishings I own that will last for many years and stay out of the landfills.

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13 Cherm November 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I was recently working behind a shopping center near downtown Knoxville, (off broadway) and was blown away by how many people I saw drive up in a car or ride a bike, and look in the dumpsters for “good” trash. I could only laugh. To top it off it was a rainy day. I would guess 8 different times I saw this in a 4 hour period.
The Family Dollar was a busy dumpster as well as the Save a Lot. My favorite was the girlfriend boyfriend trash duo that dumpster dived for anything metal. They tag teamed every dumpster looking for metal to scrap. He was in the dumpster as I was throwing out old galvinized sewage pipes I just replaced, I had to say “here is some “good” trash.” I provided him a golden egg and had no idea. Wow.

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14 Tessie Humble February 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I live in the UK and I live a fairly freegan lifestyle. Squatting here is not illegal I’d like to make clear. I am studying full-time, I have 2 part time jobs and I volunteer once a week. I am certainly not lazy. I simply don’t want to pay for food in particular that I don’t need to. The wasterfactor especially disgusts me. 2 of my friends went skipping (bin diving) last week and came back with a table food of fine food, including countless bags of cookies and 2 big chocolate cakes, we had a feast! And I have never been ill because of it. It’s sad that some people can’t trust their senses-smell, taste, to tell if food is off and need a date printed on in a supermarket to tell them so.
Eat well, eat free, be merry

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