Freeganism revisited


Last year I posted about Freeganism and since then, a number of people have contacted me for more information about it (mainly journalists). I really don’t have much information beyond what I’ve posted, but since there seems to be an interest about the ultimate in anti-consumerism, I figured I’d pass along Why Freegan: An Attack on Consumption, In Defense of Donuts. I can’t say I’ll be digging through the trash for food anytime soon, but you’ve gotta at least respect these folks for truly living what they believe in, not many people can really say they do.

10 Responses to “Freeganism revisited”

  1. bigoldgeek

    I understand the theory here, but I don’t think it’s wise to encourage dumpster diving. I’d be very curious to see how long these “Freegans” avoid food-borne illness and just how long they live overall. It’s OK to consume a little. You have as much right as a monkey to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
    Besides, ever smell a dumpster behind a restaurant in summer? No thanks.

  2. Ben

    Seconded; I would have thought that at least part of the point of their lifestyle is to promote anti-consumerism to others. (Or if it isn’t, I would argue that it should be.) Living out of trash is probably not the most genius way to promote anything.

  3. Adam Weissman

    I’ll be doing an interview Friday, March 24 at 8:30 am (Eastern) on dumpster diving as a means of reducing personal consumption and as an act of resistance again the waste and destruction that define our mass-consumption culture. I’ll be talking about the practice of recovering usable goods and about how our economic system commodifies the lives of humans, animals, and the earth, viewing them as little more than means to economic ends, and resulting in atrocities like rainforest clearcutting, factory farming, and forced child labor.

    Folks are encouraged to call in to the show at (973) 839-1500.

    If you are unfamiliar with dumpster diving and “freeganism, ” read on…

    Civilization and particularly capitalism have reduced all things to commodities to be bought and sold. Civilization views people, animals, and the earth in economic terms, assessing their value as they relate to profit margins and not appreciating their intrinsic and interdependent value beyond monetary worth.

    Our civilization is a mass collective state of denial of the unavoidable reality that it is dooming itself and much of the rest of life on the planet in the process. As our populations expand globally, as we laud mass overconsumption as” economic growth,” and the destruction of wilderness as “progress,” we come closer an closer to reaching the carrying capacity of this planet that we are choking the life out of. Already millions of humans die of starvation. Already countless animal die as a result of the destruction of their native ecosystems– forests cleared for timber or
    cattle grazing land, mighty rivers dammed, fertile plains turned to deserts through punishing agriculture. Already people set the Earth and her inhabitants of all species ablaze as oil barons and their pawns in government seek to expand their hegemony through imperialist wars.
    Already animals are treated as living machines in factory farms — not chickens, but “egg-laying units,” fractions of statistics on a balance sheet viewed little differently than the workers who handle them, poor people of color who enjoy species privilege allowing them to not be the slaughtered, but lacking race, class, and often gender privilege are nonetheless subjected to miserable conditions, poor wages, long hours, sexual harassment, and little job security. These most miserably exploited of w orkers are reviled and scorned by those when enjoy one degree more privilege than them, the white working class, fed a diet of right wing propaganda by their masters, taught to not question the master, but to blame immigrant workers and mothers of color for their economic hardship and the emptiness of their lives.

    It is that very emptiness that the charltans called televangelists and pornographers and marketing executives and military recruiters and racist and anti-gay hate mongers seeks to exploit, offering sex and control and power and toys and rage and someone to blame. But their remedy is like sugar candy– it may look good on the surface, it may taste sweet, but it offers no real fulfillment. For this emptiness, shared even by those at the upper strata of political and economic power, is the emptiness of an animal far from home separated from family and community, detached from a history of eons as beings who lived as kin with all life, as part of an ancient and eternal tapestry of life. We hear faintly the call of that which we were part of, of that which we were, and maybe can be again.
    But rather than answering it, we seek to silence it, drugged or boob tubed into a stupor perverting our interactions with the wild with dominance rituals like hunting, trapping, and fishing, and relishing and suspiciously guarding our own privilege and status by applying the boot fiercely to the next one down– the Irish cop who brutalizes Latino youth, the son of a Holocaust survivor who orders the bombing of a Palestinian home, the immigrant worker who find entertainment in cockfighting.

    Freegans say, enough of this. We want no part. We reject it all– the drive for status, the lust for wealth, the sense of power and accomplishment from the purchase of needless commodities. We provide for our needs without feeding the monster. In a system inextricable from oppression, our jobs will ultimately harm others, the money we spend will be cycled into an economy that harms others. This is inevitable because it is this cutting of corners of consideration for others, this margin sliced out of equal sharing to provide for need that defines profit, that fuels this economic system.

    We view the commodities being marketed to us and see them for what they are– misery and suffering well like and given a clean coat of paint. In the most seeingly innocuous things we see dark and unspoken and unremembered truths. A pair of leather Nike shoes is a terrified cow, nostrils filled with the acrid stench of blood and dying, helpless in the knowledge that she is next, is a terrified teenage sweatshop worker who knows that standing up for basic dignity, challenging the toil and cruelty and starvation will mean firing and even greater starvation and hardship;

    We look askance even at those “products” sold to us as “socially responsible.” While others look at a “Tofu Pup” and view it as “guilt-free because it does not contain the flesh of animals, we recognize that the product is never made profitable from only one form of oppression, for capitalism NEVER considers the impact of its heavy hand– conservative in the cutting of economic cost, the corporation NEVER seeks to reign in its social and ecological cost– unless there’s money in it. And so, the freegan goes further than the vegan, noticing the plastic the pups are wrapped in, and thinking of fish and birds asphyxiating in slicks of oil in seas turned black with spilled crude; The freegan sees the cardstock wrapper of the pup and things of the serene forest that stood, home to multitudes of living beings, erased from the future through economically efficient “liquidation logging,:” The freegan looks at the white color of the cardstock and thinks of the millions of tons of carcinogenic organochlorides invading waterways, contaminating living flesh after their chlorine component has served its function as bleach. The freegan remembers the deer shot, and the insect poisoned for having the audacity to eat crops growing on lands that used to be their habitat, crops that will be transformed into the pup’s “natural ingredients.” The freegan remembers the snake and worm and vole crushed by the machinery that makes industrial agriculture efficient and profitable. The freegan remembers the fish choking to death in deoxygenated water in a lake where nitrogen fertilizer runoff from the farm has caused an algal bloom. The fregan remembers the farm worker, underpaid, overworked, sending funds home to a country impoverished through imperialism by a government serving the interests of the wealthy corporate elite who could their earnings as they consider acquiring a mid-sized company making tofu hot dogs. The freegan remembers the forest that one stood on lands now controlled, lands only allowed to grow soybeans.

    And the freegan knows that this system cannot be shaken at its roots by spending our dollars in one store or another, by buying one product or the next, by voting for one corporate-backed political candidate or another.

    No, the infection runs too deep, the sickness as old as civilization itself– as old as the first group of men who chose to assert dominance and power and violent control through the ritual of the hunt, as old as the control and domination and shaping of lives through husbandry and agriculture, as old as the idea that anything on this earth can be owned by one rather than shared by many, as old as the idea that living beings and slivers of the earth can be owned at all.

    We want no part of this civilization, other than to take part in its destruction, to tear down the barbed wire of its laws, the stone edifices of its economic precepts, to break the chains of its ideologies.

    We harken back to older ways, ways where people lived as foragers off the bounty of the earth, participants, not masters in the continuum of life. We remember our nomadic, foraging ancestors. Seeing the cities and suburbs that have replaced the wild, we, too forage, recovering the massive quantities of usable goods wasted by a profligate society that values artifice and image over substance and value, a culture that views mass production of waste as merely another opportunity for profit through garbage disposal.

    So the freegan rescues capitalism’s castoffs from the jaws of the garbage truck compactor, defying capitalisms definitions of what is valuable and what is worthless, refusing to let price tags and shelving displays fool us into overlooking the castoff bounty. And while the freegan can enjoy the liberty of indulgence in these goods, she is also mindful to never be too charmed by their alure to forget their history and to remember the ravages of the culture that produced them. The freegan seeks to avoid developing the lust for commodities acquistion of the shopper, even when the good are free.

    The freegan liberates not only goods, but also the moments of our lives. Hours not spend carrying our the hollow directives of bosses are instead spend free, for we need not make money to acquire goods that we won’t buy, are instead spent directly acquiring the things we want or need, enjoying our time, or working to create another world.

    For we believe ultimately, that our consumption practice, while important, and even revolutionary if practices en masse, must only be one small thread as we weave the fabric of a new society as we work to rend the garment of the old.

    We envision and strive to create a world where humanity recognizes that all sentient beings have the right to live their lives on their own terms in appropriate ecosystems, a world where people in recognize kinship and solidarity with all life, recognize that the earth, the home we share must be respected for the benefit of all of its inhabitants, a world where people rejects the arbitrary boundaries that have been used as justifications for oppressions– boundaries of species, boundaries of race, boundaries of gender, boundaries of sexual orientation, and boundaries of age

    We believe another world is possible because another world is necessary– because too much suffering has transpired for too long, and more awaits unless we change course. And while we may not know the specific series of steps that can create this kind of change, we seek to live lives consistent with our beliefs, minimizing our harm to others while seeking to help, heal, and enrich wherever we can.

    In truth freeganism is seeing– it is seeing beauty and value in that which is ignored, seeing horror behind the lies of the powerful, and seeing an enduring vision of hope for a world alive, flourishing, and free.

    Free the trash!

  4. Lynn

    I am a magazine journalism major at Ohio University. I am working on a story about Freeganism, the philosophy behind it, and the individuals who incorporate this philosophy into their lifestyle. I will be submitting the story for publication in a magazine. I was wondering if there was anyone I could contact to find out more information about the topic. Thank you so much.
    [email protected]

  5. Vili

    Hi! i’m a almost 16 year old kid from Croatia and i would like to contact some people,maybe my age, to ask for advice how i can activate myself or others in this topic,and ,of course, it’s not just A topic, it’s The topic

  6. Fromchina

    For most of Chinese, many behaviours of Americans are fashionable and strange. But not like this one, freegans. In China, only the beggar and homeless scavenge food from garbage bins or dumpsters.Will freeganism be popular in China ?

    want to know China more, contact me at :
    traveller–[email protected]

  7. Richard

    Bigoldgeek and Ben were wondering about how long you could be a Freegan before getting ill – the guy in this interview’s been doing it for 5 years and the only time he got ill was when he broke tradition and went to a restaurant (through the front door).

    Go figure

  8. ashwyn

    Thanks richard for that post. I’ve been living as a freegan for about 2 1/2 years now also, and I know the guy who did that interview. I just want to respond to the comments from ben and bigoldgeek, although perhaps enough has already been said.

    It certainly isn’t a health risk to be using the wated food that just happens to have been put in a dumpster. Although it may be reasonable to assume at first mention of it that there must be something wrong with the food, that is not the case. Let us not forget that food that is in the bin was on the shelves sometimes just a matter of minutes beforehand. There are numerous reasons for throwing something out, and most of them are cosmetic. Besides, aren’t we as humans smart enough to tell when food is off? If you buy something from a shop, there comes a point where you an no longer eat it, and most people are capable of judging that. Why should it be any different just because it is from a bin?


  9. Debs

    I would like to contact some freegans to find out how I can become one, I live in London.

  10. Nicolette

    I have been a freegan for years now, and similarly to the story mentioned above, I have only ever gotten sick from food I bought at a restaurant, never from food I found in the trash.

    I think many people assume that they food you find must be expired or at least partially. The most eye-opening experience for every beginning dumpster diver, is that the majority of the food is perfect, mold-free, rot-free, often vacuum packed and or not even close to expiration.

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