Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.
After years of trying to boycott products from egregious corporations responsible for human rights violations, environmental destruction, and animal abuse, many of us found that no matter what we bought we ended up supporting something deplorable. We came to realize that the problem isn't just a few bad corporations but the entire system itself.
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.
The word freegan is derived from "free" and "vegan". Vegans are people who avoid products from animal sources or products tested on animals in an effort to avoid harming animals. Freegans take this a step further by recognizing that in a complex, industrial, mass-production economy driven by profit, abuses of humans, animals, and the earth abound at all levels of production (from acquisition to raw materials to production to transportation ) and in just about every product we buy. Sweatshop labor, rainforest destruction, global warming, displacement of indigenous communities, air and water pollution, eradication of wildlife on farmland as "pests", the violent overthrow of popularly elected governments to maintain puppet dictators compliant to big business interests, open-pit strip mining, oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, union busting, child slavery, and payoffs to repressive regimes are just some of the many impacts of the seemingly innocuous consumer products we consume every day.
Freegans employ a range of strategies for practical living based on our principles:
Perhaps the most notorious freegan strategy is what is commonly called "urban foraging" or "dumpster diving". This technique involves rummaging through the garbage of retailers, residences, offices, and other facilities for useful goods. Despite our society's sterotypes about garbage, the goods recovered by freegans are safe, useable, clean, and in perfect or near-perfect condition, a symptom of a throwaway culture that encourages us to constantly replace our older goods with newer ones, and where retailers plan high-volume product disposal as part of their economic model. Some urban foragers go at it alone, others dive in groups, but we always share the discoveries openly with one another and with anyone along the way who wants them. Groups like Food Not Bombs recover foods that would otherwise go to waste and use them to prepare meals to share in public places with anyone who wishes to partake.
By recovering the discards of retailers, offices, schools, homes, hotels, or anywhere by rummaging through their trash bins, dumpsters, and trash bags, freegans are able to obtain food, beverages, books, toiletries magazines, comic books, newspapers, videos, kitchenware, appliances, music (CDs, cassettes, records, etc.), carpets, musical instruments, clothing, rollerblades, scooters, furniture, vitamins, electronics, animal care products, games, toys, bicycles, artwork, and just about any other type of consumer good. Rather than contributing to further waste, freegans curtail garbage and pollution and lessening the over-all volume in the waste stream.
Lots of used items can also be found for free or shared with others on websites like Freecycle and in the free section of your local Craigslist . To dispose of useful materials check out the EPA's Materials and Waste Exchanges directory. In communities around the country, people are holding events like "Really, Really, Free Markets" and "Freemeets". These events are akin to flea markets with free items. People bring items to share with others. They give and take but not a dollar is exchanged. When freegans do need to buy, we buy second-hand goods which reduces production and supports reusing and reducing what would have been wasted without providing any additional funds for new production.
Some freegans find at least some use of cars unavoidable so we try to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels by using cars with desiel engines converted to run on “greisel” or "veggie-oil" literally fueling our cars with used fryer oil from restaurants - another example of diverting waste for practical use. Volunteer groups are forming everywhere to assist people in converting diesel engines to run on vegetable oil.
Squatters are people who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned, decrepit buildings. Most squatters are freegan. Squatters believe that real human needs are more important than abstract notions of private property, and that those who hold deed to buildings but won't allow people to live in them, even in places where housing is vitally needed, don't deserve to own those buildings. 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.
Many urban ecologists have been turning garbage-filled abandoned lots into verdant community garden plots. In neighborhoods where stores are more likely to carry junk food than fresh greens, community gardens provide a health food source. Where the air is choked with asthma inducing pollutants, the trees in community gardens produce oxygen. In landscapes dominated by brick, concrete, and asphalt, community gardens provide an oasis of plants, open spaces, and places for communities to come together, work together, share food, grow together, and break down the barriers that keep people apart in a society where we have all become too isolated from one another.
Wild foragers demonstrate that we can feed ourselves without supermarkets and treat our illnesses without pharmacies by familiarizing ourselves with the edible and medicinal plants growing all around us. Even city parks can yield useful foods and medicines, giving us a renewed appreciation of the reality that our sustenance comes ultimately not from corporate food producers, but from the Earth itself. Others take the foraging lifestyle even farther, removing themselves from urban and suburban concepts and attempting to "go feral" by building communities in the wilderness based on primitive survival skills.
Working Less / Voluntary Joblessness
Once we realize that it's not a few bad products or a few egregious companies responsible for the social and ecological abuses in our world but rather the entire system we are working in, we begin to realize that, as workers, we are cogs in a machine of violence, death, exploitation, and destruction. Is the retail clerk who rings up a cut of veal any less responsible for the cruelty of factory farming than the farm worker? What about the ad designer who finds ways to make the product palatable? How about the accountant who does the grocery's books and allows it to stay in business? Or the worker in the factory that manufacturers refrigerator cases? And, of course, the high level managers of the corporations bear the greatest responsibility of all for they make the decisions which causes the destruction and waste. You don't have to own stock in a corporation or own a factory or chemical plant to be held to blame.
By accounting for these basic necessities like food, clothing, housing, furniture, and transportation without spending a dime, freegans are able to greatly reduce or altogether eliminate the need to constantly be employed. We can instead devote our time to caring for our families, volunteering in our communities, and joining activist groups to fight the practices of the corporations who would otherwise be bossing us around at work. For some, total unemployment isn't an option — it's far harder to find free dental surgery than a free bookcase on the curb — but by limiting our financial needs, even those of us who need to work can place conscious limits on how much we work, take control of our lives, and escape the constant pressure to make ends meet. But even if we must work, we need not cede total control to the bosses. The freegan spirit of cooperative empowerment can be extended into the workplace as part of worker-led unions like the Industrial Workers of the World .
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Freeganism is a lifestyle based around the belief that almost all work and monetary exchanges within a capitalist economy contribute to a myriad of forms of exploitation --worker abuse, animal exploitation, hunger , ecological destruction , mass incarceration, war , inequitable distribution of resources, commodification of women--almost all issues addressed by social, ecological, and animal rights advocacy groups.
The word freegan is derived from the words "free" and "vegan," and is derived from the observation that even a vegan lifestyle is not free of exploitation. A product's veganism does not guarantee, for example, that workers were not exploited in the product's production, that toxic pesticides were not used in its growing, that massive amounts of petroleum were not used in its production and shipping, that prison labor was not used, that rainforests were not cleared to generate planation land, that wildlife was not harmed in its production, or that it is not packaged wastefully.
Freegans argue that people sincerely committed to living the "cruelty-free" lifestyle espoused by vegans must strive to abstain not only from eating, wearing, and using animal skins, secretions, flesh, and animal tested products, but must strive to the greatest degree possible to remove themselves from participation in the capitalist economy altogether as workers and consumers.
In contrast to veganism, which has a very clear-cut list of "dos" and "don'ts", freeganism functions more as a philosophy , a range of living strategies, a community, a culture, and an ideal, than a set of rules. Freegans recognize that because freeganism is far more expansive than veganism, while it is fairly easy to completely adhere to the traditionally defined "rules" of veganism, it is almost impossible to be freegan in all ways at all times. Freegans focus less on individual purity and more on building collective projects to facilitate freegan living strategies.
Many freegans are anarchists and identify with libertarian communist ideals of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, and place a strong emphasis on forging socially and ecologically sustainable and egalitarian communities.
There is some confusion as to what constitute freegan practices, and numerous misconceptions. This has been exacerbated by a range of mainstream media stories that have generated an unprecendented amount of public attention to freeganism, but with a focus generally limited to " dumpster diving for food", a common freegan practice, but one among many defining practices of freeganism.
Even the pamphlet "Why Freegan", the nearest thing to a freegan movement "bible" is confusing in defining what exactly constitutes freeganism. On the one hand it defines freeganism as an "an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating," and goes on to describe practices including dumpster diving, plate scraping, wild foraging , gardening , shoplifting , employee scams , and barter as alternatives to paying for food .
Yet the pamphlet goes on to include a lengthy section on non-food related practices, including using solar energy , conserving water , carlessness, and reusing goods. This has created some disagreement as to whether these non-food practices are components of the freegan ethic, or are simply compatible practices with freeganism. Freegans rarely give serious concern to semantical hair-splitting, and such questions are largely irrelevant since most freegans also employ some or all of these non-food practices regardless of whether or not they fall under the "freegan" label.
Many freegans get free food by pulling it out of the trash, a practice commonly nicknamed dumpster diving in North America or skipping in the U.K. Freegans find ample amounts of clean, edible food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores , and other food-related industries, and this allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit the world's resources, contribute to urban sprawl , treat workers unfairly, or disregard animal rights . By foraging, they prevent edible food from contributing to landfills and sometimes feed people and animals who might otherwise go hungry. Many freegans claim that they are able to eat very well, and even avoid paying for food altogether, due to this practice. Many vegan dumpster divers come to embrace freeganism in order to utilize more of the thrown-out food they find, which would otherwise be needlessly wasted.
Some freegans, sometimes called "meagans", consume meat and other animal products as long as they would otherwise be wasted; others are strict vegans. Meagans argue that since that even seemingly benign products are produced exploitatively under captialism, there is nothing "pure" about a vegan diet. Since captalism is fueled by the exchange of capital, using wasted goods creates no further demand for production. Meagans see using wasted animal products not as supporting animal slaughter and exploitation, but rather as diverting waste from landfills. Some even argue that allowing animal corpses to end up in landfills shows disrespect for animals lives, and that they should at least ensure that their bodies remain part of the food chain and that their deaths weren't in vain by serving as food rather than as waste. Many vegan freegans do not in principle disagree with this argument, but, coming from vegan backgrounds, consider animal products unhealthy, and unappetizing.
Some pro-shopping vegans feel that the freeganism is inherently unsustainable because: it does not economically support non-animal alternatives; it avoids making an explicit statement about food of animal origin; and it presents difficulty in determining the 'freeness' of food, ie. food taken without permission from a buffet table may be free to the recipient, but it has the potential to create a shortage for others attending the buffet who might later fulfill their food needs by purchasing animal-based food. A common derogatory term for freegans is "Opportunivore".
Freegans argue that this view represents a fundamental misunderstanding of a key concern of freegans--that freegan consumption not drive further demand for the purchase of additional products. For example, some freegans argue that shoplifting is not truly freegan because it runs the risk of encouraging stores to order more products to replace stolen goods, thus driving increased demand. To freegans, it is not enough to simply "get something for free", but rather that their consumption not inject more dollars into the capitalist economy. Proxying payment to someone else and in the process generating income for exploitative producers would not be considered freegan.
Other vegans feel that freeganism is ethically sound, but is too "extreme" to appeal to most people, and may even alienate people by extension from less radical practices like veganism.
Food Not Bombs is an organization based widely on freegan principles.
Why Freegan Koala, Publication date unknown. (Added to the Internet February 2002) URL accessed June 5 2006
'Freegans' choose to eat garbage Tucker Carlson, MSNBC, February 3 2006 URL accessed February 24 2006
"Freegan" Dumpster Diving Reveals America's Colossal Waste of Food Nicole Bergot, Newsday, September 29 2004 URL accessed February 24 2006
Rubbish meals a gourmet treat for freegan diners Richard Luscombe, The Scotsman, November 25 2005 URL accessed February 24 2006