There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Adam Weissman crouches on a city street, his hands buried in a
large plastic garbage bag while eyeing a neighboring black
container bulging with food. This isn’t another image of urban
homelessness. This is freeganism, a lifestyle founded on recovering
perfectly good ‘trash’ via ‘Dumpster diving’ or ‘urban foraging,’
instead of spending hard-earned paychecks on the same products in

‘Simply put,’
Weissman says
in an interview with Satya
, ‘freegans seek to prevent
waste by reclaiming, recovering, and repairing available resources
rather than generate new profit.’

For those too squeamish to dig through bags of waste for free
loot, Weissman recommends shopping in the aptly-named ‘Free Stores’
and ‘Really Really Free Markets,’ or logging onto websites like
Freecycle and
craigslist, where users
alert one another to items they’re willing to give away, and post
notices asking for things they want.

But freeganism — the moniker combines ‘free’ with ‘veganism’ —
isn’t just a strategy to acquire goods without cracking open your
wallet. According to the website,
freeganism developed as a backlash against ‘egregious corporations’
that violate human rights, devastate the environment, and abuse
animals. When environmentalists realized they couldn’t escape
supporting these harmful actions every time they made a purchase,
they decided to boycott the entire economic system.

In doing so, ‘Freegans are building a culture where people
voluntarily help and share with one another rather than competing
for resources,’ Weissman says. These socially-minded initiatives
include ‘finding abandoned, decrepit buildings and restoring them
into homes and community centers for low-income families,’
converting ‘garbage-strewn abandoned lots into beautiful garden
plots amidst the asphalt and concrete of urban neighborhoods,’ or
simply riding bikes and utilizing restaurant grease as an
alternative fuel source in converted diesel engines.

As for finding food, Weissman recognizes that not everyone is
willing to alter their lifestyles to the point where they eagerly
wade through chest-high heaps of garbage. And that’s OK. ‘Our focus
is far more on building a new and more sustainable culture from the
ground up than it is on micromanaging the lifestyle choices of
individuals. … It’s much easier to get people to want to make
positive changes if we make them feel welcome as they are, rather
than having to constantly worry if they will be judged for not
being ‘freegan enough.”

Go there >>
It’s Not That
Gross! Freeganism and the Art of Dumpster Diving

Go there too >>

Related Links from the Utne

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.