Friday, May 18, 2007

Urban Foraging (or, Welcome to Freegan-ville)


I've known about freegans for some time, and decided to post about them based on a conversation I had yesterday. Here's a definition of freeganism:

"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 made of free + vegan. Veganism isn't the central tenet of freeganism, but it does make the word freegan catchy. I also love their term for dumpster diving: urban foraging. Although it's probably the last thing s/he would do, I think the person who coined this term should write real estate advertisements ("Rustic, character-filled home in up-and-coming neighborhood...").

The person I was talking to yesterday said he used to be vegan but would eat meat once in a while, if it was free. According to this glossay of freegan terms, this makes him a meagan.

I wonder how healthy your average freegan is. Not because they might be eating contaminated food (I think packaged food from a dumpster has only a negligibly higher chance of being unsafe), but because it seems it would be hard to get a balanced free diet. I suppose the key is to do the rounds on several dumpsters to find a variety of foods.

In NYC, it seems that Freeganism is acceptable enough to enable hosting a Freegan dinner party:
"On the menu at one recent freegan dinner party at an upmarket Greenwich Village apartment was eggplant (aubergine) parmesan with a salad of mixed greens and avocado dressing, and hors d'oeuvres of smoked mozzarella and crackers."
You just may want to warn your guests they will be eating a freegan feast beforehand, lest the following ensue:
--This eggplant is delicious; where did you find it?
--In a dumpster!

I'm happy, truly, that freegans exist. There's way too much waste in most of the world, and it seems like a fair exchange to provide that waste for free to those who want it. But I am happy to remain on the supply side of the freegan equation. If you feel differently, here is a Dumpster directory.

5 comments:

sarah.lawrance said...

beautiful, simply beautiful. my radio show did a piece on "waste reclamation" about a month ago, and i learned of freeganism's many shapes and forms... dumpstering, hitch-hiking, squatting--all kinds! while i do not identify as freegan myself, i've eaten many a dumpstered bagel, and our infoshop has certainly benefitted from furniture that we rescued from the side of the road. it's a real pleasure to be reading about it here :)

Amy said...

Nice - recycling at its best!!!

Theresa said...

I've been dumpstering before, when I was visiting friends for a weekend. We hit a Trader Joe's dumpster in DC. Holy crap there was a lot of GOOD food still there! There was even frozen meat and fish, and it hadn't been in the dumpster long enough to thaw out. (They were vegan freegans, though, so fed the dogs with whatever meat they found.) Bagels, entire crates of clementines, etc. I ate very well that weekend, and I think they did get a pretty balanced diet, supplementing their dumpster finds with occasional TVP chicken from a chinese takeaway shop.

I wouldn't rely on that as my main food source, though mostly because I can afford food and don't want to take it away from people that need it more than me. I'd rather a hungry person get some dumpstered food than someone with moral objections to the capitalist system.

RV Amy said...

Theresa, I thought this was interesting:
"I wouldn't rely on that as my main food source, though mostly because I can afford food and don't want to take it away from people that need it more than me. I'd rather a hungry person get some dumpstered food than someone with moral objections to the capitalist system."

I definitely agree, but since we know that almost all dumpstered food ends up in a landfill instead of with the hungry, what's our moral responsibility?

First, it would be best to set up a rescue & distribution system for dumpstered food. But since doing that has a high probability of leading to jail, is it better for the affluent to eat the food and avoid creating more waste? It seems to me the answer is yes.

zandria said...

My vegan friend calls it "freegan" when she eats something with dairy in it, but not something that she bought or made herself (it's "freegan" because it's free, and would've gone to waste if she hadn't eaten it).