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What is a freegan?
"Freegan" is an amalgamation of the words "free" and "vegan". Whereas
vegans avoids products from animal sources or products tested on
animals, in an effort to avoid harming animals, freegans recognize
that in a complex, industrial mass production society 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 -- 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 popular governments to maintain client states,
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 buy every day. 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 the products we buy will have detrimental impacts we may
never even consider. After years of trying to boycott products from
egregious corporations, many of us came to realize that the problem
isn't just a few bad corporations, but the entire system itself.
Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living,
based on non-participation in the conventional economy, minimal
consumption of resources, and embracing community, generosity, social
concern, cooperation, and sharing in a society based on
materialism, moral apathy, competition, and greed.
A few of these strategies:
Many freegans sustain themselves by recovering and making practical
use of the the massive waste of our materialistic, greed-driven economy.
Because so many useable items our trashed in our society, a freegans
can obtain many consumer commodities simply by recovering goods that
would otherwise go to waste -- 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 can be found in the discards of
retailers, institutions, and individuals simply by rummaging through
their trash bins, dumpsters, and trash bags.
Rather than contributing to further waste, freegans curtail garbage
and pollution and lessening the over-all volume in the waste stream.
Perhaps the most notorious freegan strategy is what is commonly
called "urban foraging" or "dumpster diving." This technique
involved rummaging through the garbage of retailers, residences,
offices, and other facilities for useful goods. Despite our
society's stereotypes about refuse, 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 forage alone, others in groups, happy to share their
discoveries with one another, and with their communities. 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
any who can enjoy food shared freely with them.
Lots of used items can also be found for free or shared with others on websites
and in the free section of your local
dispose of useful materials check out the
http://www.epa.gov/jtr/comm/exchange.htm 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 for free
items. People bring items to share with others and take items that
they can use, but not a dollar is exchanged. When freegans do need
to buy, they buy second-hand goods which reduces production and
supports reusing and reducing what would have been wasted.
Transportation and Housing
Some freegans also extend their commitment of non-participation to
include transportation (via trainhopping, hitchhiking, walking,
skating, and biking) and housing (via establishing communities to
rehabilitate and inhabit abandoned buildings -- a.k.a squatting).
In a society where the foods that we eat are often grown a world
away and processed and transported at high ecological cost, where
we've lost appreciation for changes in season and cycles of life,
some are reconnecting to the Earth through gardening and wild foraging.
While gardening in rural and suburban areas is nothing new, an urban
movement has been turning garbage-filled abandoned lots in 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, community gardens produce fresh oxygen. In
landscapes dominated by brick, concrete, and asphalt, community
gardens provide oases of green, 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.