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Recovering Waste, Building Community

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What is a freegan?

"Freegan" is an amalgamation of the words "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 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 polution, eradication of wildlife on farmland as "pests", the violent overthrow of popular governments to maintain banana republics, 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, and finding that no matter what we bought we ended up supporting something deplorable, many of us came to realize that the problem isn't just a few bad corporations but the entire system itself. Thus, instead of avoiding purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we seek to avoid purchasing altogether to the greatest degree we are able.

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. Not everyone who uses these strategies calls themselves a freegan, and individual freegans don't always use all these techniques, but most use at least a few of them

A few of these strategies:

Waste Reclamation:
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 sterotypes 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 likeFreecycle 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 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, without providing any additional funds for new production in the process.

Waste Minimization
Because of their frequent sojourns into discards our our throwaway society, freegans know are all too aware of the enormous amounts of waste the average US consumer generates, and are loathe to be part of the problem. Freegans scrupulously recycle, compost organic matter (providing excellent topsoil for gardens!), and repair rather than replace items whenever possible, and redistribute items we don't need at freemarkets and on freecycle.

Transportation and Housing
Some freegans also extend their commitment of non-participation to include getting around without owning a car(via trainhopping, hitchhiking, walking, skating, and biking) and housing (via establishing communities to rehabilitate and inhabit abandoned buildings -- a.k.a squatting).

Going Green
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.
animal exploitation, animal liberation, bike repair collectives, capitalism, competitive economics, composting, corporate globalization, corporate injustice, crimethinc, d.i.y. squatters, direct action, dumpster divers, ecocide, ecodefense, environmental justice, environmental racism, farm gleaners, food not bombs, free stores, freecyclers, gift economies, global hunger, greed, greisel collectives, guerilla gardeners, hitchhikers, hoboes, indigenous genocide, indigenous rights, localism, mutual aid, overconsumption, pollution, private property, really, really free markets, resource sharing, reverence for the earth, small-scale permaculture, sustainability, sweatshops, the garbage crisis, unionbusting, veganic gardeners, wild foragers