Fwd: freegan article in sac bee
Adam Weissman, Wetlands Preserve
adam at wetlands-preserve.org
Thu May 29 14:26:32 EDT 2003
>Delivered-To: 948-adam at wetlands-preserve.org
>Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 12:32:34 -0400 (EDT)
>Subject: freegan article in sac bee
>From: "jamie" <jamie at resist.ca>
>To: adam at wetlands-preserve.org
>Freegans find treasures in a dumpster-diving lifestyle that defies
>By Will Evans -- Bee Staff Writer
>Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Tuesday, May 27, 2003
>There's a dumpster in Sacramento with delicious sweet rolls inside.
>Rich, chewy and a bit hard to find amid all the bakery trash, it's a
>good dessert to cap off a successful night of dumpster-diving for
>Jones actually takes two, gobbling them as he pedals away on his
>bike, which is lugging a trailer loaded with groceries he's grabbed
>from another dumpster.
>Jones, 21, is a "freegan." It's a takeoff on the word "vegan," which
>means someone who on principle will not eat any animal products --
>including dairy -- so as not to harm animals.
>But what about the sweet roll, which is probably made with eggs,
>milk and butter?
>Freegans like Jones will eat nonvegan food if it's free -- that is,
>if they scavenge it, so they're not supporting the nonvegan industry
>or creating demand for a product.
>They get much of their food from dumpsters.
>But it's not just a fringe diet.
>Freeganism is rooted in a political philosophy that condemns
>over-consumption and waste in American society.
>"When people are starving around the world, (Americans) are throwing
>away perfectly good food," says David, 20, another Sacramento
>freegan who doesn't want his last name used.
>Freegans come from a larger community of young, do-it-yourself
>punks. Many are anarchists, opposing all forms of government and
>embracing ideals such as individual freedom and cooperation. Some,
>though, don't identify as anarchists -- or as punks -- or they
>resent being labeled. But all of them despise the American-style
>consumerism they call destructive.
>The freegan diet stems from vegetarianism, which means to not eat
>meat -- despite what those fish-nibbling, chicken-chewing
>Veganism is one step stricter. Freegans, if they buy anything, buy
>Still, to them, it's kosher to eat non-vegan food (a few will even
>eat meat) if it's dumpstered, left on somebody's plate or given away
>by a restaurant.
>"If a cow's going to suffer for its milk, then I'd rather have it
>put to use than not," David says.
>He ponders a freegan bagel, sitting under a tree after a punk show.
>His favorite freegan food is a cheese bagel, but this one looks like
>it's whole wheat.
>"There might be eggs or there might be milk in it," he says,
>munching away, "but I'd rather have it fill my hunger than fill the
>Simply put: Freegans reduce trash by eating it (though they aren't
>the only dumpster-divers out there). And while vegans believe animal
>products cause animal misery and environmental ruin -- especially
>with modern mass-production techniques -- freegans even worry about
>the harm of buying vegan.
>"Should I use what otherwise would go to waste?" Jones says. "Or
>should I go into a store and pay six bucks for this organic vegan
>product that's in all the plastic packaging, and then someone's
>going to use that six bucks to go buy McDonald's or something?"
>His thinking shows how freegans view the extreme inter-connectedness
>of things -- like that of a hunk of tofu, for example, to the gas
>that's used and the pollution that's created by transporting it to a
>Louise Hansen looks at cheese and sees the exploitation of cows and
>the vast resources industrial farms consume. She thinks of the
>destruction of ecosystems in other countries to feed Americans.
>But she also likes cheese.
>A 21-year-old freegan majoring in environmental studies at the
>University of California, Santa Cruz, Hansen was in Sacramento
>earlier this month for Kid Fest, a loosely organized weekend of fun
>for anarchist punk types. It was fueled by dumpstered food,
>including cream-filled donuts.
>There may not be a lot of freegans in Sacramento -- an actual count
>is hard to get -- but many pass through. People in the scene often
>travel the country, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains.
>Freegan-ness is key on the road, where good vegan food can be
>And it's handy at home, where dumpster-diving is just like grocery
>shopping. Only it's free.
>On one recent outing, Jones jumps in a grocery store's dumpster,
>picking through the muck while directing a small flashlight with his
>It doesn't look too tasty at first: a random piece of fried chicken,
>a stack of moldy tortillas, unidentifiable bags and a porn magazine.
>The dumpster has a sweet, musty smell, though each has a unique
>bouquet. Eventually, Jones digs up some decent tortillas, garlic
>bread, lettuce, peppers and mushrooms -- some wrapped, some not.
>The next store's dumpster is better -- if stickier. It's a gooey
>mess, on account of the over-ripe fruits and veggies squished
>together, the leaking clam dip and something that could be sour
>cream. But Jones and his dumpstering buddy still manage to make a
>haul: apples, oranges, kiwis, strawberries, bananas, tomatoes,
>avocados, potatoes, yogurt and milk.
>Sure, the goods have dents and blemishes -- the kind of produce
>people inside the store plop aside. And some of the food has passed
>its "sell by" date.
>But Jones and the others say they've never gotten sick from
>dumpstered food. And washed and prepared, it will make for a full
>meal -- not just for Jones and his friends, but for dozens of
>homeless people who they cook for regularly.
>Even on his way back to the house he shares with several friends,
>Jones stops his bike for the homeless, turning his trailer into a
>free mobile market.
>No trouble this night, but dumpstering is not without risks: Police
>consider it illegal trespassing, and sometimes people from the
>stores chase down the divers or call authorities.
>But freegans already have chosen, in a way, to be outlaws from
>mainstream society. They reject capitalism and try to live outside
>it, some avoiding money altogether.
>They are the underground resistance to over-consumption. Many who
>professionally study the larger social and environmental issues have
>never heard of the word "freegan," though they share similar ideas.
>"What people like (freegans) are witnessing is a culture of waste
>and affluence, which is occurring in a larger context of poverty on
>a global scale, growing poverty now domestically, (and) growing
>ecological devastation caused by our consumption habits," says
>Juliet Schor, a Boston College sociology professor and author of
>"The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need."
>"These folks are engaged in a pretty profound critique of the
>The symbolism of freeganism is striking, says Mathis Wackernagel,
>sustainability program director at Redefining Progress, an Oakland
>think tank. "It's saying, 'This is a mirror -- look at how much
>waste there is. There's so much waste we can live perfectly well on
>your waste,' " he says.
>But freeganism also has practicality, he says. Wackernagel designed
>a way of measuring an individual's impact on the Earth called an
>"ecological footprint." If everyone lived like Americans, some of
>the biggest consumers in the world, we would need five planets, he
>The food we eat, he says, shapes our footprint the most. And while
>eating locally grown vegan food makes the smallest print among
>food-buyers, freegans even beat that, he says.
>Of course, not everyone buys it.
>In fact, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a food and beverage trade
>group, disagrees with pretty much all of it -- from the belief that
>eating animal products is unethical to the notion that the world is
>in an environmental crisis or America is to blame.
>"If they really believe that they can eat and nourish their bodies
>without impacting the environmnent around them, I think they've
>probably been smoking something they found in a dumpster," says
>David Martosko, the center's research director, who actually knows
>what "freegan" means. "Pretending to drop out of the natural order
>of things does not make you morally superior."
>Not one to brag about morals, Jones tries to reduce his impact in a
>personal way. His clothes are mostly used -- and sometimes sprinkled
>with holes. He bikes as much as possible and is building a
>bicycle-powered washing machine. He composts any food waste in back
>of his house. He and his housemates brew their own cider using
>dumpstered apple juice.
>But as much as they troll for edible trash, Jones and other freegans
>realize that it's not the ultimate solution. Dumpster-diving only
>exists because of the system they hate.
>In the ideal world, Jones says, people would be as self-reliant as
>possible, making and growing only what they need. That world is not
>likely to come soon -- and freegans know it.
>"When you look at the big picture, you get kind of jaded," Jones
>says. "So I just take it day by day."
>Dumpster by dumpster.
Recognizing the common roots of all forms of oppression, The Activism
Center at Wetlands Preserve fights for human, animal, and earth
liberation through protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, street
theater, political advocacy, and public education. We always welcome
people of conscience to join us as volunteers or interns. For more
information call (201) 968-0595 or email
activism at wetlands-preserve.org
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