Last Friday evening (a little over a week ago) I went on a Freegan Trash Tour in Brooklyn. What is a Freegan?
Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.The word "Freegan" is a combination of "Free" and "Vegan", (though I don't know that all Freegans are Vegans). Freegans are probably best known for reclaiming waste, i.e. dumpster diving, and the Freegan organization in NYC gives regular Trash Tours that are open to the media and to the public.
During my Compact year, people sometimes asked me if I was a Freegan or if I'd become one. Once I figured out what they were talking about, I said no-- my Compact was (and still is) more about getting rid of the things I don't value to make room for the things that I do. I had and have enough changes to make without "going Freegan". But I do admire Freeganism: they rescue items and food from the trash to use for themselves and to share with those in need, and they point out the massive waste in our society, and question the value and utility of a system that rapes the planet and creates so much waste. I'm really glad I got to do the tour.
I think everyone should do it. Taking a Trash Tour really opens your eyes, shakes you up, and forces you to examine your own feelings about consumption and waste. For starters, you see up close how much edible food gets thrown out each and every night, right in your own community. Then you decide for yourself: will you just watch, or will you take some of it home? I did a little of both- including taking some plastic that was already headed for the trash.
Here is what I brought home:
- 4 bagels recovered in front of a bagel shop
- 2 roses recovered in front of a deli
- a new magazine with the cover removed, recovered in front of a health food store
- a bag of prepared lettuce, one day expired, from in front of a large chain grocery store
- a lime recovered in front of a gourmet grocery store
The magazine was good subway reading material and I'll pass it on to someone else soon. I ate all the bagels (they were great toasted), and had 3 salad servings before the lettuce went bad. The roses joined my freezer compost today, and the lime is still in my refrigerator.
Plastic waste from the evening: a produce bag and a shopping bag that will be used for kitchen garbage and compost, the lettuce bag that is being used for compost.
Want to learn more about Freegans? Look here.