Freegans: The Ultimate Anti-Consumers

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There’s something very American about being self-sufficient and living off of the land. There’s also something quite wonderful about people who salvage the discards of society and make use out of stuff that otherwise would have piled up in landfills. But freeganism, an anti-consumerist, anti-materialist, anti-capitalist movement followed by people who try to live outside of the conventional economy without spending money, perhaps by dumpster diving for food remains, or even by shoplifting? It’s not for everyone. Most people say, “No freegan way.”

A story in the Miami Herald highlights the loosely-defined group—which can’t quite be called an association or an organization. There sure as heck aren’t membership fees or anything:

Since a time long before double-digit unemployment, widespread foreclosures and the collective closing of American wallets, a sliver of society has gotten by on the rest of society’s discards. Sprinkle, his friends and thousands of others across the country are freegans, people who eschew capitalism whenever possible and loathe waste.

“Freeganism is kind of a protest, a boycott against a society that is pretty much run on slavery and genocide,” said Brian Mulligan, 22, of Coral Springs. He frequents Dumpsters on his own and with Sprinkle. To avoid contributing to a system he dislikes, he doesn’t work.

Indeed, the freegan movement is a reaction to the modern global economy, said Janet Kalish of New York-based freegan.info. Many freegans believe that nearly everything produced harms the earth or its creatures in some way.

“`We’re trying to resist buying and contributing to this system,” she said. `”We’re built on overproduction. We have an economy based on destructiveness. For the big machine of our economy to keep on rolling means we have to be exploitive of our planet.”
Freegan practices can vary from Dumpster diving to backyard gardening, Kalish said. And though freegans get their name from a contraction of the words free and vegan, not all are vegetarian, she said.

Paired with the paper’s main story on freegans is a side piece about the hazards of foraging for food in dumpsters. The dangers include bacteria and being injured by jagged, freshly discarded bits of trash, among other concerns, so it’s wise to look before you leap.

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