How to Be a Freegan in Three Easy Steps - Free Week


Written by Zachary Ehren

Is consumerism taking complete control of your life? Is your hard earned money getting sucked away by stuff you don’t use, and food that just rots away untouched in your refrigerator? If this is the kind of thing that cuts you to the core, then worry no more! Go ahead and join the underground society of freegans (free + vegan = freegan), a growing population of citizens that live off the refuse of others. Becoming apart of this world is easy, and all it involves is following these three quick steps.

A dumpster diver surveys her findings
Photo courtesy of {* ferris!

Step 1 – Get More Comfortable with Garbage Cans.

Urban foraging – or to put in a more socially stigmatizing way, dumpster diving – is the art of finding usable materials from the contents found in dumpsters. Turning decaying piles of trash into bountiful heaps of treasure is the natural state of being for your average freegan; need a new pair of pants? Check the dump behind your local department store. You might get lucky and find a perfectly fresh pair of Levi’s, with a torn up crotch, just waiting to be taken and sewn back to health.

Not only can you scrounge up necessities such as clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchenware and the like, but you’ll also be able to survive off any refuse food that still looks good enough to be eaten. After all, we Americans throw out 96 billion pounds of food per year, more than enough food to go around for you and your new freegan friends.

While we’re on the topic of food, don’t discredit eating thrown-out goods if the thought of eating a half-eaten burger or sucking on a cupcake wrapper ruins your appetite. Many restaurants or grocery stores will throw out perishables for reasons as simple as damaged boxes, bruised bananas, or expired sell-by dates. With the proper know-how, a freegan can learn which dumps produce the highest amount of delectable goodies, and then proceed to stuff themselves silly with all the perfectly edible food being thrown to waste they want.

Step 2 – Stop all that Wasting!

Now that you are learning how to add the essentials to your life without adding to the problem of over-consuming the goods that are being produced in mass quantities, it’s time to start changing the way you treat your worn out stuff. You may have grown tired of the old blanket you have been sleeping with since you were in college, or maybe you don’t feel the need to read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild anymore, but there is no need to throw them in the trash. There are plenty of options to effectively get rid of said objects without increasing your carbon footprint.

For instance, you can visit “Free Stores.” These are places where people can leave old possessions in exchange for something they might find more useful. A fully functioning Free Store has been running in Brooklyn that carries anything from clothes to TiVo systems. There are no official hours of operation, and people can come take anything that they please.

You should also pick up the habit of freecycling, which consists of finding someone who wants your old Wilson Phillips cassette tape and giving it to them free of charge. Websites such as hosts local groups of people willing to let go of certain belongings without sending them to a dump.

Step 3 – Burn that lease, tell your landlord to smooch your behind and move off the grid.

Since you have found ways to effectively seek out anything you need to live on via dumpsters or a system of bartering, you may as well get rid of your last money-pit. The money spent on utilities and rent/mortgage no longer needs to be such a burden. With the housing crisis still in mid-swing, there are plenty of perfectly habitable abandoned shelters waiting for you to embrace your inner-Kramer and burst through the doors. Many practicing freegans have even created communities living in buildings that are no longer used.

Of course, there are risks to squatting in abandoned buildings. Finding shelter in this manner isn’t exactly legal, and inhabitants are always at the mercy of being forced out by law. There are also safety issues in buildings that are not regularly maintained. But fear not, these factors should not sway you in your mission to self-sufficiency. There are plenty of ways to squat in a harmless manner, and has an online guidebook to get you started.

Once you have completed these steps, you are well on your way to becoming a full-fledged freegan. However, your journey does not stop there. Freeganism is a lifelong commitment to living by these rules. You can also enhance this lifestyle by organizing community gardens, participating in volunteer work, and helping out new initiates.

So, join today! What have you got to lose?