Freeganism: Wikis


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Freeganism is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies 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."[1] The lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters, known as 'dumpster diving'. Freegans salvage the food for political reasons, rather than out of need.[2][3]

The word "freegan" is a portmanteau of "free" and "vegan".[4] Freeganism started in the mid 1990s, out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. The movement also has elements of Diggers, an anarchist street theater group based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960s, that gave away rescued food.[4]




"Why Freegan" pamphlet

Even the manifesto pamphlet "Why Freegan" (written by former Against Me! drummer Warren Oakes in 1999) is unclear in its definition of what constitutes freeganism. At one point, it defines freeganism as "an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating" but goes on to describe practices including dumpster diving, plate scraping, wild foraging, gardening, theft, employee scams, and barter as alternatives to paying for food. Motivations are varied and numerous; some adhere to freeganism for environmental reasons, some for religious reasons and others embrace the philosophy as a form of political consciousness. A short documentary film, Bin Appetit, gives reasons why people become freegans.

The pamphlet does include a lengthy section on non-food related practices, including solar energy, conserving water, precycling and reusing goods. Some freegans consider these non-food practices to be components of freeganism itself; others simply consider them to be complementary practices.


"Dumpster diving" or "skipping"

Many freegans get free food by pulling it out of the trash, a practice commonly nicknamed 'dumpster diving' in North America and skipping or bin diving in the UK, as well as bin raiding. Freegans find food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores, and other food related industries, which they assert allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit the world's resources, contribute to urban sprawl, treat workers unfairly, or disregard animal rights. By foraging, they believe they are keeping perfectly edible food from adding to landfill clutter and that can feed people and animals who might otherwise go hungry.[2]

Dumpster diving is not, however, limited to rummaging for food. Many 'dumpster divers' search for anything that can be recycled or reused, from accessories to power tools in need of small repairs. Some divers collect aluminum cans, which they can then sell for a small profit. Often, these people have all sorts of equipment such as some sort of longer pole that they use to move items already in the dumpster around.[5][6] When searching for food, should a forager come across food waste that is not entirely sealed from the unwanted waste in the same rubbish sack, the lower quality food is commonly referred to as 'Scree'.

Wild foraging and urban gardens

Instead of buying industrially grown foods, wild foragers[7] find and harvest food and medicinal plants growing in their own communities. Some freegans participate in "guerrilla" or "community" gardens, with the stated aim of rebuilding community and reclaiming the capacity to grow one's own food. In order to fertilize those guerrilla gardens, food obtained from dumpster diving[8] is sometimes also reused. In many urban guerrilla gardens, vermiculture is used instead of ordinary composting techniques in order to keep the required infrastructure/room small.[9][10] Guerrilla gardeners claim to seek an alternative to dependence and participation in what they perceive as an exploitative and ecologically destructive system of global, industrialized corporate food production.


Recycling symbol.svg
3R Concepts

Sharing is also a common freegan practice. Food Not Bombs recovers food that would otherwise go to waste to serve warm meals on the street to anyone who wants them. The group promotes an ethic of sharing and community, while working to show what they consider to be the injustice of a society in which they claim fighting wars is considered a higher priority than feeding the hungry.

Really, Really Free Markets are free social events in which freegans can share goods instead of discarding them, share skills, give presents and eat food. A free store is a temporary market where people exchange goods and services outside of a money-based economy.

Freegans also advocate sharing travel resources. Internet-based ridesharing reduces but does not eliminate use of cars and all the related resources needed to maintain and operate them.

Community bicycle programs and bicycle collectives facilitate community sharing of bicycles, restore found and broken bikes, and teach people how to do their own bike repairs. In the process they build a culture of skill and resource sharing, reuse wasted bikes and bike parts, and create greater access to green transport.

Not all freegans practice dumpster diving, so for those that cannot commit to digging through trash receptacles for food, a more moderate alternative exists in the form of cooperatives. Local co-ops such as Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC function on what can be identified as freegan principles. The Weaver Street Market mission statement is as follows: "Weaver Street Market's mission is a vibrant, sustainable commercial center for the community of owners and potential owners". This includes the following aspects, taken directly from their website:

  • Cooperative — control and profits stay within the community
  • Local — maximizes local resources to meet local needs
  • Ecological — works in harmony with the environment
  • Primary — provides for basic community needs
  • Fair — mutually beneficial and non-exploitative
  • Inclusive — accessible to the whole community
  • Interactive — creates opportunity for community interaction
  • Empowering — enables fulfilling work and customer experiences
  • Educational — develops an informed community
  • Reliant on community support — to purchase goods and services, invest in the cooperative, and participate in governance.

Weaver Street Market first opened in Carrboro, NC in the summer of 1988, and was initially financed by a loan from the Self-Help Ventures Fund, by a Community Development Block Grant from the Town of Carrboro, and by individual community supporters. A one-time basic membership fee based on household size grants an interested individual ownership in the Weaver Street Co-op. For a single adult, that price is US$75, for a family of two adults it is US$135, and for three or four adults it is US$175. This membership fee is fully refundable at any time, indicating the level of control each owner has on the success of and on the investment in the co-op.[11]

In general, co-ops function to provide their local community with additional resources; they are also typically vegan-friendly and local-produce-friendly.


In addition to the belief that people should not have to go without food when plenty of unused food is thrown away everyday, freeganism also encompasses the idea that people should not be homeless when unused buildings are available. Freegans consider housing to be a right instead of a privilege.[1] As a result of this philosophy, many freegans are involved in squatting. Squatting is the act of someone occupying a building that they do not have any legal claim or ownership over.[12] “Squatters take a stand against councils and landlords, who would rather keep properties boarded up if they cannot make a sufficient profit from them".[13] Freegans see this practice as senseless and a counter-productive use of resources. The questionable legality of squatting makes it hard to accurately track the number of people involved in this activity; however, there is estimated to be around one billion squatters worldwide.[12] Striving for equality and reform, squatting is a political action that has been incorporated in numerous movements. Squatters view the act as a necessity because of the lack of housing available. They believe that there should not be buildings remaining empty when there are people who are in crucial need of a home but lack the resources to legally obtain one. Ultimately, squatting is a way of housing the homeless. However, the buildings that squatters reside in are sometimes used for other purposes as well, such as being changed into community centers that house programs for children, community organizations, and environmental education.[1]

Working less

Working less is another component of freeganism. Freegans oppose the notion of working for the sole purpose of accumulating material items. The need to work is reduced by only purchasing the basic necessities for things such as housing, clothing, and food. Not working resists the idea that joy can only be found through the purchase of materialistic items. Working is seen as sacrificing valuable time to “take orders from someone else, stress, boredom, monotony, and in many cases risks to physical and psychological well-being”.[1] This time could be spent volunteering in service activities, bonding with family, or participating in a number of other endeavors. The concept of voluntary joblessness has been described as means of completing tasks out of love for others while not expecting anything in return for one’s services".[13] Working is viewed as a component of a system that has abused our world both socially and ecologically. It is realized that not working at all is not an option for everyone, but that there are ways to limit the need to work as much. Employment does not need to take over or define one’s life, and such complete control does not need to be given to supervisors and managers”.[1]


Another aspect of the freegan lifestyle addresses the basic human necessity for food. Freegans often practice veganism, which calls for the avoidance of flesh foods, dairy and eggs, and further extends to avoid the consumption or use of furs, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics and chemical products tested on animals. Vegans choose their diet and lifestyle practices in an attempt to maintain a “cruelty-free” lifestyle. This lifestyle is based on the ideals of providing “numerous benefits to animals’ lives, to the environment, and to our own health.” A study from the United Nations’ report on Livestock and the Environment found that “a vegan diet can feed many more people than an animal-based diet.” In fact, in 1992 it was estimated that this particular year’s food supply would have sufficed to feed approximately 6.3 billion people on a “purely vegan diet."[14]

Freegans believe that even if a product is vegan, it does not guarantee that:[citation needed]

Freegans claim that people sincerely committed to living the "cruelty-free" lifestyle espoused by vegans must strive to abstain not only from eating, wearing, and using animal skins, secretions (e.g. milk and its by-products), flesh, and animal-tested products, but must attempt to remove themselves from participation in the capitalist economy altogether as workers and consumers.

But not all Freegans are vegans. Some that consume animal products only if those animal products would otherwise be wasted.

Humanure composting and sawdust toilets

As part of the anti-consumerist lifestyle, many freegans practice what is known as collecting and composting human manure, referred to as “humanure.” The underlying purpose in this practice is to conserve resources such as electricity and water while furthering an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Rather than setting up plumbing, sewage, and water systems in bathrooms, humanure toilet proponents use simple materials (a few plywood boards, a couple of hinges and screws, and organic material such as sawdust) to create toilet look-alikes that function with much less energy consumption. Humanure composting requires three basic components – a toilet receptacle, organic cover material, and an outdoor composting bin.[15][16]

An estimated start-up cost for a humanure toilet is about twenty-five dollars.[15] These toilets can also be referred to as sawdust toilets because of the organic material used in the composting process. Maintenance costs are also minimized, as rotted sawdust material can be acquired – if not for free from local lumber sources, then at least for a reasonably low price, while other organic scrap material consists of peat moss, leaf moulds, rice hulls, or grass clippings, all of which are easily accessible.[15]

The structure of a sawdust toilet receptacle consists of the following: A collection receptacle is constructed out of plywood boards, and a toilet seat is fashioned to rest on top. It is strongly recommended that a cover be hinged on top of the toilet seat.[15] The bottom of the container is lined a few inches high with either sawdust or with some other type of organic material. It should be noted here that the type of sawdust to be used should not be “kiln-dried” or “pressure-treated,” as either of these options could introduce toxins to the compost pile while also inhibiting maximum absorption of liquid wastes. Like a regular toilet, a sawdust toilet should be kept in its own room, preferably with ready access to the outdoors since it will have to be carried out of the house in order to add to a compost bin. A five-gallon size is recommended, as anything larger could be difficult to carry when full.[15]

Sawdust and other organic scraps function as a natural biofilter for the human wastes accrued in the receptacle. Organic scraps can be added along with the sawdust, although it is recommended to always cover excrement and scraps with sawdust regardless of whether other scraps are used. The sawdust also eliminates odors, and together these components aid in the composting and detoxifying process.[15]

Most importantly, the outdoor composting bin is the site of the detoxification and composting of human waste. It is also constructed of plywood. Fresh manure should be added to the center of the pile, which should be kept slightly depressed relative to the rest of the bin. After emptying the contents of the receptacle, the compost pile should be covered with additional organic scraps and hay or the likes, both for smell and for composting purposes. The empty receptacle can then be rinsed with rain water and biodegradable soap if desired. Avoid using regular soaps or chlorine-based products, as these will contribute to environmental poisoning.[15]

Contrary to popular belief, human manure can most certainly be used for agricultural purposes if composted correctly. Though commonly conceived to be toxic, humanure composts nicely given the variables of heat and time. Provided that the appropriate procedure is followed, one calendar year provides the necessary temperature changes to effectively remove possible pathogens from the compost.[15]

Once the sawdust toilet three-part system is constructed and in place, it is possible to build multiple toilet receptacles so that usage and emptying labors can be rotated.[15] After the initial compost pile has naturally processed itself during the course of a year, it can be used safely for any agricultural needs. The compost also functions as excellent and environmentally friendly fertilizer for flowers and shrubs.[15]

Relationship to environmentalism

Although freeganism is a movement that has sprung from anti-consumerism and anti-capitalism, the movement also has much in common with environmentalism. One of the main aims of freeganism is to reduce waste and limit the amount of destruction that results from the production of goods.[17] These objectives correlate with the environmentalism goals of conservation, and preventing abuse of the environment. “The preservation and careful use of natural resources” that is rooted in environmentalism is an approach to dealing with issues such as famine, population growth, loss of forests, and pollution of water and air.[18] Some of the practices established in freeganism serve the function of addressing many of these same concerns. Squatting, for example, makes use of empty buildings for the homeless, and dumpster diving practices recovering food that is being wasted (with the motivation in mind that there are billions of people starving who could survive on foraged food from dumpsters of industrialized countries). Adam Weissman, eco-activist and creator of, states that “Freeganism is a reaction to waste, but also to injustices like sweatshops and the destruction of rainforests that go into producing goods in the first place”.[17]

Freeganism is about more than looking through trash, there is significance behind not participating in a consumerist society. It is an attempt to remove oneself from being a part of the exploitation that is perceived to be a result of consumerism.[17] Many aspects within consumerism that freeganism is protesting are also what environmentalism is fighting. There is an obvious relationship between sustainability and consumption. Freeganism and environmentalism are trying to highlight this relationship, and assist in enabling the consumer to see how their actions impact the world. While freeganism symbolizes the contrast of consumerism, freegans are still consuming but it is a “specialized” consumerism.[19] Like environmentalists, freegans have "standards by which they base their purchasing decisions from".[19] By not participating in the labor force and using money, freegans are distinguishing themselves from the mainstream economy.[19] It is these components of freeganism that coincide with the two categories that are used to describe environmentalism in Faith in Nature. These two entities are "Green consumerism that focuses on changing society from within and bioregionalism that focuses on finding a new life outside of the established economy and becoming in tune with the land".[19]

Another comparison between environmentalism and freeganism is the perspective that they can be viewed as a religion. There is an idea of "religious obligation to nature in the form of political action".[19] Freegans and environmentalists believe that consumerism leads to exploitation of people and the environment. This conviction that organizing around the environment and human issues is inevitably linked to our moral obligation to nature is what qualifies the Green movement and the freeganism movement as religious.[19] Environmentalism has been described as a “binding philosophy, the start of environmentalism was a religious reformation; an epiphany; an awakening to desecreated surroundings”.[18] Freeganism is another form of this awakening, and also entails concepts of this religious reformation. The religious gratitude for nature that environmentalists and freegans possess may have stemmed from nature idealism that is the foundation of Transcendentalism.

Freegans and environmentalists both view the Earth as a living body that we must care for, and help sustain. They are very similar in their beliefs regarding the environment, conservation, consumerism, and a need for political action. Many of their objectives are based on solving the same problems. These problems revolve around a need for food, a need for shelter, and solution to stopping the destruction of the Earth. Freegans and environmentalists have a desire to make a change, and alter the ways of consumerism and waste. It is apparent in many ways that freegans are “hard core environmentalists”.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "What is a freegan?". Retrieved 2007-06-19. "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." 
  2. ^ a b Carlson, Tucker (February 3, 2006). "'Freegans' choose to eat garbage". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-06-21. "These people don't eat out of dumpsters because they're poor and desperate. They do it to prove a political point. You wouldn'‘t expect someone to choose a lifestyle that involved eating out of dumpsters. Kind of seems like something you do as a desperate last resort. But there's an entire society of people who willingly get their meals out of the garbage. They're called freegans, and they say they have a reason for doing it." 
  3. ^ "Free Lunch. Freegans prove there is such a thing as they dumpster-dive for food for themselves and the homeless.". Houston Press. Retrieved 2007-06-21. "Patrick Lyons stands in the middle of a dumpster, staring at a can of meat. "I don't know who eats this stuff", he says. He chucks the can aside and keeps on digging. His ball cap is slung low over his face; it connects to his long, thick, brown sideburns." 
  4. ^ a b "Not Buying It". New York Times. June 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-21. "A few of those present had stumbled onto the scene by chance (including a janitor from a nearby homeless center, who made off with a working iPod and a tube of body cream), but most were there by design, in response to a posting on the Web site The site, which provides information and listings for the small but growing subculture of anticonsumerists who call themselves freegans — the term derives from vegans, the vegetarians who forsake all animal products, as many freegans also do — is the closest thing their movement has to an official voice." 
  5. ^ Brace, Alison (March 2), ""Freeloading"", Times Educational Supplement: 28–29, 
  6. ^ Willhite, Nikki (2009). "Dumpster Diving". All Things Frugal. Retrieved Mar 02 2009. 
  7. ^ Institute for the Study of Edible Wild Plants and Other Foragables. Wild Foraging Definition
  8. ^ Instructables dumpster diving combined with guerrilla gardening
  9. ^ Journeytoforever small-scale (city) composting information (trough vermiculture)
  10. ^ Vermiculture combination with city farms in the developing world for the poor
  11. ^ [<> Weaver Street Market: Your Community Owned Grocery Store], 2009, <>, retrieved 1 Mar 2009 
  12. ^ a b Corr, Anders (1999). No Trespassing: Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. 
  13. ^ a b Waste Not, Want Not, 2008,, retrieved 2 April 2009 
  14. ^ Josyn, Ed (2006), [<> About Veganism], <>, retrieved 25 Mar 2009 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jenkins, Joseph (2005). [<> The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure]. PA: Jenkins Publishing. ISBN 978-0964425835. <>. 
  16. ^ Jenkins, Joseph (2005). Humanure Compost Toilet System Instruction Manual. PA: Jenkins Publishing. Retrieved 2005-03-30. 
  17. ^ a b c Freegans: The Bin Scavengers, 2006,, retrieved 31 March 2009 
  18. ^ a b Scheffer, Victor (1991). The Shaping of Environmentalism in America. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Weiss, Allie; Yukus, Dawn, [<> Freeganism as a Religion], <>, retrieved 2 April 2009 
  20. ^ Now Public, Freeganism: A Better Green,, retrieved 31 March 2009 

External links

Simple English

A Freegan is a person who does not like to pay for things, but does not steal either. Freegans like to find things that other people throw away that are still useful. People often throw things away that are not used up or broken. Sometimes they throw things away because they are bored of them and like to shop for new things. Freegans look through other people's rubbish bins and take what they can use. This can be good for the environment, because no energy is used to make new things. However, some cities have rules about taking things out of the rubbish, and Freegans get in trouble for this.

The name Freegan rhymes with vegan. It combines the words free and vegan. Freegans are not necessarily vegans.


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