Freegans: I love and hate the idea

I just saw a documentary the other day on Freegans, in case you don’t know who they are, from Wikipedia:

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.” 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.

The word “freegan” is a portmanteau of “free” and “vegan”. Freeganism started in the mid 1960s, 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.


Eating what stores waste is something that really great. I love the idea of eating those day-old bagels that stores would otherwise send to landfills.

One lead freegan in NYC said that 50% of what stores throw out go straight to the landfill.

50%! Can you believe that? You almost wonder why they don’t just sell it for half off or at a deeper discount for those who want to pay.

Lowering waste in landfills and feeding those who need it? I’m down for that.


I actually don’t hate the idea so much as I dislike what is starting to surface.

A few freegans were saying things like: Stores and people should set aside food for us freegans, but of course they would NEVER do that because it’s not good for capitalism.

Well. DUH. YEAH.

How would stores ever sell if everyone knew they would just set aside food for free at the end of the day?

What I really don’t like is the complaining about stuff not being set aside for you to pick up easily, prepackaged with a note “FREE STUFF” for you.

If it were that easy, you may not be able to find as much as you do now. People are also not obligated to tell you there is free stuff for you.

My gripe with the whole thing is mainly that someone out there paid for that.

Whether it was the store’s inventory, or that I threw out an onion that was half rotten (I wouldn’t do that by the way, I normally cut off the bad part and use the rest) — I paid for that.

Sure I threw it away, and sure I consider it garbage, but telling me that I am wrong for not labelling: “free stuff” for you to come and pick through my trash easily doesn’t sit well with me.

To top it off, telling me I don’t do that because I’m such a dirty low down capitalist, also makes me irritated because it is because of  capitalism that there is the availability of food and such a lifestyle to grow organically.

I’m happy to be a capitalist. Do they even know what that means for each individual, and country?

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit; decisions regarding supply, demand, price, distribution, and investments are made by private actors in the market rather than by central planning by the government; profit is distributed to owners who invest in businesses, and wages are paid to workers employed by businesses and companies. (Wikipedia)

I don’t see being a capitalist as supporting “The Man”, because “The Man” are the companies out there providing jobs and wages in a free-market sort of structure that allows stars to shine brighter than you can imagine and it pushes others to be competitive, which helps an economy thrive.

Can you really trust our government to dole out money to its citizens, without allowing for corruption either at the highest level or people at the individual level not pulling their own weight and being lazy?

Or admitting that there are those of us who can do certain jobs better than others and vice versa, and not capitalizing on each of our individual skills?

Where would freegans be if everyone was a freegan? Who would work if we could get everything for free? (I’m being facetious here).

Toronto on their Garbage Strike when I was there a few years ago

Freeganism works because there is waste generated from capitalism.

I am not saying the waste generated is right, I am just slightly peeved when you hear freegans complain about the situation or pooh-pooh capitalism because our society is filled with so-called mindless consumer-driven drones such as myself.


I am not saying I would never be a freegan either — I find the concept both eco-friendly, cheap and intriguing, but ultimately since I have the luxury of having money, I don’t need to choose between scavenging for food or buying it.

If I can choose and buy what I want to eat (miso paste I am sure, is not in those trashbags), I’d rather pay than leave it up to street garbage fate, because I have the choice to do so (some freegans don’t scavenge for food by choice, I recognize that and support their decision to survive).

But enough of my blathering rant.

What do you think? Could you be a freegan?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.