Learn the Fundamentals of the Freegan Lifestyle

Dumpster-Diving Central to the Life

A woman washing and drying a reusable plastic bag
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Freeganism is an anti-consumerist movement that takes issue with society's focus on buying new and throwing away old but still useful items. In the simplest terms, freeganism is a reaction against the waste of resources, and its adherents see consumerism as out of control. Participants, known as "freegans," have two main goals: to buy as little as possible and to use only what they need.

Roots of Freeganism

In the article "From Production to Destruction to Recovery: Freeganism's Redefinition of Food Value and Circulation," published in the University of Iowa's Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies in 2008, Michelle Coyne writes that freeganism grew out of anticapitalism, anticonsumerism, and the counterculture that includes the anarchist-punk movements of the 1970s.

How Freegans Accomplish Their Goals

To minimize their participation in the consumer economy, freegans forgo shopping in stores and instead rely on alternative sources for their needs–-even food. This may include:

  • Dumpster-diving
  • Curb-shopping
  • Bartering or trading
  • Foraging for wild food
  • Sharing
  • Gardening

Freegans also attempt to limit their impact on the planet by using fuel-friendly modes of transportation like biking, walking, public transportation and carpooling. They are also commonly into recycling, composting, and reducing their energy consumption.

Common Characteristics of a Freegan

While freegans are a diverse group, with a wide range of life experiences and interests, members do tend to share certain characteristics. The typical freegan is:

  • Committed to living off the wastes of capitalism
  • An environmental, political, or animal-rights activist or some combination of the three
  • A vegan or meegan—only eating meat that would have gone to waste
  • A strong supporter of his or her community
  • Interested in being or already is free from the restraints of a paying job

Connecting to Other Freegans

Freegans are completely hooked into the 21st century. They use social media to connect to other freegans to organize dumpster diving and other events, learn about where the best trash is and connect socially with freegans.

There are 16 active groups on meetup.com who organize events and connect freegans with others of similar philosophies and views. And freegans are on Facebook and have specific websites around the world. Freecycle.org is a great freegan resource that's focused on both getting from and giving to others. It has local groups, and membership is free. The ReUseIt Network is focused on just what you'd expect: sustainability and reusable items like bags and cups to reduce pressure on the landfill. At Trashwiki.org, freegans learn all about trash all over the world. It has info on the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of your trash as well as how to make other people's trash your treasure.

The granddaddy of all social media for freegans is the website freegan.info. It was founded in New York City in 2003 and is a virtual encyclopedia for all things freegan. It includes up-to-date information on waste reclamation, aka dumpster diving; minimizing your own trash through swap meets; green living; and environmentally friendly transportation like bike collectives and ride-sharing. It also has a calendar of freegan events in the New York City area, and the list is long.