Vegetarians and vegans may not yet be passé but freegans are hot on their heels encouraging a less consumer driven, more community orientated society. The Macmillan English Dictionary defines a freegan as
'a person who consumes food that has been thrown away, especially someone who wants to protect the environment by reducing waste.'
Whilst this defines a minute aspect of freegan activities it leaves out the core principles and many other freegan practises. A US freegan representative, Adam Weissman, sheds some light on the matter.
“Similar to vegans, freegans share a concern about world consumption. However, we extend the argument to realise that under an economic model where profit is the only overriding consideration for anyone in business, we as consumers are complicit in a form of exploitation. Every product we buy is implicated in various forms of exploitation from worker abuse, to environmental destruction, to cruelty to animals.
“Freegans believe that since none of us individually, would want to support these kinds of injustices, we have a moral responsibility to the greatest degree we are able, to step outside of this ruthless and destructive economic model. Instead we field cooperative community projects and live a lifestyle based around ecological sustainability, sharing resources and living ethically, without being dependent on the capitalist economy to provide for our needs.”
Freegans maintain, that on a planet of finite resources we cannot sustain our current competitive economy indefinitely. They also aim to reassume their time, refusing to be ‘enslaved’ in jobs that only serve to fuel the capitalist profit driven economy and instead devoting their time to what they consider to be truly important in life. By opting out of a consumer society they diminish their financial needs and live off what others dismiss as refuse, recycling and repairing materials to avoid the need for constant purchasing. They find this to be more fulfilling and less taxing on an already overburdened natural environment.
There are many ways that Freegans seek to ameliorate their consumption levels and preserve precious resources.
A few common freegan practises are listed below:
• Wild Foraging – foragers locate and harvest foods, “finding edible plants that grow all around us naturally, within our eco systems, instead of shipping products from half a world away, that are produced under environmentally exploitative conditions,” says Adam.
• Free Markets – “where people bring all manner of items that they might otherwise throw away and give them away to others.”
• Freecycle – an internet swapping community where you can exchange, get free items or announce unwanted items for free that others can utilise.
• Guerilla and Community Gardens – “growing community gardens in abandoned lots of land, turning them into food bases that help to renew communities.”
• Urban Foraging / Dumpster Diving – Recovering useable discarded items from dumpsters whether food or otherwise.
Not everyone is going to jump feet first down the freegan route but many are happy to take elements on board and Adam is encouraged by the response of some individuals.
“People approach us all the time wanting to share their skills. That is the nature of mutual aid, building this web of connections and mutual support where we share voluntarily what we have to offer to the community.”