Please, no one pass the following information on to my mother, god only knows what she is capable of in the depths of her money saving addiction.
My fellow edit intern caused a tizzy of school girl chatter and galavanting around the office when she brought up the subject of “Freeganism.” We get a little silly sometimes, usually when we want to go home. Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with the “Freeganism” movement, it is basically a way of life that entails subsisting entirely off of what others through away, not because of frugality, but more as righteous statement about how much consumerist waste we produce and how incredibly materialistic our society is. Hard-core freegans are vegans, but may eat meat on the premise of not wasting it. Freegans are anti-capitalists and believe that people have the right to basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, and refuse to pay for it. Hard-core freegans adopt what is called “voluntary joblessness” meaning they choose not to work because of their aversion to capitalism.
I can’t remember where I first heard about this, but Maddie and I did some further investigation, thinking we were on the cusp of an incredible feature story. While in reality, I think we were just getting exciting about the possible opportunity/reason to follow and talk to people who eat freely from dumpsters, which would make us one step closer to the famous Mole People of NYC. (It’s a book, Google it, but I wouldn’t suggest reading it because it is very poorly written, though the premise is fascinating).
Freegans in NYC organize events every week or so, which involve neighborhood tours at night which show people where and how to get great, basically unspoiled food from behind local supermarkets and restaurants. I hear this pisses off a lot of homeless people who are pissed that people with jobs (not all Freegans are hard-core voluntary jobless-ers) are stealing their food. Imagine that, people staking claims on dumpster food.
I am actually really impressed with this whole idea, and I doubt there’s anything highly dangerous about taking just-thrown-away food out of a dumpster, other than the fact that the thought gives me some serious heeby jeebies. In fact, given the fact that I as a cum laude college graduate/honor student/all around good person now make less than Michael Vick- convicted felon/dog killer/all around waste of life and recently re-instated NFL player, I might have to resort to dumpster diving.
In reality this would never happen. While I’m sure we’ve all rescued some piece of furniture from impending trash doom on a street curb in college at some point, I could not eat food from a dumpster unless I was absolutely starving. And well, let’s face it, at points in my life I have been starving, and I still didn’t eat out of the garbage. (Unless you count today when I wasn’t starving but Maddie threw out a perfectly good bag of organic cheese puffs and then fished them out of the garbage to let me try some- yeah I saw that- but since your garbage was probably empty because the cleaning people empty and re-line them everyday, I’ll let it slide.)
I was also thinking about how most people I know could never make it as Freegans because they eat bruised fruit and a lot of people I know are extremely picky about their food. For example, I was thinking about how I would have no problem eating the brown part of a banana if it was the same texture as the rest of the banana and still tasted the same as the non-bruised portions. But then I was like “Wait a minute… how do I know it doesn’t taste the same? I’ve never eaten the mushy part…” A lot of people eat around bruised parts of produce, while eating it would probably not have any health consequences whatsoever. It’s just a ritual. (By the way, in highly controlled environments, things like using too much ketchup or other condiments and even dipping cookies in milk are also considered food rituals. Blasphemy, I know.)
I agree with and would even support Freeganism as long as I don’t think about mushy parts or the fact that the food was placed in the dumpster. If these people got the food from shopping bags neatly placed on the ground outside of a supermarket’s back door, I’d be cool with it. But have you ever looked in a dumpster? It’s caked with things I don’t even want to know about. Forget about fishing out of a dumpster, even the thought of going near a dumpster is too horrifying for me, given past experiences of squirrels and other hyper-menacingly furry creatures jumping out at my face.
In my own way, I practice Freeganism as well, but it’s more based on the fact that I hate spending my own money on things that I can easily steal from other members of my household. For example: why buy Yankee Candles when my mother literally hoards them in various rooms of my house? There are Yankee Candles in the cupboard, in the warming drawer (which we have never used), in the hall closet, in the drawer under the only functional TV in my house, and in the hassock’s secret compartment. While I buy a ton of clothes (it’s because of my shopping problem, ok?) I do take every opportunity to steal clothes from my sister’s room. I frequently make use of her jewelry in the morning without even waking her up.
Maddie did bring up an interesting point as we were leaving today. She said, “But how do they get toothpaste? Who throws out toothpaste” to which I replied that I have thrown out many a full toothpaste tube. BUT- it was not in the spirit of wastefulness, it was in the spirit of I somehow have a great talent for knocking freshly opened tubes of toothpaste off the sink and into the toilets of the various apartments I have lived in throughout the past few years. And there’s a moment when you first think “Ok, how can I get this out without putting my hand in there” but then you put your hand in there anyway and scrub it furiously afterward because any other method would just take too much time and effort. And then you think “Am I really going to throw out this entire tube of brand new toothpaste?” But the answer is always a resounding YES. Even if the cap was screwed on, I can’t bring myself to wash it off and then put my toothbrush to the tube and then subject my mouth to it. Now, when you think of all the disgusting things that may or may not have at some point been in contact with your mouth, the concept of a sterilized post-potty toothpaste tube might actually be less germy and less disgusting than other objects, but I still could never do it.
This may be because I can afford another tube of toothpaste. This may be because I have a slight germ phobia and last week when I seriously had to go piddle on my way home the thought of using the Penn Station bathroom during peak hours completely sober made me realize I would rather pee on myself than sit down on that seat and consequently have to give myself a Purell enema. But if you think about it, eating sushi poses a greater risk to your health (tapeworms) than probably eating out of a dumpster (and I’m talking top of the dumpster, post date a la carte food wrapped in plastic) or rinsing something like a sealed toothpaste tube off that jumped in a flushed and clean potty.
But all I have to say is that those Freegans better watch out, because all of those perfectly new toothpaste tubes that I threw away were NOT rinsed before I chucked them.
Here is the Freegan website if you’d like to check it out, they’re quite the organized bunch: freegans!
This ginger seriously needs a haircut. Someone throw out a scissor!
And here is a legit article from two years ago from the New York Times