You’re heard of capitalism and veganism. You may have even heard of Taoism. But freeganism? Freegan-what? This unconventional approach toward life has gained popularity in recent years due to growing discontent with shaky economies and excessive consumption of goods. This minimalist philosophy would have once been considered beneath many people; those same people are now learning the value of thinking — and living — outside the proverbial box.
The new nonconformity
Freeganism is the new nonconformity, a few miles beyond veganism and a galaxy away from The American Dream. Practitioners of this lifestyle — freeganists or freegans — have only a minimal participation in the conventional economy and endorse their lifestyles as radically sustainable ones characterized by minimal consumerism and maximum use of resources. Although the homeless and bereft have scavenged for food and drink for centuries, freegans have captured media and public interest because of their voluntary adoption of this tactic to survive. Once derisively called dumpster diving, the practice is now more genteelly referred to as “urban foraging” and followers proudly display their findings in blogs and break this found bread during organized community feasts.
A total philosophy
According to the informational website, www.freegan.info, dumpster diving is part of the practices of waste minimalism and waste reclamation. Waste minimization is not recycling, whereby a society tries to ensure that its garbage and trash is used again or recycled back into the system as a resource. Rather, the term refers to a lifestyle reformation wherein individuals purposely reduce the amount of resources used and thus the resulting amount of trash produced. One might patch a pair of jeans, for instance, as opposed to purchasing a new or used pair. The partner to minimization is waste reclamation, a slightly more controversial practice in which the ownership of discarded items is staked by individuals who claim the items have continued functionality. As radical as these practices appear on the surface, some are even promoted by the government. The Environmental Protection Agency considers these interventions as the first major steps in decreasing green gas emissions and coordinates a program known as WasteWise designed to minimize waste and garbage production.
Freeganism in moderation
As radical as some of the Freegan philosophies may seem, more moderate versions of the same message are advocated by organizations like the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy and even the philanthropic organization Goodwill. Individuals, too, can choose the degree to which they wish to practice recycling, waste reduction, waste reclamation, sharing or bartering. Even seemingly small efforts to decrease expenses, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs or taking advantage of free pizza coupons or special offers, might mean an afternoon off from work, one less commuting trip or one less suit to drop off at the drycleaners.
Other deliberate interventions practiced by the Freegan Movement include the use of eco-friendly modes of transportation. Again, the philosophy encourages more than simply moving beyond the use of public transportation from private automobiles. Many advocate used cooking oil as an alternative fuel for gasoline-powered engines by both Freegans and the U.S. Department of Energy. Walking, biking, telecommuting and even hitchhiking are other types of transportation that are encouraged.
The end of private property?
The most controversial aspect of Freegan philosophy is that of squatting in abandoned properties where the residents pay no rent, mortgage payments or taxes. This practice derives partly from the Freegan waste reclamation efforts in relation to shelter and partly from the belief that housing and shelter is a human right, according to the organization’s website. Complementing this belief is practitioners’ reliance on resource distribution methods such as bartering and sharing. Freegans also advocate working less as both a means and an end to requiring and utilizing fewer resources.
If you have ever found yourself wishing that the world didn’t revolve so much around material goods and personal wealth, or if you are interested in lessening your consumption of goods, freeganism may be a change that you can implement into your lifestyle. You will not only save money and be better able to handle your resources, but you will be contributing to a greener, cleaner planet as well. Good luck and happy hunting!