Solution: Freegans and Waste Reduction
(contributed by Joy Doerzbacher)
What are Freegans? As most people know, vegetarians are those who refrain from eating meat. Some may eat fish or chicken, but for the most part they abstain from meat entirely. Vegans are those that do not eat any products that come from animals or are tested on animals. This would include milk, eggs, cheese, etc. Going beyond this are people who are called Freegan, a blend of the words “free” and “vegan”. They go even further than vegans in that they recognize that plant, animal and earth injustices happen at all levels of production and in just about every product.
Freegans describe themselves as “people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources” (Wetlands Activitism, New York, New York: http://freegan.info/). Freegans have strategies for practical living, which include waste reclamation, waste minimization, eco-friendly transportation, rent-free housing, going green, and working less/voluntary joblessness.
Waste Reclamation Waste reclamation acknowledges that our economic system values only profit. Everyday consumers are told they want the newest items on the market, and are told to throw away the now old product. Because of this freegans will “dumpster dive” for useful goods, and this is how they are best known. Contrary to what society thinks about garbage, items found in dumpsters are “safe, clean, useable, and in perfect or near perfect condition, a symptom of our throw-away culture” (http://freegan.info/). Communities are also starting “free markets” and websites like “Craigslist” can be used.
Waste Minimization Waste minimization builds off that last section. Freegans tend to recycle and repair, as well as compost as much as possible. If items are no longer useful, they will give it to others at “free markets” or “Craigslist”.
Eco-friendly Transportation Everyone knows that cars have an impact when they are running, but forget about the destruction of land and wildlife in the process of creating roads. As such, freegans try to find eco-friendly transportation options. Instead they will train hop, hitchhike, walk or bike. Some find that they still need use of a car and have converted diesel engines to run on cooking oil.
Rent-free Housing Freegans believe that housing is a right and not a privilege (http://freegan.info/). In the same profit driven society, landlords and cities keep buildings closed because they would not turn a profit. Those who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned buildings are called “squatters.” These buildings can be used as community centers and as housing. Green LIving Freegans try to go green whenever possible. Communities are planting gardens in empty lots, and places that might only sell junk food then have an opportunity at health resources. Some freegans are wild foragers, as in city parks. It is described as “giving us a renewed appreciation of the reality that our sustenance comes ultimately not from corporate food producers, but from the Earth itself”(http://freegan.info/).
Working Fewer Hours/Voluntary Unemployment Starting from the idea that it is not just one bad company, but the whole system and that as workers in the system we are all apart of the blame, and so freegans work less or are voluntarily jobless. Even if joblessness isn’t possible, as a worker you do not have to give up the “spirit of cooperative empowerment” and can join workers-led unions.
Food Not Bombs Related to Freegans is the organization called “Food Not Bombs,” in a sense this is freeganism in action. This international group has over 200 chapters in various cities, each running autonomously (http://freegan.info/). The group recovers food that is either donated by stores or otherwise have discarded or salvaged immediately after it is discarded. Food that would have been wasted is turned into hot meals for the homeless and malnourished, but also for anyone who would like a meal. By doing this, an ethic of sharing is being promoted, a direct challenge to a society that competition and private property.
It was started in 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts by seven young activists. They reclaim food that has been discarded and distribute and prepare food for daycare centers and battered women’s shelters. The founding group was not just concerned about food issues, but also economic and justice issues. As such, their actions have not been limited to food activism. The individual groups helped to organize protest against the El Salvador war, a sit-in against the draft, as well as the Boston Pee Party against drug testinG (McHenry, Keith, C.T. Lawrence Butler. What better time to rise then now? Food Not Bombs celebrates 25 years!).
Often times these groups are seen as a threat to government, and on more than one occasion have arrested for sharing free food. In San Francisco police were given a memo that “if they did not stop Food Not Bombs, the public might come to believe that they could solve social problems without government assistance" (McHenry and Butler). Amnesty International declared members who were arrested to be Prisoners of Conscience, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission investigated human rights violations against group members (McHenry and Butler).
By 2000, Food Not Bombs was an international movement. Chapters can be found in Mexico, Canada, Budapest, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Sidney, Zagreb, Copenhagen (won the Danish Peace Award). Chapters can be found in Poland, Ireland, Slovakia, Croatia, Israel, involved with animal shelters, and anti-globalization protests.
Jim Merkel. Radical Simplicity: Small footprints on a finite Earth. New Society Publishers, BC, Canada. 2003
Lester Brown. Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to save civilization. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, New York, NY. 2008
See the full article by Keith McHenry and C.T. Lawrence Butler at: negative.gnn.tv/blogs/5260/food_not_bombs_celebrates_25_years