Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five Things Freegan Can Teach Us


What is a Freegan?

If you know what the word "freegan" means I'm sure you have an opinion on it. If you haven't heard about it let me explain. The word freegan comes from the two words free and vegan. Someone who considers themselves a freegan is typically a vegan (but not always), who refuses to purchase most of their things, opting for taking things out of the trash or receiving it for free.

Now I'm sure you're thinking "take it out of the trash?" Yes, freegans typically dig through trash cans, dumpster dive and rummage through garbage to find food, clothing, toys, housewares, books, furniture and basically everything else a person needs and wants. 

Why do they do this? 

Surprisingly, not for the reason a lot of people think. Whereas a lot of freegans are by no means rich, that's not the reason they prefer reusing other people's "garbage". Freegans are also usually not rich by choice, believing they shouldn't have to work most of their lives for material possessions instead of personal freedom. Freegans believe that mass production of products and food has been lead by greed, causing environmental harm, abuse of humans and other animals. Sweat shops, animal testing, pollution, deforestation - for what? Corporate greed. 

By reusing things that are still useful we can hopefully have a positive impact on our world.

Why You May Not Want To:

For a lot of people, digging around in other people's garbage is something they would never do for many reasons such as:
  • embarrassment, 
  • fear of germs, 
  • potential health risks 
  • and also, not surprisingly, laziness 
  • and preference of owning new things. 

Don't worry, if you were thinking the same thing for yourself you're not alone. 

There are a lot of things we can learn from a freegan lifestyle, though.

1. Don't Waste Food:

I don't blame you for being skeptical about eating food that's been thrown out, but the truth is a lot of people, restaurants and stores throw out food that is still good instead of donating it to the less fortunate or consuming it themselves. What can you do about it? Not waste food yourself. Of course, animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs are never something you should risk eating after the expiration date (probably why most freegans are vegans!), but fruits and vegetables are some of the most wasted foods! 

Limp celery, lettuce, peppers or other vegetables? Try cutting them up and placing them in a bowl of water in the fridge. By the next day they'll be perfectly firm again and ready to eat. 

Bruised apples, bananas, pears or other fruit? Google recipes online to find out how to make your own pies, breads and muffins, jams or how to can food. Recently I made grapefruit jam with some old grapefruits that were almost destined for the compost, but who knew you could make jam with them? 

A lot of food can also be frozen, and if all is lost and there is no way you would want to eat it, compost it.

2. Don't Throw Away Clothes:

A lot of people will throw away clothing once it's ripped, stained or no longer wanted. Obviously, if it's still in good condition donating it is the best option, but if it's stained or ripped there are other things you can do with it. 

Small tears in seams or in unnoticeable places can be sewn, or patched. If you know you'll never wear it again because the stain or rip is too noticeable you can tear them up for rags or make new things out of it (i.e. doll clothes, shopping bags). If you're not crafty, there are plenty of people who are who would love to use up your old scraps! 

3. Electronics:

There are now a lot of places that accept old electronics that no longer work, so looking these up is a great idea. If it does still work, no matter how old it is thrift stores will always take them and believe it or not there are people out there who would love that old radio from the 1980's that you hate. Antique electronics are highly valuable, so there's an option as well.

Some people are great at fixing things up, or need the parts, too.

4. Furniture:

Again, donate! If you don't think it's worth donating, try giving it away. Some people want an old couch for their garage, cottage or rec room. Or maybe someone is looking for something vintage that they can fix up. A lot of people are into that sort of thing. Never just assume that your old furniture is unwanted by everyone just because it's unwanted by you. Or if it's just the fabric you can get it reupholstered. 

5. Everything Else:

Books, CDs, movies, picture frames, crafts supplies, pet supplies, jewelry, housewares, everything can either be donated, sold or given away. There are people who love old items: to collect, to make things with, to fix up and sell. You could always fix them up and sell them, too.

Sites like KijijiEbay and Craigslist are perfect places to sell things you no longer want.  is a site where people give things away, or ask for things for free. Yard sales are always an option and places like thrift stores and charities are always looking for donations. So, please, even if we can't fathom living a freegan lifestyle, there's a lot we can learn from it.


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1 comment:

  1. Great tips. Although I wouldn't dumpster dive, I am very good about not throwing things away.


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