Modern freeganism can be thought of as the bastard stepchild of the green movement. Whereas mindful homeowners install batteries of solar panels and opt for high-efficiency washers and dryers, there is a faction of freegans who squat derelict buildings. Earth conscious commuters who seek to avoid fossil fuels pilot space-aged, touch panel equipped electric vehicles, while freegans who drive get around in smelly, greasle-powered scrap heaps. And while so called naturalists, organic enthusiasts, and locavores shop at Whole Foods or the neighborhood farmers’ market, freegans scavenge the waste created by these establishments. It is this latter subset that we will explore in a series of intimate posts that follow a small group of families as they delve into the act of dumpster diving. Read on to learn about their first adventure.
(*The content contained in the post is the opinion of the writers and is not intended as a guide of any kind. All names have been changed at the request of those involved.)
Mary sidles her pushcart up to the gilded Y-shaped hydrant located directly under the awnings of the grocery’s storefront. She is about 60 years old with a full head of curly, mottled, shoulder-length gray hair. The ensemble of layered outerwear seems to weigh on her, bowing her frame into a hunch. Up close she resembles anyone’s eccentric grandma – except for the thin beams of light projecting from LEDs located in her eyeglass frames, a singular dish glove she wears on her right hand, and the deflated suitcase she is carting. It is almost 1AM, and like the other less recognizable individuals lurking in the shadows cast by the security lighting of the supermarket, Mary has shown up to dumpster dive.
Dumpster diving is the main source of food for those who live a freegan lifestyle. The traditional freegan we meet on one of our weekly dumpster diving excursions is difficult to characterize. She, like Mary, might be older and idealistic. He might not have seen his thirtieth birthday but possesses an almost militaristic drive. Most have agendas much larger than the act of plucking expiring grocery items from the trash. And there are those puzzling few who show up, socialize, flex some bag-tossing muscle, but never partake of the spoils. Despite these differences, there is one unifying trait that runs through the small community of gleaners we encounter: None of them are active parents.
A lack of parents makes both logical and practical sense. The act of dumpster diving is an affair that unfolds in the small hours of morning (dumpsters aren’t usually curbed until after midnight, when parents – like their children – are sleeping comfortably in their beds) and most families are squeamish about serving up gourmet garbage for dinner time meals. Not ours.
We, the Gleaners, are not freegans. We are a diverse group of involved parents who subscribe to only the trash-picking aspect of freeganism. We are photographers and teachers; heterosexual parents and gay couples. We are in our 40s, 30s and 20s. We have no grandiose green agenda. We dumpster dive or glean for two reasons: It cuts our grocery costs to about 10% of that of conventional families who visit the supermarket weekly. And it utilizes perfectly good food that would otherwise rot in a heaping pile at the municipal dump.
In this recurring post we will detail the profiles of our families and the members of the freegan community we interact with (while protecting their identities), describe the outlets we scavenge (without revealing locations), and publish a photo journal of the items we gather (while keeping the labels a secret). We hope to inform families of the multiple benefits of dumpster diving, but we are in no way suggesting that what works for us will work for you too. In fact it is almost a certainty that it will not. We will begin by posting a photograph of just a few items gleaned from our latest excursion including an infographic that illustrates the type and price of each item. In future posts we will share tips, recipes, unique experiences and warnings. We welcome criticisms and questions but will be cautious with responses.
With dirty hands,