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Freeganism: What is a Freegan?

Freegan Trash Tour - arimore/flickr - After a freegan forum, freegan.info take people on a N.Y.C. trash tour.

Freegan Trash Tour - arimore/flickr - After a freegan forum, freegan.info take people on a N.Y.C. trash tour.

What is a Freegan

They forage in dumpsters for everything from electronics to food. They reduce the negative ecological impact of the automobile with eco-friendly transportation, such as walking, hitchhiking or even hopping a train. Believing that housing is not a privilege but a right, they sometimes inhabit abandoned buildings. Work, to a freegan, is a sacrifice of their very lives just to pay bills and buy things, and with all the money they save by living the freegan lifestyle they no longer have to be constantly employed, and for some, that means total unemployment. Oh...wait. I'm talking about bums.

Actually I am talking about freegans, but their lifestyle sounds a little...well...like a bum's lifestyle. Only the bums call it dumpster diving, hitching a ride, and squatting. The main difference is that freegans have an excuse. They have a reason which they can articulate – or has been articulated for them – and it sounds good. It sounds noble. And maybe it is.

Freegan sink - Shira Golding - Stainless steel sink salvaged from a dumpster.

Freegan sink - Shira Golding - Stainless steel sink salvaged from a dumpster.

Freegans Explained

So what is a freegan? According to freegan.info, the ersatz headquarters of freeganism, “Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.” See? It sounds downright conscientious.

There is no official organization, so it is difficult if not impossible to ascertain where it began or who first coined the term “freegan”. No one is claiming ownership. Nor are there any statistics to estimate the number of freegans practicing the lifestyle, though in N.Y.C, because they have an active freegan community, it's estimated there are 400 to 500 in the city alone. What is known is that the movement started in the U.S. and is concentrated in the New York area, but then, so are the bums. Freeganism has gone global, spreading to England, Sweden, Brazil, and South Korea. The word freegan is a combination of the words “free” and “vegan,” but all freegans don't necessarily adhere strictly to the “avoid products from animal sources or products tested on animals” vegan guidebook.

Freegan Bike Repair Sign

Freegan Bike Repair Sign

Where Did Freegans Come From

For years, freegans – or those who became freegans – tried to boycott specific products from unethical corporations who engaged in human rights violations, the abuse of animals, and environmental destruction. They found their method ineffective, realizing that every item they did purchase somehow was connected to a company engaged in something deplorable. The problem, they reasoned, wasn't just a few bad apples, but that the entire orchard was rotten. So after turning on, they tuned in and dropped out, just like the Timothy Leary hippies of the 60's without the drugs. Now? Total boycott, and they use several strategies to accomplish what they call, practical living.

Freegan Dumpster Diving - thegarlands/flickr - Send in the kid.

Freegan Dumpster Diving - thegarlands/flickr - Send in the kid.

Waste Reclamation and Minimization

With rampant consumerism and slick advertising telling us to discard what we already have and replace it with something new simply so the companies can line their pockets with our hard-earned cash, our waste alone is enough is to feed and support multitudes of unfortunates just with our trash. Furthermore, the waste goes to landfills and incinerators, disproportionately located in poorer, non-white neighborhoods, and have been blamed for causing elevated levels of asthma and cancer.

Useful goods are “reclaimed” with what is popularly called “urban foraging” or “dumpster diving.” Freegans, ignoring societal stigmas attached to garbage, rummage through the dumpsters of retailers, residences, offices, and anywhere else they can think of for useful goods. This also includes food. They claim that the goods recovered are usable, clean, in perfect or near-perfect condition, and safe.

Freegan food - sigurdas/flickr - Rescued from trash bin.

Freegan food - sigurdas/flickr - Rescued from trash bin.

Freegan Community Food Party - notanalternative/flickr

Freegan Community Food Party - notanalternative/flickr

"The F Word" Doesn't Stand for Freegan

My first exposure of the freegan movement came while watching a BBC episode of Chef Ramsey's show, The F Word, where one reporter's contribution to the show consists of a short piece on new things going on in the world of food, whether it's drinking horse's milk in Belgium or freegans getting their dinner from the rubbish bin. It was his lucky day as he hit the mother lode in one bin, getting, among other things, sushi. That's sushi...as in raw fish...which he ate. Now I'm not a nutritionist, a gastrointestinal doctor, or an employee of the World Health Organization, but I would think that's not the smartest move. In fact, I thought his bento box was missing a few noodles.

Still, say the freegans, this helps them curtail contributing to garbage and pollution, and helps in reducing the over-all volume in the waste stream. I couldn't get over the social stigma part, I don't think, and I definitely wouldn't eat the sushi, which I find an iffy proposition at best anyway.

In addition, freegans are adamant about recycling, composting, and repairing items rather than buying new ones in a further commitment to reducing waste with their own contribution to garbage and pollution, thereby reducing the over-all volume in the waste stream.

Freegan bicycle on a tour - goddammaddog/flickr

Freegan bicycle on a tour - goddammaddog/flickr

Eco-friendly Transportation

Conscious of the disastrous effect of the automobile on the environment, freegans instead engage in walking, skating, biking, hitchhiking, and even train hopping. But watch that last step...it's a doozy. But even some freegans cannot get by without a car, so they turn to cars with diesel engines converted to run on “veggie-oil”, literally fueling cars with waste. In addition, volunteer groups assist others in converting their diesel engines to run on vegetable oil.

Freegan inhabited building - goddammaddog/flickr

Freegan inhabited building - goddammaddog/flickr

Rent-Free Housing

While landlords and cities keep buildings boarded up and vacant because there is no profit motive on making them available as housing, people literally freeze to death on the streets.  Anyone with half a heart would see that this is just wrong, and certainly not the ideal of which our society is capable. Freegans are actually doing something about it.

They not only occupy abandoned buildings, but oftentimes rehabilitate the buildings as well, making them not only available as housing for others, but as community centers with educational programs such as art activities for children, environmental education, meetings of community organizations, and whatever other noble uses the space can be put to..

Freegan bagels - upturned face/flickr - "I'll have a purple one."

Freegan bagels - upturned face/flickr - "I'll have a purple one."

Being a Freegan

And there's also foraging in the wild where the opportunity exists and establishing community gardens. As for squatting, presumably there is no water or electricity, at least in the beginning. More complicated, is the freegan notion that those who own buildings but wont allow people to live in them, even in places where housing is vitally needed, don't deserve to own those buildings. Whether they expect to government to confiscate the buildings and deed them to the freegans instead or to purchase the buildings from the owners and give or lease them – say for a dollar a year -back to the freegans, I don't know.

So, it is a pretty noble cause I think, but not easily done. In the meantime, you're still living like a bum and I don't know if I could do that, unless perhaps it was a necessity. The social stigma of dumpster diving would also be difficult to overcome for me, and that is the biggest and most famous freegan activity that requires some inward conditioning, but I do know one thing, with absolutely no question, and that is I would never, ever, not in a million years, eat the sushi.

Photo Credits:

(1.) Freegan Trash Tour by airmoore/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/473464155/ (2.) Freegan Sink - Shira Golding/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/boojee/2929830730/ (3.) Freegan bike repair sign - humain/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/humain/908773869/ (4.) freegan dumpster diving - thegarlands/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegarlands/2302320379/ (5.) freegan food rescued from trash - sigurdas/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigurdas/2991013647/ (6.) Freegan food party - notanalternative/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/boojee/2929830730/ (7.) Freegan bike - goddamadog/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/goddammaddog/2574915175/ (8.) freegan building goddammaddog/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/goddammaddog/2575740190/ (9.) freegan bagels - upturned face/flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/upturnedface/2443389885/

What is a Freegan? A short film by a freegan.

Amazon Dumpster Diving Books


Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on December 02, 2012:

I know what you mean, daisydayz. I think it's a great idea too, but am wary of actually doing it. I first heard about it from British tele too, Gordon Ramsey's F Word.

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on December 02, 2012:

I think it is really interesting concept and idea. I first heard about it a few years back when there was a british documentary on it. the problem is it is technically illegal in Wales and England unless the dumpster/bin is actually on the street - then its fair game! I have never tried it but am increasingly thinking about it. I worked in a supermarket whilst in uni and we tried to make a case for waste to go to the homeless shelter or soup kitchen but they were having none of it. We bag so many good products due to damaged packets or 1 bruised item in a whole bag, it was disgusting really. Will let you know if we ever do it though, not sure I am brave enough.

Prickly Flower from Netherlands on September 29, 2011:

Really informative hub! I like to get most of my stuff from fleamarkets and such. When I still lived in the city I got loads of things of the streets the night before the truck for large trash came by. It was amazing what people would throw out! I haven't bought a tv in ages because everyone around me is buying flatscreens so I always volunteer to take their oldfashioned tv. Same with pc's. I've had my mobile for 11 years now and drive a 21 year old car, which runs on Liquid Petrol Gas, made largely from byproducts from oilproduction. Sadly, in the Netherlands it is forbidden to run your car on diesel made from thrash. And my sisters and me share the clothes for our kids. They're all boys except for my youngest and even she wears part of the hand me downs. Although not a freegan, this way I'm saving money and help towards a better environment. Win-win for sure.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 29, 2011:

Beyhan: I hope you find some people. I think it will make a great docu-series.

Beyhan on June 29, 2011:


Are you a passionate participant in the Freegan movement? Would you jump at the chance to model the principles of waste reclamation and minimization in a public forum? Are you excited about the opportunity to bring greater exposure to the Freegan alternative strategies for living, in the hopes of educating more Americans on its benefits?

If so, we want to hear from you!

A new television docuseries is seeking Freegans – both groups and individuals – to let us into their lives and shine a light on the Freegan lifestyle! We are looking for outgoing, expressive and dynamic people who are open to sharing their beliefs and showing the nation what this unique movement is all about. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity to teach others about the advantages of voluntary simplicity, please contact us!

For more information and to speak with a Casting Producer, please email freegancasting@gmail.com with your name, location, and a brief summary of your story. We look forward to hearing from you!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on February 04, 2011:

Jellybird. Yeah. Nix the sushi.

Jellybird on February 04, 2011:

Powerful stuff. I think I come from a long line of 're-cyclers' because I do it naturally. The sushi is another matter entirely

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on October 11, 2010:

Latrelle: Thanks! Glad you like the hub, and the link is greatly appreciated!

Latrelle Ross on October 10, 2010:

Great looking and well written hub. Will be linking it to mine. Your photos will really help support what I've written. Thanks for the hub karma ;)

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on May 25, 2010:

Enlydia: One never knows, do one? With the economy such as it is, I consider it more every day. Thanks for commenting!

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on May 25, 2010:

I rated this useful...you never know?

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on October 27, 2009:

Paraglider: Yes, there have been people who have lived like this since the beginning of time, but Freegan's have a philosophy, which may mean they do it by conscious choice, or it is a handy, noble sounding excuse. I, for one, have always shopped at charity shops, but I confess it was more because I like funky vintage clothes, collected decanters and perfume bottles. I still do it today, and do, in fact, occasionally purchase an article of clothing or two. But all the books I read come from Goodwill. They are inexpensive, and then I just give them back to them so somebody else can read them. Thanks for the comment! It's appreciated!

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on October 27, 2009:

Well, I had to come here from your post today on http://dropoutnation.blogspot.com/ to find out what freeganism was all about. In practice, all that's different about it is that it's happening in the West. And because it's here, it has to be given a fancy name! Millions of people have lived no other way forever, all over the so called third world. A half-way house, popular in UK, is the charity shop & car boot sale approach, buying nothing new. But that doesn't extend to food. There used to be a stigma attached to charity shops. Not any more, as more and more people feel the pinch.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on May 15, 2009:

Thanks again for your input. Nice of you. I'd like to give it a try sometime. I can definitely understand the excitement of the stealth factor. Thanks a lot and good luck!

Stina Ann from Los Angeles, CA on May 14, 2009:

Christoph: Thank you for writing this Hub! I wasn't offended by it at all. I don't consider myself a freegan, but I do love dumpster diving and hitchhiking. I'm more about making these activities mainstream, though. I think anyone and everyone can and should dumpster dive and hitchhike. One doesn't have to join the movement of freeganism to get into these activities. In fact, there are a lot of organizations like Skagit Gleaners (http://www.skagitgleaners.org/) that are basically intercepting the food before it makes it to the dumpster and redistributing it. This is the kind of thing I'd like to get going in Seattle. One thing I would miss about dumpster diving, though: the stealthy ninja factor. It's just plain fun to sneak around at night collecting good food and good stuff. It gets my adrenaline pumping.

Thanks for getting this discussion going by writing this Hub.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on May 14, 2009:

Stina-Ann: Thanks so much for visiting. It's about time I got the input of a practicing freegan. I'm glad too that you apparantly aren't offended by anything I wrote. I hope not anyway. I certainly understand that places throw out perfectly good food and other items, so I myself find little fault with the "dumpster diving" aspect of freeganism.

I think it's admirable. I really do. Thanks for commenting and if I'm ever in Seattle, I'll look you up. Thanks!

Stina Ann from Los Angeles, CA on May 14, 2009:

Wow--there are a ton of comments and I haven't read them all yet, but I just wanted to say that I think the dumpster diving for food aspect of freeganism is my favorite part. I've been dumpster diving for about six months and perfectly good food gets thrown out by grocery stores regularly. One of my favorite finds was 3 huge glass jars of Prego spaghetti sauce. They'd been thrown out because one jar had broken and spilled on the others. They were still all vacuum-sealed. This is the kind of stuff getting thrown out!

It's pretty easy to get over the "icky" factor. Just try dumpster diving once with some folks who've already done it, and you'll probably like it enough to become a regular. You can find dumpster divers through couchsurfing.com, if you're a member, in the "dumpster diving" group. And you could probably find them through Craigslist. If you're in Seattle, come with me next time! There's a Fred Meyer's nearby I've been itching to check out after hours.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 31, 2009:

Ha,ha! Nimrod, yeah, I was gonna say, the spanging in Eugene must be pretty lucrative if they're all reading Hubpages on their Mac's. (Had to look up spanging...never heard the term before.)

Working is just a minor sin...not a venial one. Or some such thing.

Constant Walker from Springfield, Oregon on March 31, 2009:

Ha-ha! Dorkus... No worries; I don't think the bums in Eugene read HubPages. It would take away from important spanging time.

Ya, I meant "they say." Freegans have jobs? Wouldn't that be sacrilege to their religion?

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 28, 2009:

Constant: Regarding "generosity," you are quoting from a direct quote (acknowledged) from the Freegan.info website, so when you say to me "you say...", you mean "they say...", for I did not say it, but your point is taken.

Some of them have jobs.

Okay on keeping the info out of Eugene, so all you people reading this from Eugene, Oregon, just stop now and.....oh, damn...too late!

Constant Walker from Springfield, Oregon on March 28, 2009:

After reading your first chapter of "Freegans Explained" my brain went; 'generosity'? You mean the 'generosity' of others TO freegans - not the other way around, right?

I've come across this 'generosity' before ... in religion. It works in the same one-way principle. Interesting. When I was a kid, freegans were called 'hippies,' but even some of them had jobs ... and homes.

Please! Don't let this 'Freegan' guff get around. Eugene, Oregon has these bums ... I mean freegans, in abundance. If they get a noble-sounding title they'll start demanding 'generosity'!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 22, 2009:

Julie-Ann: I didn't either! Thanks for coming by.

Julie-Ann Amos from Gloucestershire, UK on March 22, 2009:

All I can say is.... I had NO idea!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 21, 2009:

Yes, Ok, Ok. You win. Poor little hamster. Anyway, the hamster lived!

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 21, 2009:

No Christoph, I have to disagree, the hamster will have been but a mere morsel, a fleeting memory to a cat, whereas to a loving owner the loss of her baby hamster son/daughter could have been potentially devastating. !!!!!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 21, 2009:

Thanks, Dineane:  I haven't heard of them.  l'll check out your hub!  Thanks!

Misty: But think of how happy the cat is!

dineane from North Carolina on March 21, 2009:

Hey, CR, I'm with you, sounds like a nobel cause but I don't think I could handle the stigma of dumpster diving! But - I'm all about freecycle...have you heard of them? It's a pretty cool way of keeping things out of the landfils. I wrote a hub not too long ago about some of the crazy things people offer.

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 20, 2009:

And Misty wept at the fate of the eaten hamster.......

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 20, 2009:

Misty: The hamster lives! Or he did, but then a cat ate it.

Pest. I don't care for the organic brad. I like the pesticide laden brad. Has more zing, more zip.

Pest from A couch, Ionia, MI on March 20, 2009:

Hamster???  You people are sick!!!! Did you eat him with organic brad and cheese and wash him down with rice milk???

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 20, 2009:

So relieved for the hamster, thanks Spryte :)

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 20, 2009:

Hey, Pro: MMmmm. Purple good! Actually, I think they're blueberry, but they look scary, don't they? Uh....I'll have to pass.

ProCW from South Carolina on March 20, 2009:

While I think that being ecosystem-friendly is a good thing, I don't think my stomach could handle the purple stuff on the bagels...

Try 'em first and let us know how scrumptious they are... then maybe we'll all dig in! :)


Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 19, 2009:

Spryte: Yay for the hamster!

Delores: Indeed, and a lot of it comes back to our litiguous society, were anybody can sue for anything. These stores could easily be held liable for something, so it's hard to blame them. There ought to be some way though of getting these foods to the right people, soup kitchens, whatever. Thanks for stopping in!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 19, 2009:

Mariesue: Yes, it sure makes you think. It does seem like something could be done in an organized fashion with abandoned buildings. If you got the right people in them - those with pride and who would rehab, it can turn around whole neighborhoods. I've seen it happen it several neighborhoods here, where the gov't sold buildings for next to nothing to quaiified people, and the neighborhoods are now quite fashionable and "tony".

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Mariesue!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 19, 2009:

oddly enough, you can get in trouble with the police for 'stealing' when you rummage in a dumpster...the grocery store where my son works has made it impossbile to get at the garbage and that's the crime, one minute it's good food you pay for, 5 minutes later it's garbage...even the employees can't get to it, what a sad waste when people are having trouble affording food and they're throwing away shrimp

spryte from Arizona, USA on March 19, 2009:


The hamster was fine, found a new home and lived out the remainder of his life in style.


marisuewrites from USA on March 19, 2009:

very good and startling Christoph!!  I guess in this great and free society, we do a lot of unkind, harmful to the environment, and just plain stupid things.  The temptation to think "that building is going to waste and would make a good house for the homeless, so we'll take it and use it" as a government/community is strong.  However, that would bring about a whole other set of problems, that tend to go along with Cheney's strong arm "grab your child and torture him- cuz we think you have information we need" plot, albeit taking over the building as shelter for others would have a more positive outcome.

Still, a good solution would be powerful persuasion from the public to put unused buildings to good use...  I've always had strong feelings about homelessness and hunger.  I'm sure there is more we could all do, you did a great job of bringing the "freegans" alive.

I'm ashamed of what I push down my garbage disposal....=)) and I don't eat sushi on a clean plate.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 19, 2009:

As I said, I think I would love it. A bowl of cholesterol, sure, but once in a great moon.....

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on March 19, 2009:

Thanks for 'splainin' lox to me. I'll take your word for it that it's good.

This is not the first time that we've had to translate food descriptions. By the way, I saw Poutine for the first time on Saturday. A small restaurant in a small town served it in large bowls to many different teenagers. Couldn't see up close, but did notice the stringy cheese as the teens pulled it from the bowl. Looked like they were enjoying it. I'll have to try it sometime.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 19, 2009:

Lox is, more or less, smoked salmon, a jewish thing and very popular in NY to have a bagel with cream cheese and lox. It's good too....but not out of the dumpster!

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on March 19, 2009:

Sorry, Christoph. Guess we had our wires crossed!

I've always loved Hitchcock. The Birds is one of my favs.

Purple is my favourite colour, except when it's food. What the heck is lox?

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Shirley! I thought we were meeting at your hub? I was just there commenting but you were nowhere to be found.

Like crows. I like that. Thanks for coming by and the "Hitchcockian" comment.

The purple ones are ok if you put some green cream cheese on them...or lox from the dumpster behind Wolf's Deli.

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on March 18, 2009:

Hi Christoph!

I've never heard of Freegans before.  They certainly are......an interesting sect.  They sound like human crows swooping in for the ground kill.

Thanks for yet another wonderful and informative hub!  By the way, don't pass the Freegan bagels, they're disgusting!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Misty: It is amazing the stuff these places throw away. Absolutely stunning.

Too me, and apparantly to you too, Sylvia Brown was so bad she gave other psychics a bad name.

I don't know what happened to the hamster....Spryte didn't tell me. I want to know too!

Thanks for coming by and the comment!

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 18, 2009:

Great Hub Christoph, I heard about some Freegans on UK television who openly gave examples such as having found 50 frozen chickens in a dumpster that were perfectly okay and they kept to eat for themselves.

Whilst living in Tenerife the stuff you could find put out by the bins for rubbish was amazing, and everyone picked up all sorts of goodies such as furniture, appliances, pet cages etc.

I agree, even as a person who believes in good psychics, Sylvia Brown is rubbish and I am surprised Montel of all people is fooled by her amateurish attempts to be convincing.

Spryte, what happened to the Hamster??? I need to know! Did it get a new home???

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Ha,ha! "I don't want to work, I just want to bang on the drums all day."

Susan Reid from Where Left is Right, CA on March 18, 2009:

They have a lot of songs and all the time in the world to sing them!


Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

And their song is "Born Free."

Susan Reid from Where Left is Right, CA on March 18, 2009:

I bet their theme song is "Free Bird" and their mascot is "Free Willy."

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Denny:  The liver parasites story is a horror story.  Yeccch!  I didn't know that about garlic.  Glad I eat a lot of it!

Yes, we are truly a wasteful society, and I believe I am correct in saying America is the worst, hands down.  It's a shame, and it seems to me that many of these problems can be remedied without drastic measures.  A little awareness can go a long way, but more than that should be done.

Thanks for coming by and the thoughtful comment!

Denny Lyon from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA on March 18, 2009:

Hi, Christoph, first time I've heard the term applied to the newest generation of hippies! Great informative entertaining hub too. Raw fish left out to rot is not my idea of giving a new home to liver parasites and the like. There's even a hubber who has written about her ordeal to get rid of parasites, whew! When several doctors could not figure out her issue she diagnosed herself and cured it too after a 6 month cleanse.

Apparently, doctors say over 80% of America's population has parasites. After living in 3rd world countries I've remained a Garlic Queen as garlic creates a hostile environment for parasites to thrive. Just remember that tidbit when you go dumpster diving at your next freegan party at the back of the toney restaurant! Note to self: take my garlic pills I stole out of the pharmacy dumpster down the block.

Sadly, this freegan phenomena isn't new in 3rd world countries. We just have more well-to-do people here who waste a lot of resources. Actually, these guys the freegans emBareAss those of us who are mindless users.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Hi Countrywoman! I think you may have a point with the illness thing. Interesting observation. Thanks so much for coming by and your always thoughtful comment. Good to see you!

countrywomen from Washington, USA on March 18, 2009:


It feels so nice calling you like that. Anyway coming to this hub I guess when we were students we once bought a sofa(in good working condition) home which was left at the dumpster. But besides that consuming food products is too much (is that even healthy?). I guess walking/biking and concern for environment is a good thing but as they say too much of something maybe good for nothing. It just takes one bad food item to be ill and then all the medical expenses would take care of the years of "freegan" lifestyle. Thumbs up for an informative hub.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Figures. How times have changed. Still...that's so much smarter. Thanks for the update.

sunforged from Sunforged.com on March 18, 2009:

i dont live very far from the corning glass factory in corning, ny...now they sell the imperfect glass at a discount

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 18, 2009:

Anna: When I was a kid, there was a Corning Glass factory, and they had a fenced in area where they would throw stuff out because they had minor imperfections. Us kids used to climb in there and get all kinds of stuff that you couldn't even tell something was wrong with them; pitchers, glasswear, you name it. Thanks for coming by and the comment.

sunforged: I remembered asking a McDonalds what they did with all those hamburgers at the end of the night (cause it was almost closing time and the "chutes" had lots of sandwiches in them), and they told me they threw them away. I was young and naïve and was shocked. Since then, I have worked in a couple of restaurants so I've seen it too. I wonder if you checked the dumpster at a strip joint if....nah.

Mansions with unused rooms? Wow. The French Revolution is a comin'. Seriously, you may not be far off. In the freegans case. most are there by choice, but when their numbers swell by those "forced" into a similar lifestyle by unfortunate circumstance or whatever, you will start to a lot more anger and then who knows what would happen?

Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on March 18, 2009:

Two words for all craigslist users out there...curb alert! LOL!

sunforged from Sunforged.com on March 18, 2009:

Ive built a tidy side income by simply walking my dog and spying out curbside profit then reselling on eBay...I managed many a restaurant that threw out tons of quality food every night...unfortunately due to insurance and food safety laws most businesses are restrained from giving out this food to people at the end of the night.

So go freegans...i cant wait until they get militant and start "claiming" mansions with unused rooms!

Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on March 17, 2009:

I have heard of this!!! People I know have been practicing this for years before it was ever known as Freegan-ism...or whatever. My parents used to scavange furniture out of the garbage on their newspaper delivery job (not a kid's job anymore!! They filled an SUV with all the papers they had to deliver). I received a scavanged piece of furniture from them, painted it up and sold it at a garage sale for about $30!!!

There was a potato chip factory not far from where I grew up, and they would throw away cases of chips, don't ask me why, but people I knew would wait for the day they threw out the chips, go dumpster diving and take them home. They were perfectly fine, so no clue why they were thrown out.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Gwendy: Well you've just put a smile on mine so I owe you one (or two.) I'm sorry I missed you. Hopefully I'll catch you the next time! Thanks. Can't wait to check my mail!

Cris: Thanks. That's mighty high praise coming from you. It's interesting, I never thought of it like that - 1 quarter freegan, 3 quarters recluse - but I'd have to say that fits me too, give or take a pint. Thanks for the comment.

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on March 17, 2009:

Your hubs are so very entertining - like lectures by a favourite teacher or something.

I think I'm quarter freegan in the sense that I have limited participation. It's quarter freegan and 3 quarters recluse! LOL

gwendymom from Oklahoma on March 17, 2009:

Hey CR,ent you an email that I thought you would like. I can't stick around long I have taken my sleeping pills and am about ready to crash. I hope it brings a smile to your face.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Hi Suzanne: I hope you find the info you are looking for. I also appreciate you dropping in and leaving a comment!

justmesuzanne from Texas on March 17, 2009:

I like the video! :) I am going to freegan.org.uk right now! :)

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Imadork: Well, he got choked up a few times and cried a little at the beginning a few times, but I haven't seen him really bawling or anything, but I'm not really paying attention.

Don't worry about the self-promotion thing. We're used to shameless behavior from you! Ha!

imadork from St. Peters, MO on March 17, 2009:

Damn, I forgot about Montel.  I have it on right now.  Did I miss him crying?!?!

I love consonantal alliteration!  Anyone that has read my twin hub would know that. (Man...such a shameless plug. Sorry CR)

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Spryte: Well, I guess I'll just stay home then. Yes. It could be sad. Luckily, I didn't have to do the eviction part when it was necessary. Anyhow, it was great to hear from you. As long as your happy then that's OK with me.

Amanda: Yes, we are going to see a lot more - except as a neccessity - before we start seeing less, that's for sure.

Imadork: I meant to do it all along, but wanted the URL to read normal, but then forgot to change the title, but yeah, has a catchy ring to it. (P.S. Montel's coming on Oprah...hurry!)

C.C.: Some people sure feel the same as you. I'm somewhere in the middle.

C. C. Riter on March 17, 2009:

In my opinion a bum by any other name is still a bum. And being Noble has nothing to do with it. that's my opinion. Good hub Chris

imadork from St. Peters, MO on March 17, 2009:

CR: I noticed you changed the title to a nice poetic alliteration. Very good!

Amanda Severn from UK on March 17, 2009:

Hey Spryte, good to see you! That hamster wasn't white by any chance, because our little, albino hamster ran away from home some while ago, and hasn't been seen since. The kids would be delighted to know that she was actually on holiday in America!!

Chris, Freganism is probably a growth industry in today's world. Things are changing so rapidly, we may see a time when fregans become the acceptable face of an under-class comprised of the unemployed and dispossessed.

As to sushi, well I love it, but maybe not second-hand!

spryte from Arizona, USA on March 17, 2009:

Ahhh I wish I were at the Smelly Fish, but it's located in NH and I'm in AZ. I'm sure they'll be celebrating the holiday there tonight though. I'll have to take an IOU on that dance...not going to deprive myself of that!

Must have been tough doing that job...I know I'd get over-emotional myself being as attached as I am to home and hearth. But I can see how that would leave the door wide open for recycling things left behind.

Miss you too..everyone! Seems every time I start to write, I get interrupted and lose my train of thought. LOL! I have at least half a dozen half-written hubs so when I finally get a chance to write continuously without my dear darling beloved hanging over my shoulder demanding my attenion, I'll be inundating you all.

Love ya right back!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Awww.  I'm all cozy wrapped in my spring-fresh Spryte hug!

 I agree about living a little more like freegans - I do, I think - and feel the same about it as I do about other eco-conscious behavior, and that is, do what you can.  Do what is comfortable for you, because every little bit hurts.  Often, just by slightly changing our habits, we can cut down a lot on waste. 

I can identify with your brother in-law.  I worked in the home reclamation business, which basically meant that after people couldn't make their payment on their houses, it was my job to go in a clear out/clean out their house, which included lots of stuff.  Many people just left during the middle of the night leaving everything behind.  If there was a lot of valuable stuff, the mortgage company wanted it, of course, but I would have tons of perfectly good stuff - much of it nice things - left to haul to the dump.  I kept all kinds of things, giving them away to people, and donating clothes and canned goods to churches. Otherwise, it was just going to the dump.  My wife too had to put her foot down.  There was a lot more to the job than just this, like breaking into the houses legally to determine if people still lived there or not (more than once I found people sleeping and snuck back out) but that's another hub for another day.

It is absurd what our society throws away, and if we could do what your in-law and myself did on a massive, organized scale, there would be a lot less wanting, hungry people in this country. 

As it is St. Paddy's day officially, I'll drop into The Smelly Fish for a drink tonight.  Will you be there?  Perhaps you'd give me a slow dance.

AS always, I am thrilled to get your comment.  Damn, I miss you so much.  I hope to see you around again...sooner rather than later!

Love ya!


spryte from Arizona, USA on March 17, 2009:

My brother-in-law is a great combination of average Joe and freegan. The city pays him handsomely to haul away trash but he can't help himself and spends a bit of the time dumpster diving for treasures. I have to admit that I've occasionally been impressed with some of the acquisitions he has made. He's very talented at fixing things up. Some things he keeps and some he sells for a bit of a profit. He'd keep more, but after the odd collection of blue bottles building up in my sister's house, she put her foot down.

Once...he actually found a hamster...still alive. Who would throw away a hamster???!!!

He has a built a complete bar for entertaining in his basement using discarded equipment from businesses. It's absolutely gorgeous and you'd never know that most of it came from a dump. The bar is called "The Smelly Fish" btw...

My brother in law knows a lot about trash...

For example...while everyone is clearing their conscience and recycling their glass, plastic and cardboard, carefully placing them into designated bins to be picked up on a special day...it still could go to the same dump that your other trash goes. Why? Cost...

If it costs more to recycle then it's simply not done. I guess going green has another less altruistic meaning.

Personally, I think we could all learn to embrace the Freegan lifestyle a little more. Just not the sushi....but then again, I won't eat fresh sushi either. :)

As for what I'd do without batteries for Mr. Bunny...I leave that up to everyone's vivid imagination. :P

*sneaks in a hug for her favorite cowboy*

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

blondepoet:  Hey!  Thanks for coming by.  You can really get some good stuff this way.  I would have a problem with the food.  Also, the dumpster would have to  be clean, like never being used for food or rotten, gross stuff, so it would be just like rummaging through boxes.  Don't worry about the words, Dearie.  I'll teach you!!!! (wink)

Elena:  I think that's great. Although it's unofficial, people put their nice stuff out on the sidewalk in NY, and people take it (unless it's total junk) but as I said in the comments above, everyone I knew had lots of stuff they got off the street and I did too.  And when you're young and just starting out, what a tremendous help it could be!

Sally:  Glad you came by and enjoyed it, and commented of course.  It is amazing of what people throw out, and businesses too.  Of course, I just called it getting something for nothing, while the freegans call it "waste reclamation," but really they're the same thing, plus or minus the moral righteousness.  Always great to see you!  You're a delight!

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on March 17, 2009:

Wow. We call it trash picking, because that's what it is in its purist form. I have a couple of relatives, not to be mentioned by name or exact relationship, who have been doing this for years, but to a different end: selling trash finds at flea markets. And I must say, they've found some extraordinary things--paintings, designer clothing, antiques. If they ever found sushi, they never said, and I don't want to know anyway.

I never heard the term freegan until now. Thanks for another one of your fascinating and engaging reads!

Elena. from Madrid on March 17, 2009:

Never heard the "freegan" term before.  Who knew.  I'm with you on the sushi... all the way.  Quite an interesting concept, at least parts of it, thanks for the enlightment!

About stuff picked from dumpsters, round here there is a day in the month where the city hall asks us to deposit our "stuff" by X or Z corner, to be picked up by a muni truck (and thus avoid that people are dumping things any given day).  So, on that day people dump stuff and there are other people waiting around to pick up what they can reuse.  Evidently, no money is exchanged, and it's kinda cool that something of no use to me anymore will find a new home.  By the time the muni truck turns up, there's hardly any stuff to pick up.  Wonder if that has a name round here ... the only way i ever thought of it is "one man's trash ..." :-)

blondepoet from australia on March 17, 2009:

Wow Christoph. I have a friend who rummages through Dumpsters. Last week he got a brand new Car Stereo and CD player still boxed from the dumpster behind "Auto-barn". A week before that he got a brand new Barbecue from another dumpster boxed as well.

I said to him "my God I can't believe the stuff you get...errrr..cough....where are these dumpsters?"  Err.... not that I am thinking of going of course. Indeed. Love your story Christoph, and everything else you write. You use such big words....that I have to look up some of them in a dictionary.Well at least you keep me on my toes lol.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Yeah, Jewels, they have a lot of good ideas, just a little extreme for me. But I believe in what they say and believe and their intentions. Thanks for coming by.

Jewels from Australia on March 17, 2009:

I really like the intention behind what they do and their philosophy is great.  That short docu was good to see, he was genuine in seeing the intended end result.  Sounded like stopping our materialistic reductionism issues and we have lots of those.

The food????? That's a worry. Couldn't do it myself, but I suppose if forced?

Love the idea of the community vegie garden, should be one in every neighbourhood.  Is one way of keeping knowledge passing on. These Y gen kids wont know how to grow lettuce the rate we're going!



Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 17, 2009:

Sure. First one was a great movie with a really clever script...I thought. didn't get your connection, but now I do. But no, they drive more like Corolla's. Old ones.

Patricia Costanzo from Behind the Redwood Curtain on March 16, 2009:

No..."they turn to cars with diesel engines converted to run on “veggie-oil”, literally fueling cars with waste." Do you remember in one of the Back to the Future movies the crazy scientist guy rigs up the Delorian to run garbage?

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

Umm..are you refering to the picture of the bicycle? The just plain old bicycle?

Patricia Costanzo from Behind the Redwood Curtain on March 16, 2009:

Wow, their converted diesels are like the Delorean in back to the future!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

Glad you liked it Suzanne! Thanks for writing!

justmesuzanne from Texas on March 16, 2009:

Very cool info! Thanks! I am practically a Freegan now! Tthis gives me something to aspire to and a plan for my retirement! :D

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

Dork:  I've never seen it, but I've seen Taxicab confessions a couple of times. 

Gwendy:  It DOES sound like a good hub!

GT:  Yeah, I read that part of the gig is knowing the trash schedules.  Also, part of their thing is not that they're against work, but they don't want to do it for "the Man," so even those that don't have to work volunteer at teaching others how to be a freegan, or fixing bikes, or whatever.  Thanks for the comment.

Pgrundy:  Thanks.  Yeah, I just finished writing several for another site and you have to do that - not exactly like that, but I got used to it and thought, "What the heck."  Takes a little longer so it's a pain in the butt, but if you copy the info while your getting the pics it's not so hard.

Pam:  I know what you mean.  I resisted the impulse to say "I would never,"  because who knows what you will do when forced, but the food would be tough.  You want to come over for sushi?  Heck, I wouldn't eat it anywhere except in a reliable restaurant and I wouldn't trust anyone to make it in there home unless they were also a Japanese sushi chef.  But out of the trash?  I don't think so.  Thanks for the comment!

Pam Roberson from Virginia on March 16, 2009:

This was a fascinating read for me, and I really enjoyed it. I had never heard of Freegans before, and, like Teresa said, I'll bet we start seeing way more of this. It certainly seems like a nobal thing, and rebelling against "the man" or "the system" has had many different faces and taken different turns. This one I can certainly understand. I don't think I could ever bring myself to eat anything out of a dumpster. Nothing.

As for Oprah, I don't like her. That's right, I don't like her! And that's all I'm gonna say about that. ;)

As for Montel, he told that gun in the mouth story on one of his show's episodes. It's truly sad, and it was related to the amount of pain his was in with his MS.

Great read Christoph!

pgrundy on March 16, 2009:

Great hub! And BTW I am impressed with your photo credit section and shamed enough that I may have to follow suit. :o)

goldentoad from Free and running.... on March 16, 2009:

CR- I got some freegans I guess that hit up my neighborhood, every thursday as the trash cans are pulled out, they got the schedules down for sure, it looks like another whole job if you ask me.

And I can't believe Dork watches Oprah too!

gwendymom from Oklahoma on March 16, 2009:

pervertgans, lol. That sounds like a good hub CR.

imadork from St. Peters, MO on March 16, 2009:

Just an update...I'm watching Cash Cab now.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

How, in short order, did the comments on a hub about freegans turn into pervertgans?

imadork from St. Peters, MO on March 16, 2009:

Solar powered Rabbit would be cool. That way all the women would have to go outside to use it and us pervs can watch!

gwendymom from Oklahoma on March 16, 2009:

Exactly CR, until they make a bio deisel Mr. bunny, I'm out!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

Gwendy: Plus you'd need electricity or and endless supply of batteries for Mr. Bunny. Where would you get batteries, huh!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on March 16, 2009:

Theresa: I can imagine. Still...they might not scream as loud as on Oprah.

Patty: Yes. I saw some information about that. They're doing it in a lot of places. They're worried about somebody getting sick or hurt and suing, and in today's litigation culture, it's a real possibility and a concern - at least I would be if I were a business owner.

Frieda: Maybe you and Imadork should start the "HubPages Oprah Fan Club!" Free-range Vegans. Ha,ha! They're out back with the chickens! Glad you enjoyed it.

Imadork: I wouldn't mind seeing Montel cry. Just for promoting that fake psychic Sylvia Brown ad nauseum!

Pest: A freegan would share and invite the whole trailer park. And ease up on Dork. He's a sensitive guy.

gwendymom from Oklahoma on March 16, 2009:

I might have to watch Oprah tomorrow.

I think the whole freegan lifestyle sounds ok except for the food part. I would have to spend a buck or too to buy some food. Of course that means I would have to get a job in order to buy the food, I would probably have to have a car to get to work if it was far away. Nope, guess I can't do it.

Pest from A couch, Ionia, MI on March 16, 2009:

I just sent the neighbor kid down to the dumpster to russtle us up some grub. You fly I fry. I just hope he gets the fat white grubs this time. the yellow ones are bitter.

Dork watches Oprah! :D

imadork from St. Peters, MO on March 16, 2009:

Me and a friend of mine went up to a closing Cinnabon one time and asked for some scraps.  We got a whole cinnabon free!  Score!!!!

That what the promo says Frieda. A gun right in his mouth!! I can't wait to see him cry!

Any pics of you Frieda? How gorgeous are you?

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