Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fregans: Neo-Hunters and Gatherers

The New York Times featured the Freegan movement in the Thursday Home & Garden section. Than in itself is amusing - I don't think Fregans are setting out to be style trendsetters, or belonging to the local Garden Club, but I'm glad to see them catching media moments. Freeganism is an ideology which elevates reuse to an ideal, eschewing commercial transactions and instead meeting human needs through the waste stream. In third world countries such people are called scavengers. Before I read about Freegans, the common term for this behavior is Dumpster Diving, though I think Dumpster Diving is a hobby and Freeganism is a more total lifestyle.
The media describes Freegans as living off of garbage, but I think this misses the point. What passes for garbage in affluent neighborhoods is in fact NOT garbage, but rather all kinds of edible food and usable items, trashed but not trash. Freegans call attention to the extent of our wastefulness, and more power to them.
What's up with all this wastefulness? My theory is that in our society it is way easy to accumulate stuff, and far more difficult to restrain one's acquisition. Every kind of store we shop in has an immense variety of items, plus we also shop online and in big box stores where stuff is cheap and plentiful. We receive gifts, samples, hand-me-downs, and an endless supply of stuff accumulates in our homes. In urban areas, people simply place items on the street for quickly passing them along. Others use freecycle, informal networks, or perhaps give items to lower income employees or donate them. But some people apparently do put good items in the trash, not bothered by the fact that they are wasted. (Shame on them!) Hats off to groups like Dump and Run or campuses like Swarthmore College which recently organized a Trash to Treasure sale after the semester's end.
Our local freecycle had a charming offer of coffee tonight, which pretty much sums up why it takes vigilance to avoid over-acquisition:

I have 13 pounds of Gevalia Chocolate Raspberry, 14 pounds of Gevalia
Moca Java, 2 pounds of Gevalia Select Vintner and 2 pounds of Select
Vintner Spice. All deecaf, all unopned, all unused. Most still in the
box it was packed and shipped in.

"Why so much? you ask.

Well, when I joined Gevalia I chose the auto-pay option thingy. Every
month I'd get a case of coffee and think, "Coffee again? I really need
to fix that!" put it in the cabinet and then promptly forget all about
it. That's why. Happy now? *blush* [:">]

Here's the worst part: I don't even drink coffee. I joined Gevalia
because my brother, who swore he was a coffee drinker, moved in.
Problem is he only drinks about 2 cups a month.

I gave some of it away at work, but very few people want decaf coffee.
I'm hoping that somone out there knows of a group home or reab in the
area that might really need some free decaf coffeee, but if not, contact
me and drink hearty.


Dawn said...

Thanks for the head's up on the good post!
I agree Freganism is a lifestyle and D.D/scavenging is a hobby

Anonymous said...

Wow, I think this is all very cool. Guess I've been doing quite a bit of it over the years on a quieter level. So, so much waste in this country. And what nerve that so many folks stick their noses up at all the plenty for God knows what reason (I place the blame squarely on TV). Amazing what you can pick up for free or nearly so, and the everyday ho-hum life becomes much more interesting when you view things this way: Make do with what you already have, only buy what you absolutely need (which ain't much when you get down to it), cook simply for yourself from scratch, entertain yourself by reading great books for free, learn how to do something for your self, put your money where it will do some real good for somebody else who's truly in need once in awhile, spend time with likeminded folks and benefit from their experiences.