The Extremely Frugal Freegans

Note: We do not approve of or recommend the methods used by the Freegans. But they are an interesting group.


You probably can't help slowing down when passing a used pile of furniture, banished to the curb awaiting the dump truck. More often than not you decelerate for a few moments and decide that someone else's clutter doesn't need to become your own. If the take looks promising and you commit to stop the car there's a lingering sense of thievery and lowliness. As if we are above taking gently used Pottery Barn seat cushions.

A growing movement of folks has come to embrace not only sidewalk throwaways buts also food chucked by grocery stores, outcast furniture, and scrap metal. The Freegans have resolved to not participate in the economy. Embracing radical environmentalism Freegans are dedicated to anticapitalist, noncomsumerism subsistence living. Just how dedicated are they? If it's between paying $2 for a loaf of bread or eating the bakery's leftovers from the trash, they'll gladly dumpster dive.

The Freegan society is inching above 500 in the New York City area and other communities are growing throughout the United States, especially in larger cities. Many activists even shun working. They prefer the freedom of being a trash freeloader and minimal buyer to "giving in" to corporate America. Whether you subscribe to that philosophy or not, I find it amazing that people can survive well with no income. Freegans are proud to be lazy, yet I see scavenging for the next meal and seeking shelter a full time load. It sort of makes me appreciate my day job.

One gal featured in a Delish article, Leia MonDragon, made out with a week's worth of produce--including tomatoes, melons, and kale--from a local grocer who can't sell them past their "prime". She has managed to score every bit of living equipment, from plates to furniture, from street finds. The Freegan lifestyle is less vagrancy than a consumer choice to live within one's means and limit waste. In this context, trash-roving takes on a new concept--not only to reduce unused buildup but to also avoid paying for food. Most Freegans are dedicated vegans, but some will eat meat if it is free.

Some of the Freegans' tactics are quite sketchy for the average greenie--they advocate peeing on or super gluing trash compactors, calling them the enemy. The Freegans support shoplifting, squatting, and employ theft as ways to stick it to the man. They also encourage avoiding flushing the toilet to the extreme of drinking your own urine. While many practices of the Freegans may be far out of your comfort zone, the basic tenet of consuming less stands as a smart strategy.

The next time you pass by the neighbor's "old" lawn furniture, give it a second thought before purchasing a set. It may be better than you can afford, save you money, and reduce waste.

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