"Free-gans" on Oprah - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-30-2010, 07:30 PM
 
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Food? No. Clothing, boxes, furniture? Hell yes! When I was a kid we lived in California and we dumpster-dived regularly for clothes. Now we are in the military and when people move, they have weight limits for furniture, so they have to get rid of stuff, and you would not believe what they set out. We have gotten a dining room chair set, two rolly office chairs, three mini chests of drawers, I got toys, I got cleaning supplies (I could have gotten a year's worth but I only use the stainless steel scrubbers, nothing else), backpacks, suitcases, gosh I could go on and on.

I don't see what squatting on public property and stealing utilities has to do with dumpster diving or "freeganism", though. The bank owns that house, or the town, and they own that water, too! That's stealing. I wouldn't fault a truly poor squatter for a temporary fix as I've never been in that situation, but as a lifestyle? SWPL indeed!!!

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"However, if my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and "live off the land" (Whose land? Who are we, Thoreau?), we would be making it easier for ourselves, but not helping anyone else, or even making positive changes for a sorry political state."
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Old 07-30-2010, 07:33 PM
 
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My grandpa was a greeter at a grocery store for a few years after he retired, and he was an unapologetic dumpster diver! It totally embarrassed me as a teenager, but he learned from his job that perfectly safe food was being thrown out in the dumpsters behind grocery stores and if you know when to look, you can get some great finds! Mostly it was packaged foods though. And breads.

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Old 07-30-2010, 09:10 PM
 
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However, if my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and "live off the land" (Whose land? Who are we, Thoreau?), we would be making it easier for ourselves, but not helping anyone else, or even making positive changes for a sorry political state.
Whose land? I'm not talking about making a tent on the public green or taking someone's property by force. These squatters did not hold up a family at gunpoint and evict them from their house. They took property no one wanted in the first place. Just like they take material possessions no one wants. Why is that wrong? I don't know if I feel like I am doing a whole lot more "making positive changes" for my community by sitting in my "rightfully owned" house vs. if I built a cabin in the woods and shot deer for dinner. If someone is using a bit of land / a shirt / a can of beans, then it would be stealing if I took it from them. Even if they are just storing it with the intention of using it some day. But if they could care less about the shirt and throw it away, why can't I use it? If a piece of land is being used for cropland, I can't just build a house on it. But if it's empty space no one is using, why can't I make shelter on it if I'm not bothering anyone? Oh yeah, because if people could just take what they wanted without having to pay for it, capitalism would be screwed. :P

Again... I wouldn't give up my house and go live with my kids in the squatters' house on the principle of disliking materialism/capitalism. But I do think there's more than one sense of ownership. There was a debate about this when it came to pets. Do you "own" pets? At one point people "owned slaves. And legally they "owned" children. Some people claim to own ideas. You can own your house if you give money to someone for it and pay taxes on it. You used to be able to own your house (once upon a time) if you claimed a spot and built a house on it. I own my garden in a different way than just financially; I own it because I put my work into it in a very tangible way. The squatters own their things not legally perhaps but through putting work into it. It's a bit more complex than "oh, money did not exchange hands, so they have no right to it." They have some right to it. Maybe not legally, but in another sense.

Anyway, I think I'm rambling.
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:27 PM
 
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Again... I wouldn't give up my house and go live with my kids in the squatters' house on the principle of disliking materialism/capitalism. But I do think there's more than one sense of ownership. There was a debate about this when it came to pets. Do you "own" pets? At one point people "owned slaves. And legally they "owned" children. Some people claim to own ideas. You can own your house if you give money to someone for it and pay taxes on it. You used to be able to own your house (once upon a time) if you claimed a spot and built a house on it. I own my garden in a different way than just financially; I own it because I put my work into it in a very tangible way. The squatters own their things not legally perhaps but through putting work into it. It's a bit more complex than "oh, money did not exchange hands, so they have no right to it." They have some right to it. Maybe not legally, but in another sense.

Anyway, I think I'm rambling.
By your judgment though, any land left fallow is up for grabs. Just because it is not being currently used doesn't mean it can be 'taken' by someone else.

Also, the bolded was only true in the New World, where we killed and forcibly removed the natives. At all other times, once humans moved into a space, there were territories. We are just animals, at our base. Once a piece of land became someone's territory, sure you could move in, but be prepared to fight over it. Right now, we are 'civilized' in that we have a legal system to deal with squatters, etc. Back in the day, it literally was the fittest who got it. Lots of blood & death involved. No thanks.

While capitalism does have private property ideas, so do other economic systems. One could not just 'take' things in most cultures. Anywhere people grew crops and raised animals, they belonged to someone, even if the whole group. No one individual could just 'take' as they pleased.

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Old 07-31-2010, 12:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not really sure how we got from freegans to squatting. I suppose both are similar in ways as well as different. If you view either from the ideas of capitalism, ownership, the wealth is power idea, etc then I suppose both are VERY wrong. However, if you really want to step out of the box (way out), no one owns anything. No matter your title, your wealth, who/what you pay, your education, your religion, your race, your political preference, this planet is not ours. This is the problem of human beings, we think this planet is ours to do with how we please..and we see where this idea has gotten us today. When we all die, we will take none of this with us. In reality, "ownership" is just something to self-satisfy our ego and make life feel a little more worth living.

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Old 07-31-2010, 07:57 AM
 
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Whose land? I'm not talking about making a tent on the public green or taking someone's property by force.
Million to one says that somebody, generally a bank, which if it's a local bank is more likely than not using that money to re-invest partly in further home-loans, owns the land. Just because you don't take something by force doesn't mean nobody wants it! And even if it's a big, unscrupulous bank that is basically spending its profits on its executives and its stockholders who are using that money to consume conspicuously, as morally repugnant as we might find that, we still don't have the right to take it, kwim?

And the utilities are privately or publicly owned but when somebody steals we all lose.

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Old 07-31-2010, 03:44 PM
 
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I'm not really sure how we got from freegans to squatting. I suppose both are similar in ways as well as different. If you view either from the ideas of capitalism, ownership, the wealth is power idea, etc then I suppose both are VERY wrong. However, if you really want to step out of the box (way out), no one owns anything. No matter your title, your wealth, who/what you pay, your education, your religion, your race, your political preference, this planet is not ours. This is the problem of human beings, we think this planet is ours to do with how we please..and we see where this idea has gotten us today. When we all die, we will take none of this with us. In reality, "ownership" is just something to self-satisfy our ego and make life feel a little more worth living.
While that is all great philosophically, it makes life much harder practically. Because, well, the money in your wallet doesn't really belong to you, now does it? So why would you have a problem with someone else taking it?

Ownership is control over resources. At its base, it is about survival. Not satisfying one's ego, although a portion of ownership can fall into that category. If one has a place to call one's own (house, land, tent, whatever) one is much better off than if one is a refugee with nothing to claim. One can help guarantee the survival of one's offspring as well. Just ask the millions of 'relocated' natives about this. Having/owning land/place is incredibly important. Even owning 'ego boosting' items, like, say, jewelry, can come in handy if one falls on hard times and needs to cash it in to get food.

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Old 07-31-2010, 04:30 PM
 
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I'm not really sure how we got from freegans to squatting. I suppose both are similar in ways as well as different. If you view either from the ideas of capitalism, ownership, the wealth is power idea, etc then I suppose both are VERY wrong. However, if you really want to step out of the box (way out), no one owns anything. No matter your title, your wealth, who/what you pay, your education, your religion, your race, your political preference, this planet is not ours. This is the problem of human beings, we think this planet is ours to do with how we please..and we see where this idea has gotten us today. When we all die, we will take none of this with us. In reality, "ownership" is just something to self-satisfy our ego and make life feel a little more worth living.
In reality, ownership is about me having the right not to have someone else take all the stuff I've gathered for my survival just because he's bigger than me! Property rights and rule of law, yay!

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Old 07-31-2010, 04:35 PM
 
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"I'm not really sure how we got from freegans to squatting."

I'm not really sure how the freegan movement got there . The fundamental fallacy I see is, food can be thrown away, but houses cannot. Even if a house is empty, somebody owns it, and if you are going to have all the benefits of being that person (either 'cause you buy it or because you move into it and live there and nobody kicks you out), then paying your utilities and taxes and bringing/keeping the place up to code are social responsibilities you can't dodge. It's your role as a householder in the community. And without householders (renters included!), the community can't exist, let alone make progress and deal with its problems.

Freegans are not the first people to think it might be wonderful to turn on, tune in and drop out of a corrupt materialist society. Many Quakers, for instance, deliberately keep their incomes below a certain economic threshold so that they are not required to pay federal taxes that are used to fund the prosecution of our nation's wars. But they still pay their property taxes in urban areas, or make other legal arrangements such as putting large plots of rural land in an environmental trust, in order to fulfill their obligations to their local community. Show me an adult with access to middle-class resources, unhampered by addiction or a felony record or a passel of little kids who have no other caregiver, squatting in an "abandoned" house in the city and not contributing to that city's budget via taxes on their residence and the utilities they consume, and I'll show you a person who is pursuing a cosmically self-centered lifestyle.

There are, of course, worse crimes that pursuing a cosmically self-centered lifestyle.
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Old 08-01-2010, 11:20 PM
 
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Old 08-02-2010, 03:07 AM
 
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There's a book I used to flip through at Barnes & Noble called Steal This Book that talks a lot about dumpster diving and getting things you need for free.

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Old 08-02-2010, 03:23 AM
 
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Isn't the point that MegaMart doesn't post its castoffs on Freecycle? Yes.
The thing is though...they could. They could (and many do) donate to shelters. And, honestly, dumpsters ARE full of grossness. Sure there might be perfectly good and safe donuts thrown in there, but you don't know if some druggie tossed his infected needle in there just before you walked up, with that needle laying right next to the box. And you don't know that the donuts really ARE ok, just because they look ok.

The point of freecycle falls right in line with the freegan philosophy, I think. The point of freecycle is to keep stuff out of landfills. Which I think is exactly what freegans are trying to do (at least as far as I understand the concept.) And you can find all sorts of stuff there that IMHO is safer in that even though you don't know the person giving the stuff up on a personal level...you do meet them, you have their addy, you know how to get there. People are just much less likely to give away stuff they KNOW is bad when they give their address to the person they give that stuff away too. And, you aren't pulling boxes of donuts out from next to moldy fruit, or recalled bags of lettuce.

Honestly, if freegans are opposed to the amount of waste that big box stores and such produce by throwing out perfectly good food and products, perhaps their time might be better spent working on laws that make it possible, or easier for those places to donate that food to shelters, or creating "marketing" campaigns to try to convince stores to be less wasteful.

But if their goal is just getting free stuff, I am sure they could find a safer way to do it.
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Old 08-02-2010, 03:55 AM
 
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Honestly, if freegans are opposed to the amount of waste that big box stores and such produce by throwing out perfectly good food and products, perhaps their time might be better spent working on laws that make it possible, or easier for those places to donate that food to shelters, or creating "marketing" campaigns to try to convince stores to be less wasteful.

But if their goal is just getting free stuff, I am sure they could find a safer way to do it.
Honestly, I think you can do both. It's just not that unsafe to dumpster dive in many places. You have to watch out but if there's syringes in the dumpsters, ten to one says they're under the park benches in that area as well.

Freegans should be looking at this:

http://www.cartm.org/blog/

We used to do a lot of "shopping" there...

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Old 08-02-2010, 10:51 AM
 
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Honestly, I think you can do both.
Yeah, but if these people lobbied for change and lots of places started donating stuff to people who actually needed it rather then tossing it in the dumpster, then their steady supply of free stuff would dry up. How would they then display how radically alternative and morally superior they are by not buying into the system? Their supposed goals are at odds with each other.

I have no problem with a little dumpster diving or curb shopping or whatever especially due lack of funds. But when it's done as a lifestyle and political statement and especially when people feel the need to show off how super cool they are by doing it, well it just comes off as rather disingenuous to me. It's conspicuous consumption even if no money changed hands. It defines them as a person to live this way. But if someone doesn't believe in the system and doesn't want to take part in it, then how can they justify living off the system's castoffs? The whole movement just seems self-serving to me and not at all about environmentalism.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:16 AM
 
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Yeah, but if these people lobbied for change and lots of places started donating stuff to people who actually needed it rather then tossing it in the dumpster, then their steady supply of free stuff would dry up. How would they then display how radically alternative and morally superior they are by not buying into the system? Their supposed goals are at odds with each other.

I have no problem with a little dumpster diving or curb shopping or whatever especially due lack of funds. But when it's done as a lifestyle and political statement and especially when people feel the need to show off how super cool they are by doing it, well it just comes off as rather disingenuous to me. It's conspicuous consumption even if no money changed hands. It defines them as a person to live this way. But if someone doesn't believe in the system and doesn't want to take part in it, then how can they justify living off the system's castoffs? The whole movement just seems self-serving to me and not at all about environmentalism.
I agree. Digging in a dumpster behind Walmart isn't going to encourage WalMart to donate day old bagels to the food pantry. Nor is it going to change the laws that are present in some areas that prevent that sort of donation or make it very difficult. And dumpster diving for food isn't about preventing the stuff from getting into landfills, because food decomposes (and if it doesn't, like twinkies, well you shouldn't be eating it anyway, ewww.) For food, it's about about the waste of perfectly good food (if they are actually doing it to make a statement, rather that just get free food-that can certainly be done in much safer ways) and I think a better way make their statement would be to lobby for change, rather than just take advantage of the thing the disapprove of so much.

Syringes in dumpsters and under park benches...well, yes and no...back behind big box stores are popular locations for druggies to hang out, whether or not it's a "bad neighborhood." But, the syringe was only an example, not the point. There's broken glass in dumpsters, torn up rusty metal, especially in an older dumpster, stuff that's been thrown out because it actually bad, molded, infected etc etc. If it's not a syringe, it could be a busted beer bottle that is covered with mold, a rusty nail, mold transfered from fruit to those day old donuts or whatever else.

I don't have a problem picking up a used chair or even a plastic table from the curb, though even then, I don't know why they are throwing it out. I have even less of a problem using freecycle or craigslist, have some sort of recourse if the piece is dangerous, but I also think that's less likely because the people giving it away know I can find them. And, it hasn't sat in the dumpster next to bug infected trash for several days. DH in fact just picked up a garage chair to use while working from the neighbors across the street because they were doing a spring cleaning and didn't need it anymore. But climbing into a dumpster, that's just gross and unsanitary at best. And if you are doing it to make a statement about waste, well, I think you are wasting your time-taking advantage of waste isn't going to keep people from wasting.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:30 AM
 
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There's broken glass in dumpsters, torn up rusty metal, especially in an older dumpster, stuff that's been thrown out because it actually bad, molded, infected etc etc.
That just reminded me, I used to work at a framing store at the mall, and we threw out huge trash cans full of broken glass. I shudder to think what would have happened to someone who jumped in there.
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Old 08-02-2010, 02:59 PM
 
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I am always curious at what the law says about it. Honestly, that is my big fear....that I would go to jail or something.

I probably would not eat food out of the garbage. It is sad that it can not be donated or offered for free to people instead of being thrown away.

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Old 08-02-2010, 05:46 PM
 
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Yeah, but if these people lobbied for change and lots of places started donating stuff to people who actually needed it rather then tossing it in the dumpster, then their steady supply of free stuff would dry up. How would they then display how radically alternative and morally superior they are by not buying into the system? Their supposed goals are at odds with each other.
Oh, once you stick an "ism" at the end, of course it becomes more of a self-advertisement thing than a true philosophy of life, but c'est la vie.

And actually, at the place I linked to, cart'm, you COULD get a lot of stuff for free, especially tires and bubble paper and stuff that was of such low value it cost more to sell than they got from it.

Other stuff was sold at a percentage of the retail cost, and that funded actual jobs.

And all of this was going on in a community that actually produced a lot of food for sale, as well as other services such as tourism.

So I do not think that a zero-waste or nearly zero-waste economy is at odds with sustainability. Some people will live more frugally and others will end up donating more than they sell and buying more than they need, but it doesn't mean that there must be excess.

We don't toss anything except very little food waste and wrappers of dairy. If we could live on free land (legally, paying for utilities), we would (of course, that's not happening because of the high value of land, which we recognize).

I do NOT think that means that we somehow need the economy to be wasteful. Far from it: the less waste, the cheaper things will become. It will never be perfect, but it could be a lot better and we don't need trash to make stuff cheaper.

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Old 08-02-2010, 11:23 PM
 
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Old 08-03-2010, 09:42 AM
 
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Yup, yup, I have definitely done my share of dumpster diving. I would seriously stunned at the insane amount of things I found. My cat was eating the best all natural, healthy dry foods on the market. For free. I was also getting craft supplies, a crazy nice super expensive beach chair, and many, MANY more things. I don't have the time to think back and list everything right now, but it was nuts how much I found that was perfectly usable, clean and safe.

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Old 08-05-2010, 12:33 PM
 
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Thats what Im saying, I think the philosophy must have been blown slightly out of proportion on here, it is simple. waste less, consume less and recycle what you can. Freegans just choose to make the best of what is around them, it will all be thrown out! it is going in the garbage, so for them to salvage what that can isnt anything but being self-conscious about your footprint. it has nothing to do with not paying water/property taxes, squatting and all that business, thats another topic/issue.

At work we were about to throw out these curvy willow sticks yesterday, and i brought them home for my mum's urns, *gasp* ! i better start contributing more to society if im going to behave like that, eh? ok ill stop being a smart ***.

but really, use or waste? consume or conserve? power to those people willing to hop in the dumpsters and salvage.

i think the fact of giving what would be "garbage" to the needy/homeless is a touchy subject, for me at least, its like, they dont deserve fresh quality foods? they get our sloppy seconds? thats how i feel about that, whom ever feels they can recycle what is being thrown out should go for it, lets not put a class label on the behaviour or decide who deserves our garbage more.

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Old 08-06-2010, 04:50 AM
 
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I probably would not eat food out of the garbage. It is sad that it can not be donated or offered for free to people instead of being thrown away.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:16 AM
 
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i think the fact of giving what would be "garbage" to the needy/homeless is a touchy subject, for me at least, its like, they dont deserve fresh quality foods? they get our sloppy seconds? thats how i feel about that, whom ever feels they can recycle what is being thrown out should go for it, lets not put a class label on the behaviour or decide who deserves our garbage more.
Of course they deserve fresh quality foods. That's why many businesses/restaurants/caterers donate their leftovers/extras/overstock (not sloppy seconds or garbage) to organizations like Second Harvest that will take those foods to people who really need them rather than throw them in the dumpster where they would then become garbage for people to pick though with the rest ending up in the landfill. And I definitely think the people who don't have enough food deserve those foods more than a freegan or dumpster diving hobbyist, so count me out on that one.
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:21 PM
 
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I used to dumpster dive in college, and got a lot of free food and cool stuff!

One time I got two 25 pound bags of lemons. There was one bad lemon in each bag. I had fresh squeezed lemonade for a long time. It was awesome! At a time when I was counting out how many Ramen packets I had left for the week and rationing them, any little bonus like that was a real treat!

Most people who dumpster dive food aren't taking half eaten sandwiches, but food that is otherwise fine except for some minor flaw. Lots of food sold at grocery stores is all sealed up in a bag or box, and once it goes one day past expiration, it gets tossed even though it is perfectly fine.

I also fondly remember a really nice end table I got out of a dumpster behind a department store. It has a wrought iron base and a nice painted tile top. The corner was cracked, so they threw it out, but it was beautiful. Also I got lots of candles once. I don't know why they were tossing them, but they were a nice find.

Is dumpster diving safe? No, there is all kind of stuff that can hurt you, and it is usually illegal. But it's not like my pregnant self is crawling into dumpsters these days, that was something I did when I was broke, very fit and agile, and looking for free useful stuff and to keep things out of landfills. That was a time in my life when my safety was pretty low on my list of concerns.
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:27 PM
 
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I just do not get the amount of condescension and condemnation that I see on this thread towards these people. Based on talking to/reading about people who practice dumpster diving and freegan lifestyles, I see freegans/habitual dumpster divers falling into a few categories.
  1. People who need some kind of help, but don't qualify for, don't know how to get, or are ashamed to use public services.
  2. Students, artists, philosophers, etc. who dumpster dive to meet their survival needs without sacrificing all their time to a dayjob, so they can pursue their passions.
  3. Young people starting out in life or those working blue collar jobs who find they can save a little more and maybe get ahead a bit by snagging rich people's/corporations' cast offs so they don't have to live paycheck to paycheck in fear of every little unexpected expense.
  4. Idealists troubled by the state of the world, (waste, poverty, overconsumption) who don't know what to do to change it, but are compelled by the strength of their convictions to at least not participate.

It's not theft. It can be done relatively safely. And mostly the people in these circumstances aren't going to be able to meet their specific needs through charitable organizations or governmental agencies. Their needs may not be as dire as the homeless or truly destitute, but I don't think their needs are any less valid or deserving of being filled. Yes, some corporations will donate leftovers, but many won't. A dumpster diver isn't taking food out of the mouth of a homeless person. If it's in a dumpster, it wasn't being donated.

If a corporation is willing to destroy or abandon something just because they won't make enough profit on it, why shouldn't someone else make use of it, even if they have to liberate it from a dumpster to do so? Hard working people used their time and labor - in a factory, a shipping yard, a warehouse or a truck - to produce that item and get it to the store. That object represents time away from their family, so they could put food on the table. People try to find meaning and value in their work and it just gets thrown away?! Personally, if it was me on that end of the equation, I would want to know that somebody thought that what I was sacrificing my time to do had value.

I do dumpster dive (rarely), and I always try to consider the impact that my actions have or could have on the people involved directly, and the ethical concerns therein. And I mostly ignore the opinions of those who really have no stake in the matter or understanding of what's involved. I'm not deluding myself into thinking I'm saving the world with my actions, but I don't know of anybody who is saving the world, so I don't really know what that would look like anyway. People are getting what they need in a way that doesn't hurt anyone, so why all the venom?
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:46 PM
 
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I agree that people throw out perfectly good stuff. I could not dumpster dive.
And I certainly could not live in these conditions...
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/201...squatters.html
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Old 08-06-2010, 05:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by momtoS View Post
I agree that people throw out perfectly good stuff. I could not dumpster dive.
And I certainly could not live in these conditions...
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/201...squatters.html
Looked OK to me, apart from one guy's messy bedroom.
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Old 08-06-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sanguine_speed View Post
What these people do has nothing to do with faking poverty.

They don't dumpster dive because they have no other choice. They do so very much as a conscious choice, as a way of reducing waste and as an alternative way of living. Taking your way of living to television or the Internet is not fake poverty either. Many of the freegans profiled stated clearly that they chose to leave high-paying jobs, or that they live comfortably and they do not choose freeganism out of poverty.
: you said it perfectly... its not that there poor its that they don't want to add the the consumer society
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Old 08-07-2010, 12:00 AM
 
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Originally Posted by momtoS View Post
I agree that people throw out perfectly good stuff. I could not dumpster dive.
And I certainly could not live in these conditions...
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/201...squatters.html
okay so they are slobs. filthy slobs(i admit, i shuddered at the dirtiness of the fridge). but i promise you i have a beautiful furnished little house and nearly everything was free. some "curb-shopped" and some given to me by friends, relatives, or neighbors but about 90% of the furniture and toys in my home were free. eveyrthing has a story, everything is clean, everything is in good condition, and it all somehow goes together nicely in an eclectic mix. my daughter's old preschool teacher came over for a curriculum meeting and just gushed over my curb-shopped coffee table and my curtains made from curb-shopped fabric and my given-to-me couch and entertainment center. so just because freegans take things from the dumpster does not mean they are dirty. And not all dumpster divers are filthy slobs like those people in that article.

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