"Free-gans" on Oprah - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 05:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Basically, people dig in trash and dumpsters to find food, clothing, etc..esp dumpsters at supermarkets, and restaurants. Has anyone ever done this?? If so, what was your experience like? Personally, I think it's a great idea. I mean, they're not digging out scraps of half-eaten food..it's all fine with just blemishes or maybe a day past date. Some things have absolutely nothing wrong! Anyway, just curious!

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#2 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 07:28 PM
 
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A friend of mine once said, of the freegans, "I find few things in life so irritating as fake poverty."

Dumperster-diving? Go ahead. When you start blogging about it and end up on Oprah, you are ostentatiously practicing fake poverty.

Case in point: http://funkypunkyg.blogspot.com/
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#3 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 07:33 PM
 
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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.

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#4 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 07:57 PM
 
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Not food, but I do know a lot of people here and where I grew up that regularly dumpster dive. Especially after the college students move out for the term. I never have, but I know a lot of people find good stuff.

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#5 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 08:26 PM
 
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My mother has done it for years. In the past she has brought home a brand new 7 foot xmas tree still in the box, furniture with small scratches, and last year she brought FIVE boppy seats from the Target dumpster. We donated 4 of them to the local Infant Crisis center and I used one for my baby daughter. They were all clean but we cleaned them thoroughly and were so glad to give them to people that can use them instead of them sitting in the local land fill.

My brother used to go to his small town grocery store and get all their 'trashed' produce & bread and feed it to his pigs. The pigs were happy and my brother raised them almost cost free. He has always been thrifty but I found this simply genius. When it was time to sell the hogs, he made almost pure profit from the sale.

He and I hit the dumpster behind a book store once. You would not believe what gets thrown out back there. They have to remove the covers but you can get all kinds of magazines and books!

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#6 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 08:31 PM
 
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I don't routinely do it, but when I was living in an apartment complex, I was able to get an entertainment unit for our TV, VCR, DVD player, etc. And I also got several Rubbermaid storage boxes we still use several years later. These things were sitting next to the dumpster after others had moved out.

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#7 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 08:42 PM
 
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My writing prof edited a book a about it and does it herself for environmental reasons...

http://www.amazon.com/Going-Green-Gl.../dp/0806140135

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#8 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 08:42 PM
 
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I watched the tail end of it and was surprised at how much they found, and its all free stuff, so who wouldnt? I work in a grocery store part time to pay for tuition in the produce department and we do pull ALOT of perfectly fine food, but the thing is people arent going to pay for food that isnt going to last and some are just plain picky. I am told to pick off anything that has soft spots, brown tarnishes, holes etc. I swear people will not buy bananas with brown spots, thats when they're the sweetest and ripest! Even pre-packaged carrots, spouts, veggie meats have to be pulled off when they're past the expiry date, when there isnt anything wrong with them, they're not rotten.

Im not sure Id built my lifestyle around it, but thats the product of being raised how I was you know, you just dont do those types of things, but its going to end up in a landfill, so whos the crazy ones? lol

The bakery puts the past due baked goods in the staff room, i totally hit that up, i love sweets. Im tempted to take some things we pull off, but they have to go through the cash to calculate loss and then I think they're thrown out, the night shift does that so I dont really get to pick out anything.

I pulled a marble coffee table, two lovely wrought iron chairs and a entertainment unit from the back of my old apartment building. My son's grandaddy finds so much stuff that is put on the curb, hes in toronto, so lots to choose from. Anything from huge large shelving units, childrens toys, cabinets, posters/art.

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#9 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 08:47 PM
 
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I have nothing against it and come from a long line of "curb-shoppers."

That said, I saw the down side after my parents' home flooded. We put tons of stuff in the dumpsters that looked perfectly good but were actually severely contaminated by raw sewage, mold, chemicals, gasoline, etc. Seriously, nasty and dangerous, and people were taking things like TOYS and clothing. It was heartbreaking, on top of the devastating loss from the flood. I've lost the love of dumpster-diving ever since.

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#10 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 10:18 PM
 
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I have nothing against it and come from a long line of "curb-shoppers."

That said, I saw the down side after my parents' home flooded. We put tons of stuff in the dumpsters that looked perfectly good but were actually severely contaminated by raw sewage, mold, chemicals, gasoline, etc. Seriously, nasty and dangerous, and people were taking things like TOYS and clothing. It was heartbreaking, on top of the devastating loss from the flood. I've lost the love of dumpster-diving ever since.
yeah that sorta killed my zest for curb-shopping too. my area flooded out a few months ago(including my home) and the amt of stuff on the side of the road was astonishing. Several homes in my neighborhood slightly closer to the river than I am were flooded to their second floors so they are down to bare studs now and everything they own went on the curb. You can't be certain that anything is safe.

And I worry about the legal ramifications of it. I know a lot of dumpsters around here are locked or fenced and locked but whatever is on the curb is considered abandoned property so that's okay. But what about dumpster diving behind stores? I mean, technically the dumpster is on store property, yes? So that's illegal and trespassing and stealing yes?

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#11 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 10:37 PM
 
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I am and have been a dumpster diver. Food to clothing to furniture. I stopped Dumpstering food when I got pregnant, and since I am still BFing it's still off the table just in case. Food in certain places are left separate as owners either turn a blind eye or would just rather not deal with the mess of certain foragers. Bagel shops leave industrial trash bags full of only bagels. Some organic grocery stores would leave out crates of food that just passed a sell by date, or sometimes a new product that wasn't moving. Heck sometimes you could get food destined for the garbage before it got there if you talked to people.

For stuff the best time of year is May because college students suddenly need to unload everything. I often get art supplies then and those things can get pricey if store bought. I got a brand new air conditioner because a girl didn't want to pay to ship it back home. She was just about to give it the heavy ho over the side of the dumpster.

I don't think about it as fake poverty. It's just kinda what my family has always done.
My very first toys as a child were curbside pick-ups, given new life and love.
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#12 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 11:26 PM
 
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I didn't see the Oprah episode, but I think it's awesome!
We are a very wasteful society and so many useful and great things are thrown away as trash.

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#13 of 59 Old 07-29-2010, 11:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I definitely don't think of it as "faking poverty". I think it's just people being smart and taking advantage of the wastefulness and carelessness America is so well-known for. Yes, in the end they're still consuming, but they're doing it in a more responsible way. Almost the same thing as shopping a yard sale, thrift store, or consignment shop (except it's free and you have to dig for it). I worked in a restaurant for years and the amount of food they sometimes had to throw out was unreal. It wasn't spoiled or anything, just past date and if they were caught with past date items, they got health violations. Like one of the PPs mentioned, I'm wondering if it could be considered illegal or trespassing??? Does anyone have any thoughts? I know if it's sitting by the road or dumpster, it's free game. I've been known to check out the things ppl throw out when they move out of our townhouse complex. I just recently salvaged a wooden stake someone had used for a sign post to use for my tomatoes. My uncle was a garbage truck driver once upon a time, and I remember my mom talking about how he often found very useful things being thrown out. One man's trash is another man's treasure. I think if the idea of second-hand items wasn't so reserved to only the poor and poverty-stricken, but instead something we all take part in (trading, giving, etc), it would make the world a better place. Or atleast put a halt on the polluting of our landfills.

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#14 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 12:16 AM
 
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There is a big difference between dumpster diving in a corporate or business dumpster that is located in a locked/cordoned or sectioned off area and picking up things curbside behind a private residence.

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#15 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 12:17 AM
 
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We "curb" shop. We live in base housing and in a high military area. It is amazing what you can find, especially during PSC season. So many people throwing things things that are in great condition because of being over weight when it comes time to move. My husband found a great desk that way. We've also got several book cases and dressers that way as well. When he fenced in our yard it was completely from fencing people had left on the curb. Didn't cost us a dime for the fencing material. He also got a lawn mower that way. All it need was a $7 dollar filter!

However, we carefully inspect the items and give them a through cleaning. I also don't take any sort of thing with cushions like couchs and what not just because you don't know if the person, who owned it was a smoker, what might be lurking inside of it, etc.
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#16 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 01:59 AM
 
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I used to do this a TON when I lived in CA. Here in my local town there is only a couple times a year when it's actually "profitable"-when we have our local trash day, and everyone can put out as much as they want to get picked up from the dump trucks. I'm sure half of it or more doesn't go to the dumps, and thats a okay with me!

I was basically a freegan when I lived in southern california, and while I was extremely poor I dont think you should be or have to be poor to be a dumpsterdiver. Sure, you shouldn't be ripping things away from people in need, but just because someone doesn't have a lot of money doesn't mean they dumpster dive either.
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#17 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 02:09 AM
 
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The NYT just did an article on Freegans.

When I was living at a Catholic Worker house, we dumpster dived for food. We have a friend who makes a good side income dumpster diving and selling things on ebay.
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#18 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 03:26 AM
 
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Here in HI, items left at the curb or in garbage cans,etc are the possession of the owner until collected by the county. Crazy, huh? The reason I know is we just started island-wide recycleable collection and we also have a deposit fee ($.05) on drink containers, so lots of people pick thru the recycle containers to get the deposit items. It was on the news that it was illegal to do so, even if it someone's trash.

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#19 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 09:41 AM
 
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To clarify my earlier post: I think that curb-shopping, dumpster-diving in unsecured dumpsters, and all other such activities whereby a person acquires discarded items without making a mess or breaking the law are practical, eco-conscious and morally sound.

The "freegan" philosophy that legal ownership is somehow ideologically impure, which leads people with college degrees and middle class backgrounds to sqaut in abandoned houses, steal the neighbor's Wifi, go without (and have their kids go without) central heating in climates that require it, etc. is the "fake poverty" element that ticks me off. You want to live in that abandoned house and fix it up? More power to you! Now use your excellent literacy skills and your inborn race and class privilege to look up the owner and get him to sign a quitclaim deed, and if you can't, leverage those same privileges in dealing with the judge who will sign the damn place over to you if you just pay the back taxes. Of course, you will have to pay those in MONEY, that you earned DOING A JOB.

I suspect that one can dumpster-dive quite extensively and still understand that they need to pay rent/mortgage and utilities with money acquired in some legal manner in order to have a home, and that being homeless and squatting in an old building is neither a personal nor a social good.
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#20 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 10:07 AM
 
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I don't think it's wrong they're doing what they're doing. I think inevitably most will "grow up" eventually and settle down to "normal" lives. Some may be mentally ill in some way and would be doing this sort of thing whether or not it was a "movement" - and it's good that they have others as well in the community.

And actually, I think it's morally wrong that in this day and age, someone CAN'T "live off the land" (whether it's in the back woods somewhere, or in the middle of the city) without someone getting offended that they're not living a more typical existence. If, as a human being, you're not allowed to fend for yourself without people talking about why you're not earning/spending money "like everyone should" - that's weird to me. Obviously most people will live conventional lives, and often those lives don't appeal to large segments of the society. How you differ will vary in degrees. I'd wager that most people on MDC come here because it's already a little bit alternative. I don't see this as being that much different. They're just a little further from the mainstream than most MDC mamas.

And the whole "race and class privilege" argument is beyond me; if you're white and have parents who were middle class, then you have to live a "nice, normal, mainstream" life? Or somehow because you're white you waltz into a courtroom and the judge says, "hey, you're white and your parents have money; I'll just sign you over the house, here ya go." Don't think it works quite like that.

Not to mention that a college degree doesn't guarantee much anymore anyway. I have a college degree. At this point I'm pretty much overqualified for a minimum wage job and I don't have the job experience to get anything else since I'm a SAHM. Especially in this job market. College schmollege. I went to college IN Buffalo, ironically enough, and believe me - the abandoned neighborhoods are like something out of Fight Club. I could totally see people squatting. And why not? People DO "throw away" houses - beautiful, large houses that are in need of love. If no one wants the house, why can't people use it? Personally I think I would be a little tidier than they are (I wouldn't strew junk around the place and make mobiles with old pots and pans, probably) but whatever.

Cleaning an abandoned house and growing a garden in the back doesn't strike me as that weird or radical, honestly. It seems logical. I probably wouldn't take it as far as they do but I really can't judge them too harshly.

And just a last note - central heating... don't we (generally) admire those MDC mamas who live in cold climates without central heat? But what they're doing is wrong? The winters ARE cold in Buffalo but for a few months we (poor college students) got by without central heat too and wow, we made it, no harm no foul.
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#21 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 10:48 AM
 
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Not to mention that a college degree doesn't guarantee much anymore anyway. I have a college degree. At this point I'm pretty much overqualified for a minimum wage job
As someone with a BA in El. Ed. who is working part time at a min wage/entry level position, and was offered TWO other, min wage jobs, I call shenanigans on this. But that's OT.

As for Freegans....have they not heard of freecycle? Craigslist free section? It's like EXACTLY what they are doing, with, the way I see it, less risk. As a previous poster mentioned, just because something on the curb looks ok, that doesn't mean it is. But on Freecycle and Craigslist, there's less likelyhood that someone will knowingly give away something unsafe, to someone who knows exactly who is giving it away and where that person lives. Sure, it "could" happen, but it's much less likely. And with Freecycle and Craigslist, you aren't digging around in dumpsters that could have all sorts of grossness in it.
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#22 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 10:55 AM
 
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I think it sounds like an entry on SWPL.
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#23 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 11:14 AM
 
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As someone with a BA in El. Ed. who is working part time at a min wage/entry level position, and was offered TWO other, min wage jobs, I call shenanigans on this. But that's OT.
Well, I dunno. Between my husband and myself we have applied for well over 300 jobs in the past five years. Neither of us have found a job yet. So. Only minimum wage jobs have openings in our area, or else high level - no entry level, and when there are, there are hundreds and hundreds of applicants for any one position. The jobs we applied for hire teenagers instead. I don't know what else to attribute it to other than being overqualifed. Other than the job gap, but it's a vicious circle - can't get experience if you can't get hired, ya know?

ETA: Glad you got a job though, and two other job offers. That must be nice.

And for what it's worth I also think there are better alternatives to dumpster diving. There's a big difference between taking perfectly good produce from the market's reject racks and digging around someone's trash for half-eaten yogurt or something. When we lived in Buffalo and we did "curb shop" the rule was that nothing porous was allowed. If it was a plastic lawn chair, awesome, you can hose it down. If it's a couch, not so much. I love thrift stores and the same goes, pretty much, although I'll make exceptions for certain things (like this one awesome retro chair I got). Or things I can throw in the hot water wash a couple of times. But I don't think I'd feel comfortable actually getting knee deep in garbage to get a freebie. Ideologically I don't have a problem with it; practically I do.
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#24 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 11:18 AM
 
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I think it sounds like an entry on SWPL.
What's SWPL?
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#25 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 11:26 AM
 
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"And the whole "race and class privilege" argument is beyond me; if you're white and have parents who were middle class, then you have to live a "nice, normal, mainstream" life?"

Be as alternative as you want, as long as you take actual enforceable responsibility for anything you do that affects other people - such as moving in next door to them. Squatting's illegal, and it's actually a HUGE BURDEN to the people who live in neighborhoods that are filled with abandoned properties. The particular squatters mentioned in that NYT article somebody posted sound like a massive step up from the previous people who squatted in the house, but you'll note that they eventually realized somebody needed to own the house and be responsible for it and pay the back taxes on it. And there's no doubt that the steady stream of drifters coming through the neighborhood constitute a burden and perhaps a danger - and the freegans who set up that household seem to realize THAT, too.

To my mind, there's dumpster-diving and there's dodging legal responsibility for the house/boat/car/etc. that you are making use of as though you owned it. I'm all for the former and irritated as heck with peole who do the latter when they have the ability to create other options for themselves. Live in that house, I applaud it - but you'll need to pay property taxes and assume legal liability for accidents just like all your mainstream neighbors do.
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#26 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 11:34 AM
 
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In the article it said that their neighbors begged the judge to let them stay because they were a good influence on the neighborhood. So the judge let them say.

Shrug.

And also I don't know if I agree with legal responsibility. If you take actual physical responsibility for something, by taking care of it, why would you need to pay taxes on it? It doesn't make sense to me.

"Stealing" electricity, or water are different I think. If you use the city's services, THEN pay for them. Unless it's wifi or something which is free to all (whether or not you pay the taxes there).
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#27 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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Isn't the point that MegaMart doesn't post its castoffs on Freecycle?

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#28 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 12:38 PM
 
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Like one of the PPs mentioned, I'm wondering if it could be considered illegal or trespassing??? Does anyone have any thoughts?
SIL is a freegan, so she checked into it. Each city/town/county has its own rules. In some places, it's illegal even to take things from the side of the road. In other places, anything's fair game. It's best to check with your local government to find out the laws in your area.

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#29 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 04:07 PM
 
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What's SWPL?
It's a blog, stands for Stuff White People Like.
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#30 of 59 Old 07-30-2010, 06:22 PM
 
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"And the whole "race and class privilege" argument is beyond me; if you're white and have parents who were middle class, then you have to live a "nice, normal, mainstream" life?"

Be as alternative as you want, as long as you take actual enforceable responsibility for anything you do that affects other people - such as moving in next door to them. Squatting's illegal, and it's actually a HUGE BURDEN to the people who live in neighborhoods that are filled with abandoned properties. The particular squatters mentioned in that NYT article somebody posted sound like a massive step up from the previous people who squatted in the house, but you'll note that they eventually realized somebody needed to own the house and be responsible for it and pay the back taxes on it. And there's no doubt that the steady stream of drifters coming through the neighborhood constitute a burden and perhaps a danger - and the freegans who set up that household seem to realize THAT, too.

To my mind, there's dumpster-diving and there's dodging legal responsibility for the house/boat/car/etc. that you are making use of as though you owned it. I'm all for the former and irritated as heck with peole who do the latter when they have the ability to create other options for themselves. Live in that house, I applaud it - but you'll need to pay property taxes and assume legal liability for accidents just like all your mainstream neighbors do.


I feel it's the responsibility of someone who is able to secure a job and able to secure housing to pay taxes in order to aid those who cannot secure a job and cannot secure housing. That's a notion that many in this country don't agree with--i.e., "what's mine is mine!"
I hate capitalism. I hate that certain people (myself included) have privileges. I hate that the taxes I pay are so often misused. 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.
I'm all about freecycling and getting by on the cheap. Freegans are casting off materialism, which is fantastic. But what sort of positive changes are they making in our country, overall?

poetry-writing feminist, loving my h and my ju-ju-be
"That rug really tied the room together."
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