Sunday, June 6, 2010


A NYtimes article on a group of squatters living a freegan life.  Although I'm not going to advocate freeganism or an entire freegan lifestyle (free houses, really?), I can't really say that I find it wrong.


  1. While I tend to romanticize the idea of living without a job, living off the land, not wasting resources (such as gas), not paying for anything (in Kit's words "it doesn't feel natural" to use money), working hard and in more ways than anyone else "being free", I still hold on to some sense that there is something wrong with it. I think there is nothing wrong with eating other peoples trash (other than it being gross), if they're not using it, go for it. Along the same lines, if there is a shelter that nobody else is using, ala Fight Club, squat there. But, if there is an electricity bill, a phone bill and a water bill that somebody else is paying (whoever owns the mortgage, probably a bank at this point), then use of those utilities is wrong, because you're stealing their resources without any intention of returning what you've taken. Living a Freegan lifestyle could be seen as a symbiotic relationship with our modern world; Freegans will eat your trash, pick up the things that you don't want, make use of the leftovers that might otherwise crowd the landfills. But, what are they actually providing to the system, other than using our unused resources? Perhaps then they could be classified as parasitic. Though a few here and there in a large city is no big deal, if there were nothing but Freegans everywhere, the system would stop running. Are Freegans by definition unemployed? Can a Freegan have a legitimate job and still be considered Freegan? If so, then my parasite argument falls away, as they will pay taxes and still support the economy, if only in the minimalist sense, scraping by for themselves. My final criticism of Freeganism is how it might apply to raising a family. I am not certain that such a lifestyle would be suitable for raising children. How would a child subjected to a lifestyle out of the norm of its peers react to the judgments they would inevitably face? Having an unsteady job, dumpster diving for food, having no medical insurance (don't mean to bring this into universal healthcare debate), having no stable homestead, is this the best way to raise a child? I tend to think it is not.

  2. C'mon Gary, saying that if everyone was X, the world would break down, isn't an argument against anything. If everyone was male, society would break down. If everyone was a celibate priest, If everyone was a firefighter....

    Freegans don't have to be unemployed. Its about what they eat. If I ate out of the dumpster for free, then I'm a freegan. Thats what the term meant originally, anyways.
    This group in particular takes it to other levels, like free housing and such. I agree stealing utilities is wrong.

    As for children, I'm not sure there isn't any correct way to raise a child. Pioneers lived equally harsh squalid lives, but we usually don't think about that. But nowadays, if a child doesn't have a gps and a cell phone on them so you can locate them 24 hours a day at a moments notice, you're being an irresponsible parent. Needless to say, I don't agree.

  3. ... If everyone was a philosopher? I didn't say the world would break down, I said our system would. But, this is based upon the notion that a Freegan doesn't have a job. If, in fact, they are allowed to have jobs and still be Freegans, by eating only out of dumpsters, if everyone became Freegan the system would still break down, because no one would pay for food, everyone is eating it for free from the dumpster... which, in turn would be empty because there wouldn't be any food that is thrown away, because no food would be on store shelves anymore to throw away. Freegans are somewhere between symbiotic and parasitic, depending on how much they are taking from the society.
    It still seems unusual to me to add the world Vegan to Free(-loader). I wouldn't want to eat any vegan food that was in a dumpster. I'd prefer my vegetables and fruits to be fresh. Are ho-hos and twinkies considered vegan? That's what I envision as the contents of the dumpster behind 7-11. That and spoiled milk, which isn't vegan, even if not curdled.
    Beyond diet and not paying for something that is costing someone else money (like utilities), I don't disagree with their personal choices, in fact I commend them for their eco-friendly attitudes. They may be forging the way of necessity for future generations to come.

  4. Freegans would eat anything that was out of the dumpster, including meat. The ethical argument behind it is that if you didn't pay for the food, and you didn't steal it, then you're not supporting (financially) the cruelty that is being inflicted on animals, nor are you creating a demand for it.

    I've got numbers somewhere, but the amount of perfectly good, edible food that is simply cosmetically undesirable (dented can, brown banana, bruised apple) makes up something like 1/3 of the food produced. (off the top of my head don't quote me on that).