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What is a freegan?

"Freegan" is an amalgamation of the words "free" and "vegan". Whereas vegans avoids products from animal sources or products tested on animals, in an effort to avoid harming animals, freegans recognize that in a complex, industrial mass production society economy driven by profit, abuses of humans, animals, and the earth abound at all levels of production from acquisition to raw materials to production to transportation -- sweatshop labor, rainforest destruction, global warming, displacement of indigenous communities, air and water pollution, eradication of wildlife on farmland as "pests," the violent overthrow of popular governments to maintain client states, open pit strip mining, oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, union busting, child slavery, and payoffs to repressive regimes are just some of the many impacts of the seemingly innocuous consumer products we buy every day. Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that the products we buy will have detrimental impacts we may never even consider. After years of trying to boycott products from egregious corporations, many of us came to realize that the problem isn't just a few bad corporations, but the entire system itself.

Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living, based on non-participation in the conventional economy, minimal consumption of resources, and embracing community, generosity, social concern, cooperation, and sharing in a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, and greed.

A few of these strategies:

Waste Reclamation:

Many freegans sustain themselves by recovering and making practical use of the the massive waste of our materialistic, greed-driven economy.

Because so many useable items our trashed in our society, a freegans can obtain many consumer commodities simply by recovering goods that would otherwise go to waste -- food, beverages, books, toiletries magazines, comic books, newspapers, videos, kitchenware, appliances, music (CDs, cassettes, records, etc.), carpets, musical instruments, clothing, rollerblades, scooters, furniture, vitamins, electronics, animal care products, games, toys, bicycles, artwork, and just about any other type of consumer good can be found in the discards of retailers, institutions, and individuals simply by rummaging through their trash bins, dumpsters, and trash bags. Rather than contributing to further waste, freegans curtail garbage and pollution and lessening the over-all volume in the waste stream.

Perhaps the most notorious freegan strategy is what is commonly called "urban foraging" or "dumpster diving." This technique involved rummaging through the garbage of retailers, residences, offices, and other facilities for useful goods. Despite our society's stereotypes about refuse, the goods recovered by freegans are safe, useable, clean, and in perfect or near-perfect condition, a symptom of a throwaway culture that encourages us to constantly replace our older goods with newer ones, and where retailers plan high-volume product disposal as part of their economic model. Some urban foragers forage alone, others in groups, happy to share their discoveries with one another, and with their communities. Groups like Food Not Bombs recover foods that would otherwise go to waste and use them to prepare meals to share in public places with any who can enjoy food shared freely with them.

Lots of used items can also be found for free or shared with others on websites like and in the free section of your local To dispose of useful materials check out the EPA's Materials and Waste Exchanges directory. In communities around the country, people are holding events like "Really, Really Free Markets" and "Freemeets." These events are akin to flea markets for free items. People bring items to share with others and take items that they can use, but not a dollar is exchanged. When freegans do need to buy, they buy second-hand goods which reduces production and supports reusing and reducing what would have been wasted.

Transportation and Housing
Some freegans also extend their commitment of non-participation to include transportation (via trainhopping, hitchhiking, walking, skating, and biking) and housing (via establishing communities to rehabilitate and inhabit abandoned buildings -- a.k.a squatting).

Going Green
In a society where the foods that we eat are often grown a world away and processed and transported at high ecological cost, where we've lost appreciation for changes in season and cycles of life, some are reconnecting to the Earth through gardening and wild foraging.

While gardening in rural and suburban areas is nothing new, an urban movement has been turning garbage-filled abandoned lots in verdant community garden plots. In neighborhoods where stores are more likely to carry junk food than fresh greens, community gardens provide a health food source. Where the air is choked with asthma inducing pollutants, community gardens produce fresh oxygen. In landscapes dominated by brick, concrete, and asphalt, community gardens provide oases of green, places for communities to come together, work together, share food grow together, and break down the barriers that keep people apart in a society where we have all become too isolated from one another.

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