11 December 2005


In one of my circle of friends in the office, we joke about one of our friend, S., as being a freegan. It all started when she brought to our attention the practice of living off other people's garbage, aka freeganing. It was reported in an issue of the free daily newspaper AM New York a few weeks ago. Now, don't confuse these people with homeless people. Freegans are really activists against the world of overproduction at the cost of nature. In a way, they are environmentalists but they have gone a step further by refusing to pay for anything, or at least pay for as few as possible. They forage garbage bags in search of just-expired food that the stores just threw out, reuse other perfectly good stuff that others threw out simply because their apartments ran out of room, etc. They do dumpster diving to rescue furnitures and other items that can be re-used. The website link above is full of useful information if you want to, uh, dive in. One article that I find amusing, while scary as it takes one on a fine line between breaking the law and causing misunderstanding, is about taking food from supermarkets. Supposedly, some supermarkets collect expired food and store them in the backroom. One can wander in and pretend to look for an empty box, then help oneself to the expired food and walk out the back door. One can easily be misunderstood for a shoplifter, too, no matter that the food would be thrown out. It's somewhat like a burglar breaking into your house only to steal your garbage. Sure, the garbage will be thrown out soon, but while it's in your house, you wouldn't want anybody take it.

I admired these folks for doing what they do. I cannot imagine myself ever doing it - I mean the foraging for food in store's garbage, even if it's a gourmet store. However, I do practice the 3R's to a great degree. Recently, I even practiced some office freeganing myself. On my floor, a whole department was fired recently as a result of some consolidation - it always happens with mergers. I recall from my first job when there were waves and waves of layoffs there would be these big cloth dumpster throughout the floor for people to dump stuff into. I rescued countless ring binders, folders, dividers, and other office supplies. This time around, there aren't any dumpsters yet, but I am pretty sure some day the janitors will come around and dump the content of drawers or sweep away desktop. So far, I've rescued a few USB mice with scrollers, keyboards, docking stations, dry erase markers (perfect for my cartoon board), paper napkins, pens, pencils, and more. It's just too much of a waste to see all that simply thrown out.

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