The Glories of Quasi-Capitalist Modernity, Dumpster Diving Division


It allows people to live simply, while others simply throw stuff away. The LA Times profiles the "freegan" movement of mostly middle-class, or formerly so, white progressive types who choose to eat largely from the dumpsters of D'Agostino's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. Some excerpts:

[Madeline] Nelson, 51, once earned a six-figure income as director of communications at Barnes and Noble. Tired of representing a multimillion dollar company, she quit in 2005 and became a "freegan"—the word combining "vegan" and "free"—a growing subculture of people who have reduced their spending habits and live off consumer waste. Though many of its pioneers are vegans, people who neither eat nor use any animal-based products, the concept has caught on with Nelson and other meat-eaters who do not want to depend on businesses that they believe waste resources, harm the environment or allow unfair labor practices.

She garnishes her salad with tangy weeds picked from neighbors' yards. She freezes bagels and soup from the trash to make them last longer. She sold her co-op and bought a one-bedroom apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn, about an hour from Manhattan by bike. Her annual expenditures now total about $25,000.
Freeganism was born out of environmental justice and anti-globalization movements dating to the 1980s. The concept was inspired in part by groups like "Food Not Bombs," an international organization that feeds the homeless with surplus food that's often donated by businesses.

Freegans are often college-educated people from middle-class families.

Adam Weissman, whose New York group has been around for about four years, lives with his father, a pediatrician, and mother, a teacher. The 29-year-old is unemployed by choice, taking care of his elderly grandparents daily and working odd jobs when he needs to. The rest of his time is spent furthering the freegan cause, he said, which is "about opting out of capitalism in any way that we can."

It's nice of capitalism to provide such an overflowing cornucopia that the Weissmans of the world can opt out. Wouldn't it be gracious of them to show some love to the system that manages to keep them alive and thriving without even trying?

Kevin Roderick at LA Observed notes the LAT was about three months behind the New York Times on using the same character to tell the same story.

Bonus: Here is a brilliant freegan parody from a '90s humor zine Nothing Doing by Gregg Turkington and Brendan Kearney, in which they describe breathlessly all the ways one could thrive FOR FREE!!! via various time-consuming machinations that would eat up 12 hours or more a day (including doing the rounds of every vending machine within miles looking for dropped nickles, and learning all your pals daily peregrinations so you could dragoon them into delivering your packages and parcels for you, when convenient). My favorite line: " **If you mow a lawn for the crazy old lady down the street, or get a paper route, you'll receive money for your services…FREE!"