How Freegans Work

Freegan Philosophy
Freegans claim that there is an abundance of edible food discarded daily.
Freegans claim that there is an abundance of edible food discarded daily.
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While the thrill of a good find is motivation enoug­h for some Dumpster divers, freegans are usually driven by their anti-consumerist beliefs. Although freeganism is not an official organization, a Web site,, serves as the movement's hub. Many freegans use it to meet other scavengers and learn how to forage. The site advertises classes and scavenging sites and briefs newcomers on the philosophy behind freeganism.

­Freegans believe that consumerism destroys the environment and degrades society. They believe that deforestation, factory farming and unfair labor practices are a natural result of a profit-centered culture. Most importantly, they think that working and buying give implicit approval to capitalism and its sometimes unpleasant side effects.

So freegans choose not to buy. They resist electronics upgrades and changing fashions. They repair what they already own. They trade amongst themselves. They scavenge for what they need. And because most industrialized societies produce a lot of waste, freegans can usually get by quite comfortably with only the occasional purchase.

Some freegans train-hop or hitchhike to avoid buying cars and gas.
© Photographer: Radu Razvan | Agency: Dreamstime

Of course when you scavenge all of your food, avoid buying clothes, furniture and gadgets and maybe even squat on abandoned property, you have fewer expenses. With reduced financial dependence, freegans are able to choose jobs that harmonize with freegan ecological and social beliefs. They often find that they can work less and sometimes not at all. Freegans, however, are quick to point out that they're not lazy. Many use their spare time to volunteer, campaign for pet issues, teach repair workshops and, of course, scavenge.

Freegans also believe that society relies too much on oil. Some freegans convert their cars to run on biodiesel. Others walk or bike when possible. even suggests hitchhiking and train hopping, two unconventional alternatives to the standard green transportation solutions of hybrid cars and carbon offsets.

Freegans imagine a future of small, localized economies where people work less and spend more time together. Some even hope for a return to a pre-agricultural state, believing that gatherer cultures are the epitome of civilization.

With such lofty goals, how do freegans actually scrape by? In the next section, we'll learn about urban foraging techniques and freeganism in practice.