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Top 10 Interesting Facts About Freeganism and What Is a Freegan

Updated on July 13, 2017
Freeganism is about living a low-impact, waste-reducing and co-operative life.
Freeganism is about living a low-impact, waste-reducing and co-operative life. | Source

Ten key facts about what is meant by Freeganism and the lifestyle of a Freegan.

1. Origin of Freeganism

Although the term “Freegan” originates from the 1999 manifesto “Why Freegan” (Warren Oakes), its origins go back to the Sixties where Diggers, an anarchist street theatre group based in San Francisco in the 1960s, gave away rescued food. Compounded from "free" and "veganism", Freeganism also draws on the Gandhian idea of non-violent action.

2. A Freegan is anti-consumerist.

One of the key cornerstones of Freeganism is the idea that the world should buy as little as possible and use only what is needed. Consumerism is seen as a vacuous pursuit, encouraging waste, greed and inequality. Freegans forgo shopping in stores, preferring instead to obtain any essential items via alternative means (see below).

3. Freegans believe in an alternative approach to transportation.

As part of Freeganism’s ecological outlook, Freegans look to minimise their use of the conventional motor car. Wherever possible, Freegans use using fuel-friendly modes of transport such as biking, walking or skating. Where this is not possible, Freegans use public transportation, train hopping, hitchhiking or car pooling.

Where car use is unavoidable, Freegans use cars with diesel engines converted to run on biodiesel or vegetable oil (that is fuelling cars with used frying oil from restaurants). Thus ensuring waste is recycled and the impact on the environment is minimised.

The Freegan's view of the World and what it could be
The Freegan's view of the World and what it could be | Source

4. A fully sustainable approach to food production and wastage eradication is a cornerstone to Freeganism.

Taking into account the entire food supply chain, humans waste around 1/3 of all food produced. This is close to 50% in the developed world.

Freeganism’s staunch stance against food wastage is one of the cornerstones of the movement.

“Food waste is the big unspoken environmental crisis of our times, right up there with more familiar concerns such as deforestation, water scarcity, even global warming.” [Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (Tristram Stuart, Penguin).

This has lead to a number of alternative approaches by Freegans to feed themselves and others either by reclaiming wasted food or by other sustainable ways.

This short documentary film, Bin Appetit, gives reasons people become Freegans (or at least Dumpster Divers).

Dumpster diving / skipping / bin diving / skipitarianism

Although this is not limited to food, Freegans – particularly in the US – have become associated and firmly wedded to the idea of “dumpster diving”. That is reclaiming food thrown out by supermarkets, restaurants and the public which is perfectly safe to eat. (This is also a key source for Freegans of recycling aluminium cans, obtaining accessories to power tools in need of small repairs, and a whole plethora of other recyclable or re-usable goods.)

Foraging for wild food & using plants for natural medicine

Wherever possible, Freegans use the natural bounty of the wild as their food larder and medicine cabinet. By respecting nature and ensuring that they are not using it unsustainably, Freegans forage for food in their gardens, countryside, woods and other rural areas. Freegans will adopt existing recipes or create their own meals using plants such as nettles, dandelions, Japanese knotweed, rosehips, blackberries, acorns, crab apples and many other food sources. Non-vegan / non-vegetarian Freegans may also consider killing wild animals (where it is legal, etc. to do so) or eat certain road kill.

Guerrilla gardening can include creating vegetable plots or simply adding green and colour to an urban landscape
Guerrilla gardening can include creating vegetable plots or simply adding green and colour to an urban landscape | Source

Growing own food

One of Freeganism’s stated aims is to rebuild genuine community and reclaim the capacity to grow one's own food. This provides a more traditional and sustainable alternative to the ecologically-damaging dependence on commercial food production and participation in what is perceived as an exploitative and waste. Urban gardening / guerrilla gardening is another practice adopted by Freegans. This relates to turning rubbish- (garbage-) filled abandoned areas into vibrant community garden plots. Creating:-

· Fresh greens (vs junk food)

· Oxygen-providing trees (vs polluting vehicle fumes)

· An oasis of green, calm and community (vs brick, concrete and isolation); and

· A sense of community and interdependency (vs. isolation and selfishness)

5. Freeganism embraces environmentalism as a way of life.

Freegans and environmentalists both view the Earth (“Gaia”) as a living body that we must care for, and help sustain. All aspects of environmentalism are embraced by Freeganism. Some have coined Freeganism as activist Environmentalists.

Environmentalism in this context may encompass areas such as

  • re-using, recycling or fixing items;
  • "freecyling" or matching things that people want to get rid of with things other people need; and
  • Precycling (not using items that would otherwise create wastage).

Characteristics of Conventional Society vs. Freeganism

Conventional Society
Embraces materialism
Embraces community
Moral apathy
Social concern

6. Freegans believe in protecting Mother Earth (Gaia) by reducing energy consumption.

Freegans will always attempt to reduce their energy consumption whether it’s carbon-generated energy or clean, sustainable energy. Freeganism encourages people to seek out and use alternative, clean forms of energy such as solar thermal, solar PV, wind, hydro-electric and geo-thermal.

An elaborately-constructed composting toilet.
An elaborately-constructed composting toilet. | Source

7. Freegans live by the holistic concept of organic composting and water conservation.

The ethos of “waste not, want not” extends to all areas of a Freegan’s live. So composting all organic matter is key. This will include composting inedible parts of vegetables to re-cycling human waste (humanure) to form part of the composting process. This latter approach helps save water – by using composting toilets which do not use any water to flush the waste. Simply use a shovel-full of sawdust to cover and commence the composting process.

8. Freeganism is based on co-operative living.

Freegans consider housing to be a right as opposed to an economic good. Freegans also take the view that if a building is standing unused and empty while there is homelessness on the streets, then this constitutes waste and should be countered by squatting.

Curb shopping or offering to recycle the thrown out stuff.
Curb shopping or offering to recycle the thrown out stuff. | Source

9. Sharing, bartering and getting genuinely required stuff for free is a key ethos for Freegans.

This includes:

  • Bartering or trading – either on an ad hoc basis or via a “free store” (a temporary market where people exchange goods and services outside of a money-based economy).
  • Sharing - Really, Really Free Markets are free social events in which freegans can share goods instead of discarding them, share skills, give presents and eat food.
  • Curb shopping – picking up discarded items that have been left on the curb after a clear out.

10. Freegans believe that working less is for the greater good.

Rather than spending two thirds of one’s life chained to a job just to pay the bills, mortgage, clothes, etc. Freegans believe life can be more fulfilling by eliminating (or at least reducing) the amount of paid work we do and using that free time for the greater good.

Freeganism’s view on the purpose of work: “Conventional Society” vs. “Freeganism”

Conventional Society
Accumulate material items
Basic necessities such as clothing, housing, unforaged food
Joy can only be found through the purchase of material items
Joy can be found through co-operation, and completing tasks out of love for others while not expecting anything in return for one’s services
Take orders from someone else, stress, boredom, monotony, and in many cases risks to physical and psychological well-being
Volunteering in service activities, bonding with family
Employment defines who we are
Freedome to express oneself in community

Summarised characteristics of a Freegan:

  • Committed to living off the wastes of capitalism.
  • An environmental, political, or animal-rights activist (or some combination of the three).
  • A vegan or meegan (only eating meat that would have gone to waste).
  • A strong supporter of his/her community.
  • Interested in being (or already) free from the restraints of a paying job.

Quick poll

Which area / concept of Freeganism do you most closely agree with?

See results


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    • Media Magnate Mom profile image

      Media Magnate Mom 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Wow, you learn something new everyday... Thanks for the great information. Useful and voted up!

    • RichardPac profile image

      RichardPac 5 years ago from Sunny Florida!

      Wow, I didn't know the freegan ideals were so in-depth. I loved the picture with the guerrilla gardening! It's Definitely an interisted belief system, and something worth sharing with the world.

    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      great hub, very interesting

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      Well, I have learned something new. I had never heard of Freeganism, so thanks for sharing this. Voted up and awesome.

    • iTop10 profile image

      iTop10 5 years ago

      Thanks, Thundermama.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      Most awesome hub. Freeganism is the way of the future. I cannot express how much this hub rocked. Sharing it with everyone I know. Voted way up!