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What on earth is a Freegan?

Updated on June 18, 2013

Religous group, Environmentalists, or crazy?

More often than not, I tend to brag about how frugal or cheap I am. I do my best to reduce my ecological footprint by making my own green cleaning supplies, reusing and recycling containers, and making scratch foods when I can. Just the other day, I was introduced to the ultimate "cheapskates" ...or environmentalists...or crazy people, I really am not sure how to define them accurately. I recently learned of a growing subculture called the "Freegans".

What on earth is a "Freegan"?

A "Freegan" is someone who lives their life mostly "off the grid". They believe in bartering for services, living in homes that are being "wasted" by sitting vacant and unused (typically in a communal group), and eating and living from foods and items that many consider trash. This alternative lifestyle began gaining notoriety in the 90's and was born out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. This alternative lifestyle is seen in many major US cities like New York and San Fransicso as well as seen in parts of the UK.

I want to tread lightly as I explain what I know. As with any sub-culture, there are different styles and levels of "Freegans". I certainly mean no offense to anyone and am actually sitting in admiration of people who believe in something so much that they can live in this manner.

Eating as a Freegan

The word freegan is compounded from “free” and “vegan”. This does NOT mean that all Freegans are Vegan nor vegetarian. Freegans believe in wild foraging for meals wen possible and when it is not, they thrive on foods discarded by modern society. Restaurant trash bins, grocers dumpsters, and school trash cans are ideal locations for a Freegan to score a meal. They do this to avoid "exploiting the worlds resources". Many restaurants and grocers throw away good fruit when it is approaching its "sell by date" or simply because it is bruised or imperfect which is viewed as a waste of resources . Dumpster diving is typically done in groups so as to not waste any large scores!

A "Freegans" Shelter

Freegans believe that shelter is a RIGHT not a privilege. This is why Freegans will typically engage in the act of "squatting". Squatters will inhabit abandoned buildings which are sitting wasted. They will move from place to place when necessary and set up community homes wherever they go.

Surviving as a Freegan

A Freegan believes in non-conformity and has a hatred of GREED-so the motto of a Freegan is certainly "share and share alike". Freegans believe in the community way of life and tend to live in groups who readily share all that they have. Freegans will even set up Free Markets to share with others. “Really, Really, Free Markets” and “Freemeets” are such places where They will place unused items like shoes, clothing, and goods that they don't no longer need for other Freegans to take as their own. Freegans also use sites like Craigslist and Freecycle to score needed goods for free.

Traveling as a "Freegan"

This is where I see a difference in many Freegans. Most feel that automobiles and gasoline are detrimental to the earth so will not own nor support public transit. This is why I believe that they tend to live in larger urban cities where their necessities are in close proximity and the need for travel is greatly reduced. Freegans will usually only go only where their feet or bicycles will take them. If a Freegan needs to travel a far distance, they simply go train jumping or hitchhike to get around as this fuel was already being used and they have not increased the damage to the environment.

There are even travel networks set up where you can "couchsurf" and travel through a network of individuals who offer a place to stay for those in need simply for company and to gain life experiences. Craigslist if also a great way to find transport for a Freegan!

Religion as a "Freegan"
This is a big blank to me. "Freeganism" is a lifestyle and movement and it also appears to be almost a religion. I do not have solid information on this---maybe Freegans still hold true to their religious beliefs but I feel that their religion IS their focused on their lifestyle and their philosophies.

Do "Freegans" Work?

Freegans are dedicated to reducing the consumption and uses of man made goods and reject vanity and greed. This means that it is NOT necessary for a Freegan to work. Everything a Freegan needs is donated or found. NOW----I have seen stories of people who work full time jobs but still hold the basic beliefs of a "Freegan". They forage for food, clothing, and other goods but live in purchased homes and travel in cars. There may be a separate term for someone who does not practice the full "Freegan" Lifestyle.

Want to know more?

Check out sites like where they offer Strategies For Living beyond Capitalism. They offer links to other sites with more information on Living as a "Freegan".

As I said, I am not a "Freegan" nor do I see myself converting to this lifestyle. I do find it very interesting and am honestly enamored with individuals who believe in something so much that they will go to any extent to live out their beliefs. "Freeganism" is an interesting and devoted sub-culture of people looking to reduce, reuse, and recycle in the most extreme ways. Some say it is a religious movement, some say environmental, and some will call it crazy....I just call it interesting and admirable. What do you think?


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    • Mommymay profile image

      Heather May 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you. I first saw this on TV a few months ago and had no idea that it was as popular as it seems to be. Since then I have heard about it many other times and finally decided to find out more! Thanks for reading.

    • KA Pederson profile image

      Kim Anne 5 years ago from Texas

      Interesting, sounds kinda like gypsy's??? Voted up and interesting.