Freeganism: opting out of capitalism
For those who wish to “opt out” of capitalism, there is an option that is growing in popularity: freeganism, or becoming a “freegan” (combination of “free” and “vegan”). The name “freegan” seems to be relatively new, but the practice certainly isn’t: it’s just “dumpster diving” for the middle class. I was sent an article about this new movement from a family member of mine. I suspect this isn’t a lifestyle that he or most anyone else is going to rush out and adopt. But I certainly admire it.
For lunch in her modest apartment, Madeline Nelson tossed a salad made with shaved carrots and lettuce she dug out of a Whole Foods dumpster. She flavored the dressing with miso powder she found in a trash bag on a curb in Chinatown. She baked bread made with yeast plucked from the garbage of a Middle Eastern grocery store.
Nelson is a former corporate executive who can afford to dine at four-star restaurants. But she prefers turning garbage into gourmet meals without spending a cent.
On this afternoon, she thawed a slab of pate that she found three days before its expiration date in a dumpster outside a health food store. She made buttery chicken soup from another health food store's hot buffet leftovers, which she salvaged before they were tossed into the garbage.
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.
"We're doing something that is really socially unacceptable," Nelson said. "Not everyone is going to do it, but we hope it leads people to push their own limits and quit spending."