Image credit: MaryGreeley
From Meet The Freegans to DIVE! The Movie, we've posted plenty of material about dumpster diving and the art of living off trash. Yet almost inevitably, when we do, the response from some readers is utter disgust.
But freeganism is now getting mainstream attention. Who knows, maybe it will even become socially acceptable... In the video below, YouTube user Mary Greeley expresses surprise that ABC News would post, in its money section no less, a relatively positive article about the practice of Freeganism, and the rise of dumpster diving, in these hard economic times. The original article that Greeley quotes suggests that while dumpster diving has always held a certain attraction for those who are either economically disadvantaged, or ideologically opposed to excessive consumerism, the level of interest has skyrocketed in recent years:
According to Nelson, the NYC trash tours attract participants across age, class and professional divide and have grown noticeably since the recession in 2008. She said that the tours currently attract, on average 40 people, as opposed to the 10 or so who used to attend pre-2008.
"I think there are more people coming because this might be a way to make ends meet," said Nelson."We have shown literally thousands of discrete individuals how to go dumpster diving and trash picking in this city."
What interests me about Greeley's response below is that she starts out assuming such an article would be a joke, and ends up conceding that one person's trash is another person's treasure—and that many dumpster divers will learn a sense of resilience that will serve them well when and if push comes to shove. It seems that dumpster divers are, through their own attempts to live a less consumptive lifestyle, recalibrating our cultural norms about what is, and what is not, acceptable when it comes to waste.
Beyond encouraging people to rethink their own relationship to waste, the practice of freeganism is also shifting corporate and political behavior too. What started out as a documentary about dumpster diving ended up with tens of thousands of people campaigning to end food waste at Trader Joe's.
All too often, when people explore individual experiments in sustainable living—whether it is the Moneyless Man or a plastic-free life—we deride them as being unrealistic models for the rest of us to follow. (Some have argued that my own posts on what a vegan world looks like fall into this trap too.) The fact is that nobody's lifestyle can or should be considered a model for everybody else's lifestyle. What they can be is a catalyst for discussion that resets the parameters of what is, and what is not, considered normal.
Here the freegans are doing us all a gigantic favor.
More on Dumpster Diving and Freeganism
Meet The Freegans (Video)
DIVE! The Movie
30,000 People Tell Trader Joe's to Stop Wasting Food