Freeganism: Living free in Minnesota

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To freegans, the world is ripe for the picking. And there is no price tag on it. It’s an open, affirming way to live, and, as the name somewhat obviously implies, it’s free.

So, what exactly is a freegan?

A “freegan,” which is a portmanteau of the words “free” and “vegan,” generally wants nothing to do with the rat race: There’s no need to spend more money on new things when there is many products that go to waste daily. It’s a simply philosophy, really; one of appreciating what has already been made instead of working tirelessly to constantly buy/own/update.

According to freegan.info,

“Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.”

It goes beyond condemning a few bad corporations; it is the system itself that is the problem. It’s about rejecting capitalism, and more importantly, consumerism. It’s about the joy of being free, not tied to the latest this, that, or the other thing, and the reward of living without it.

It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s picking up what the Joneses left behind.

And it’s not illegal. According to the 1984 case California vs. Greenwood, the Supreme Court declared, “The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.”

The mantra is, ultimately, don’t purchase when you can repurpose.

And it’s perhaps the only real antidote to affluenza; the term used commonly by critics of consumerism to describe the actual (mental) sickness/fatigue that comes the constant need to buy, buy, buy.

How does freeganism work in a state like Minnesota?

In Minnesota, where winter weather can make it hard to live without a new coat or boots without holes, a hot meal or warm drink, it’s much harder to fathom living the freegan life.

This is where the internet can help. Sites like Freegan.info, mentioned above, offer tips, tricks, and procedures. There’s a “Dumpster Directory,” for example, that identifies the best dumpsters for finding food, and the best times to look for it. Trashwiki.org (for the Minnesota chapter specifically click here) has news and information on freegan communities all across the world. It is about community. It is about coming together.

(Local libraries have free access to computers with internet, and are open to everyone.)

And it’s also about the do’s and don’ts of living the freegan way. Etiquette is important to remember: Dumpster diving during business hours is considered rude/intrusive. Plus, you’re more likely to have an angry business owner chasing you away and putting locks on dumpsters, fucking things up for everyone. There aren’t rules, necessarily, just better ways to go about living the free life.

Because, at least for the time being, this is the way the world works.

But isn’t just about food (although that is often the most important, re: survival). Clothes are thrown out before they should be, especially around college campuses during dorm move-out time. Usable appliances are tossed out as well; if you rummage through the dumpsters of Best Buy you can even find some tech or toys for yourself for the costs of one good jump.

There is too much waste in the world. Freegans are here to clean up after the rest of us.

Read next: The secret all cities can learn from Albert Lea, Minnesota