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What Are Freegans?

Freegans Revisited: Frugal or Too Far?

When Oprah featured a group of freegans on her show a couple years back, it didn't seem like a movement with a ton of staying power. After all, wouldn't the novelty of digging through the trash wear off pretty quickly? But according to an in-depth piece in this week's New York Times Magazine, freeganism has become much more than just Dumpster-diving.

The article follows a group of people in Buffalo, NY, who've formed a sort of freegan commune. Their goal is to be completely self-sufficient by utilizing things others have wasted, and that extends far beyond eating discarded produce. Among other things, the group:

  • Squats in abandoned mansions.
  • Picks up clothes from the laundromat lost and found.
  • Makes its own antennas from cans to pick up wireless Internet signals.
  • Brews its own wine and beer.
  • Mends clothes with dental floss.

To find out more about freegans, and whether they really are able to live for free, keep reading.


This particular group of freegans turns out to be more mainstream than they'd like. A judge actually ruled that they were allowed to keep squatting in their mansion, and one of the members eventually bought it; other members picked up part-time jobs to help pay the utilities. But their lifestyle is also more sustainable than one might think possible.

Most of you were wary of the freegan lifestyle when we talked about it last; how do you feel now? Are freegans just being frugal and smart during a difficult economic time? Or is this way over the top?

Image Source: Thinkstock
kids3 kids3 5 years
I think that people should live the way they choose to live and it doesn't really matter what people's opinion is of them. I know that other people's trash is another mans treasure. If they choose to dig through the garbage then so be it. It's not really anyone else's business or concern. If I have something in the trash that somebody wants then feel free to take it. At least someone is getting some use out of it. People waste so much now a days that it's not even funny. We as humans and adults don't seem to care what or how much trash we throw away each year. We are ruining our environment and they are doing things the right way. Personally myself I could not do it but if someone else does it then that's on them!!
jessfish25 jessfish25 7 years
I think it's a great movement. There is so much waste in this country, & these "freegans" make a good demonstration of that.
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 7 years
Mixed feelings...a person could go extreme, either way. Some people are extremely wasteful, but others are obscenely frugal. A good motto: Live within your means & don't waste.
Gawjuslayd Gawjuslayd 7 years
I think it is absolutely gross how these people use other people's belonging, just because there is a major ICK factor in it. Other than that I think these people are rather creative.
Yesi-Jukebox Yesi-Jukebox 7 years
I will stick to my own methods of being frugal..
lilkimbo lilkimbo 7 years
As someone who is kind of absent-minded from time-to-time (if I did my laundry at a laundromat, I could totally see myself accidentally leaving something there), I think it's ridiculous that they are taking clothes in the lost and found at laundromats. Maybe (and that's a big maybe) I would be OK with it if they saw that the clothes had been there a month or longer (or something like that). I think trash is fair game. Even though it was eventually ruled OK by a judge, I still question the legality of living in an abandoned mansion. Sure, no one's living there, but surely someone (even if it's the bank) owns it. Also, I know this isn't these people's intention, but it almost feels to me like they are mocking homeless and poor people who need to resort to these kinds of measures to survive. If one of these people bought a mansion, they're obviously not all hurting for cash.
Kellanawida Kellanawida 7 years
I'm really not sure about this, it's almost stealing.....
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 7 years
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 7 years
Hmmm... how exactly would I rig up a tin can to get wireless internet service? Seriously that shit is expensive. Trash is fair game though.
Studio16 Studio16 7 years
That's not being thrifty, that's being theif-y. I'm sorry, but when someone leaves something at the laundromat, that doesn't always mean he's getting rid of it. Likewise, I do consider going through trash stealing. Sure, maybe the people who threw something brand new out are being wasteful, but they paid for it, and it's their business if they want to throw it away.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
In some ways it seems resourceful, in others leeching.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Is it just me, or does this sort of sound like borderline stealing? I can understand dumpster diving because those items are trash, but stealing people's WiFi is pretty shady. And ripping off clothes from laundromats' lost and found is also a little messed-up. How do they know that people aren't going to come back to look for them?
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 7 years
I think that this is more than I could handle, personally... However, I have to say I applaud the dedication! I mean, even in this economy, people are so ungrateful and wasteful. Sometimes people buy things they don't need or receive them as gifts and can't be bothered to even donate them so in the trash they go! Also, some stores will just throw perfectly good items in the garbage because they've been returned or suffer minor cosmetic damage. They do this instead of donating them (I would think donating = tax writeoffs for them but I most be wrong if they're just dumping stuff). I, myself, am no stranger to dumpster diving. Now, before you say "EWWWW GIRLOVERBOARD HOW COULD YOU?" note that I've always worn gloves, always shower immediately afterwards, never get IN dumpsters and never rummage through anything I can't stand the smell of. Most retail places don't have much food to throw away (which causes the most odors/squishy grossness) and I won't pick up anything from an apartment/condo complex that isn't right on top or sitting outside of the dumpster. Diving isn't literal for a lot of people - it takes a special kind of person to actually go waste-deep in decomposing trash! Anyway, while I have recovered only a couple of odd treasures here and there, I've had other diving friends recover expensive camping equipment, art supplies, electronics and more. One friend found a *brand new* REI hiking pack that retails at about $200 with absolutely no flaws whatsoever! I may be a little too squeamish and not frugal enough to be self sufficient on rummaging alone, but I'm glad that there are people fully dedicated to picking up what the wasteful leave behind.
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