Earth Week Field Guide: The Freegan

Holla, everyone! It’s Earth Week. To celebrate, every day this week we’re profiling a group of people who are hell-bent on saving the planet. We’ll start with freegans, the peeps you see sorting through your trash and walking away with discarded lamps and leftover Chinese food.

  • Dumpster Divers. Freegans only eat food that is free. They comb through dumpsters for discarded but edible food: expired yogurt, bruised fruit, your mom’s leftover meatloaf. Anti-consumerist to the core, this grass-roots subculture started in the mid-1990s. [Daily News]
  • World of Waste. Freegans consume what the rest of us consider trash—and there’s a lot of it. The average American throws out a pound of edible food a day, totaling 27 percent of the food available for consumption on the planet. Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year—12 percent of the total global waste. [NY Times]
  • Extreme Scavenging. Freegans treat waste consumption like an extreme sport. They know where the fullest dumpsters are and when the local Whole Foods tosses the expired food from their shelves to the curb. [In These Times]
  • Ready to Convert? Check out the videos on Freegan Kitchen, which teach you how to cook expired foods, so you don’t need to be wary of bruised peaches or slimy celery. [Freegan Kitchen] — Uh, yum? But, seriously, dumpster diving can be fun. Think of all the vintage clothes you might find next to the overripe bananas. And if you’re not ready to dig through trash, you can visit to find and trade scavenged items in your area.

The Big Q: Who came up with Earth Day?

It was 1969, two years after the summer of love, and Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was super concerned about the effects pollution and population growth were having on the environment. He took a cue from Vietnam protesters and decided to set an official day that would be half demonstrations and half teach-in about the environment. He chose April 22 because it was a day when college students would be able to participate (no vacations or exams), and because it marked the middle of spring. More than 20 million people participated in the first event on April 22, 1970. [Wikipedia] Now that environmental awareness is at an all-time high, it’s been expanded to a full week.