Here's another letter (electronic mail this time) that I wrote recently. It's a reply to a lady who is looking for Freegans for a report she is doing on food consumption and waste. I thought my answers to her questions were appropriately Freegan for this blog. Perhaps it will answer some questions you all might have, too.
First, though I would like to say that has, in my opinion, grown out of movements that were active long before the 90's. I think that Freeganism takes bits and pieces of movements and ideologies from many different sources and fashions them into a unique perspective on the same issues that we have all been concerned with for decades. With that said, the environmental awareness movements of the 90's are a huge part of the Freegan philosophy.
My journey into Freeganism started with my parents. I grew up in a small town as a part of a lower-class family. My parents are products of the 60's and were dumpster divers "before it was cool", my father likes to say. They taught me the value of treating our environment with the respect it deserves, and gave me guidance in the reusing of all kinds of waste, including the throw outs of supermarkets. As you can imagine, when I was growing up, I was embarrassed by our second-hand clothing, our curb collected items, and the occasional thrown out food. But after I left home and began to travel in a radical Christian community, of all things, I came in contact with the ideals of Freeganism. Then all the things my parents tried to teach me began to make sense and I embraced a simple lifestyle, which includes minimizing the necessity for spending money (and consuming) through such things as . I am a Freegan for environmental, philosophical and humanitarian reasons. This has been a long background, but if you want me to go deeper, just let me know.
I have traveled a fair bit, and had varied experiences with people in different places. Most of the stigma I have received has been more focused on the fact that I am "poor" (voluntarily living in an RV for three years, spending time purposefully money- and home- less with a small group of friends a year and a half ago) than it was on the fact that I eat from dumpsters. When I explain freeganism and dumpster diving to the average person, they are often shocked and ask a lot of questions, but do not shun or stereotype me. In the context of casual conversation, they see bin-raiding as the act of protest that it is for a freegan. It's more intellectual when you tell people. It's when they see you on the street that the stigma comes. Freeganism itself is a popular concept. It's poverty that the world is afraid of. It's exactly that fear that Freeganism in its anti-consumerist focus seeks to challenge and eradicate.
The Los Angeles freegan movement seems to be almost non-existent to me. I came to live in LA about 7 months ago, taking a break from the nomadic lifestyle I had lived for 3 years. The first thing I went to look for was a group of freegans that I could identify, and possible live, with. I found the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meetup, and thought that it would be a significant group of freegans. I was disappointed when I attended a meetup to find that Eric was the only person who identified as a Freegan and that many of the poeple who come to his events have never dumpstered before. I have since come to see this as an opportunity for education, and have partnered with Eric to try to bring more exposure to the practices and purposes of Freeganism. If you know of any other groups of Freegans in this area, I would very much appreciate being hooked up with them. Eric and I have met a lot of people through our work with the Dumpster Diving meetup, and introduced many to the ideals of freeganism and the practice of dumpster diving. However, very few become dedicated to the practice and fewer ever identify themselves as freegan.
Freeganism is a much larger movement on the East Coast of the US (where the term was first coined), and is especially getting attention in Europe in the past few years. I really enjoyed dumpster diving in London last year! There, most people you run into have heard of freeganism. In LA, it's rare to meet someone who knows what the term means.
I have a load of resources I can direct you to. The easiest way to do that is through my blog, which has a list of related links on the right hand side. [link removed]
You may already have these links, but I think you may find them helpful.
The essential freegan websites are, of course:
http://freegan.info (New York Freegans)
http://freegan.org.uk (UK Freegans. I know several freegans in the UK)
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I apologize if this is too much stuff!
Good luck on your project.