Friday, May 28, 2010

Defining Freeganism

In a recent post, I mentioned that my friend Marie started her own Dumpster Diving meetup group when returned to Grand Rapids after a summer visit to the LACW. Shortly after I posted that, she sent me a link to an article her local paper had done on the group, its purposes and its practices. This photo is from the online version of the newspaper article. Marie is the girl in the dumpster, doing the dirty work.

The article is a great piece to spread the ideals of Freeganism. Even the title itself is positive publicity (click the title to read the story): 

Dumpster diving with purpose: Grand Rapids Freegans make political statement by searching through trash

Unfortunately, the majority of user comments on the page are rather negative. Maybe some of my readers can go and change that...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You People Don't Look Like Criminals"

As many of you may know, we hosted our 7th monthly "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal" event on Saturday. We rescued a lot of food, as usual. In fact, we filled up most of our cargo capacity (including the space in two accompanying cars) at our very first stop. The event was a success in all aspects. After the ride, we had a party at our gracious friend Eric Michael's house and enjoyed the bounty of our harvest (and the company of his pet boa, René). (more pics here)

But we had an extra element of excitement in our event this month. As we were leaving our first supermarket stop, some of us noticed that a helicopter seemed to be following our small band of about 8 cyclists. Less than a mile down the road, we paused at a stoplight and were surrounded by police cars! The issue was that an employee of the store was there when we were and he called 911 to report theft. He thought that we were stealing the stock that they keep behind the fence next to the dumpsters. We never met the employee, but the cops we talked to made sure he knew that we were not stealing.

The officer who confronted us asked one of our friends to open a wine box that was mounted on his bike ("That box looks familiar", the cop said). It was a classic moment when the opened box revealed not bottles of wine, but dirty potatoes and lemons. The encounter was a little tense at first, but it relaxed quickly after the cop shared our disgust in the amount of food that goes to waste. He told us that his brother, who works for a large food warehouse company, tried to start an organization to redirect his company's food waste to needy people. The effort crumbled because of tough legal requirements and food standards. Millions of tons of edible food are still wasted every day. In that light, the officer said he could understand why we were dumpster diving. He had to remind us, though, that trespassing is illegal (which I am sure we all knew). At the store we first stopped at, the dumpsters are locked behind a fence near the loading dock, where new stock is also kept. When we climb under or over that razor topped fence, we are incurring the law and suspicion of theft, even though we are careful to never take anything but trash.

One of the first things our officer friend told us was that "You people don't look like criminals". My haughty mumbled response was, "That's because we're not". (To which he replied with a lecture on trespassing laws). The scenario reminded me of a video in which my friend Ashwyn encounters a security guard while dumpster diving. The guard is telling Ash to leave, saying, "It's illegal". Ash counters with, "It should be illegal to throw some of this stuff out". Seriously, who are the real criminals here? The people who break laws about private property in order to make good use of edible waste? Or perhaps it's the corporations who are breaking laws of humanity by denying people food. The huge amount of waste has a negative effect on the environment, and keeps millions of people hungry.

On another note... What exactly did the cop mean when he said that we didn't "look like criminals"? Was he referring to the fact that we weren't hiding (since we don't feel that we do anything wrong, we allow ourselves to stick out like sore thumbs)? Or did he say that because we were a group of white people on mediocre or nice bikes? Just some food for thought...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Freegan Flowers

First, I would like to report that the LA Catholic Worker 40th Anniversary Party was a blast! There will be pictures of the madness, I promise.

But for today, I would like to "consider the flowers". Here at the house, we have beautiful flower gardens in our yard. When I enjoy them, I am reminded that a number of the plants in the gardens were actually foraged from dumpsters by myself and Eric. There are three wonderful permanent "guests" who tend to the yard and they always appreciate bringing new things to life.

This flourishing fuchsia is one out of a box of 12 that Eric and I found in a supermarket bin a couple of months ago. Even the planter is "freegan", thanks to Alberto's clever use and painting of an old coffee can.  

We found these roses in a different dumpster about six months ago. They have bloomed twice so far.
The beautiful plant at the right was dry and suffering when we brought it home in October. It's now growing rapidly.
Last, but not least, I will display the first pictures of Eric's and my vegetable garden. These are beet sprouts, with pretty red stems! It's really exciting, watching life sprout from the dirt. If only more people could experience this natural wonder.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Take Me Home"

The other night Eric and I were dumpster diving at our favorite place. This store has 6 dumpsters; usually 2 or 3 are full of fresh produce, dairy and other tasty treats. That night, we each got our own dumpster to ferret through for salvageable food. While I was knee deep in trash bags, oranges and discarded containers of yogurt, I saw a box full of intact oranges. On one of the side flaps, it was written "FREE - Please take me home". I loved the beauty of the moment. This ripped up and tossed away box, full of perfectly good fruit, called to us. It told us to do exactly what we were doing.

Yesterday, Eric and I planted a small vegetable garden on the LACW property. It felt wonderful to be working barefoot in the dirt again. I hadn't worked a garden since my time in Kenya in the beginning of 2009. Gardening is a very Freegan concept. If people would grow their own food, we wouldn't have the need for supermarkets and industrialized consumption. I have a feeling that there would be a lot less food waste.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arlington West Santa Monica at CSULB

in Santa Monica^
I have spent the last two days on the campus of California State University - Long Beach supporting the peace movement and representing the Catholic Worker during the Arlington West event at the school. This memorial typically appears on the Santa Monica Pier each Sunday. Veterans for Peace, the movement behind the memorial, was asked to bring the display to CSULB this week.

CSU Long Beach ^
The display struck me as very powerful. It appeals to people of all persuasions as it remembers the misguided fallen soldiers, fellow citizens of our nation. It brings the battle home and makes the numbers personal. In addition to the crosses, there are displays with photos of the fallen US soldiers, pictures of wounded Americans and Iraqis, and a long list of Iraqi casualties. The whole project is very extensive and moving.