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What the ism? Freeganism


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We live in a culture where every food product we buy is stamped with a best-before date. The majority of us are sensitive to food going bad and we don’t eat anything that is ‘off’. We are a wasteful society and according to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) we throw away an estimated 8.5 million tonnes of food and drink waste every year. Even more shocking is DEFRA’s estimation that 65% of this food and drink waste is avoidable. 

Freegans take advantage of these statistics by eating for free from the food that is thrown away. The name freeganism is a joining of the words ‘free’ and ‘vegan’. Not all freegans are vegans, but veganism and freeganism share many ideals. Freeganism is a young movement that started in the 1990s in response to globalization and environmental concerns.  

Freeganism is not just about food; it is as much a philosophy as it is a practice.  Freegans see modern habits as unsustainable and detrimental to human and animal rights, and the environment. Freegans encourage sharing resources to counteract the dangers of overconsumption. They encourage recycling of material things to minimize waste, as well as campaigning to reduce waste through their lifestyle. Freegans reclaim waste to give away to those in need, as well as using it themselves. Freegans are often squatters, viewing housing as a right for all, not an economic privilege. Many view employment as materialist and a waste of valuable time. Freegans are often more involved in volunteering for the good of others than working for money.

Freegans are best known for scavenging food that has been thrown away. This is referred to as “bin diving” or “dumpster diving” in the US.  Though it is considered unhygienic to eat food that has been thrown away, it isn’t if you choose your food carefully. Freegans usually target retail stores that throw away the stock they have not sold during the day.  This food is absolutely fine to eat, and instead of paying £3.95 for a sandwich from Greggs, freegans eat the same sandwich for free. 

A myth about Freeganism is that it is illegal. However, it is not illegal to take food that has been thrown away because it has been abandoned and is therefore free for anyone to take. However, depending on country, squatting can be illegal, and it is often viewed as criminal behaviour.

Freeganism is a growing movement that does have benefits for society. Though our society is increasingly concerned with recycling and helping the environment, only a minority go to the extreme of living as a Freegan.  It is unlikely that Freeganism will be universally embraced in the future, but Freeganism has busted one myth – you can live for free! 

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