Intro to Freegan Philosophy

NOTE: Names referred to in parentheses are experts who can provide more info on the topic under discussion. Their contact info is available on the Experts List that follows this document.

Freegans are people who practice strategies for everyday living based on sharing resources, minimizing the detrimental impact of our consumption, and reducing and recovering waste and independence from the profit-driven economy. Freegans are dismayed by the social and ecological costs of an economic model where only profit is valued, at the expense of the environment (Durning), and human and animal rights.

We view our participation in this economy as workers or as consumers as a form of complicity in practices like sweatshop labor, rainforest destruction (Keating), and factory farming(Mason), practices used to create everyday consumer goods, but never mentioned in the corporate advertisements that assault us every time we look at a billboard, turn on a radio, or open a newspaper.

In a society that worships competition and self-interest, freegans believe in living ethical, free, and happy lives centered around community and the notion that a healthy society must function on interdependence. (Graeber).

Freegans also believe that people have a right and responsibility to take back control of our time. In a society where many of us work as indentured servants in service to our debts, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, advertisers tell us that we can’t be happy or successful without buying the latest consumer goods, freegans believe in repairing and maintaining the goods that we already have, and refusing to buy things we don’t really need, and acquiring the things we really do need whenever possible without spending money. In the process we dramatically reduce our financial needs, allowing us to work less and devote our time to our families, service to our communities, activism for social change, or simply to enjoying life.

With a reduced need for money, freegans can also be more selective about our employment, and can refuse to work for jobs where we are complicit in animal abuse, human rights violations, and environmental destruction.

In this affluent culture, enormous quantities of vital resources like food (Santiago), Jones), and housing are wasted, while the needs of hundreds of millions go unmet (Dwyer). All manner of consumer commodities, from DVDs to newspapers to food are produced cheaply, sold at high prices, and discarded unsold in high volume by producers and retailers who deliberately overstock to avoid ever missing a potential sale, and dismiss the waste as a cost of doing business. Food retailers pass this cost onto taxpayers by deceptively writing it off as “spoilage.”

In a society where business success means keeping consumers buying, disposable good are promoted as preferable to reusable, products are built shoddily to ensure that consumers will keep replacing them, manufacturers price gouge on replacement parts to keep consumers buying entire new items instead of repairing old ones. The fashion industry convinces consumers that last year’s clothing is out of style. Computer manufacturers introduce new operating systems and software that carry “excess baggage” that ensure that they will run poorly on older machines. Bombarded with advertisements, consumers dump their computer monitors and TVs for LCD and plasma screens, their old clothes for new fashions, to use plasticware once rather than washing storing and reusing, and all of this is added to the waste stream.

The massive waste generated in the process fills landfills and consumes land as new landfills are built. This waste stream also pollutes the environment, and damages public health as landfills leak cancer causing chemicals and incinerators spew heavy metals and increase asthma rates (Rogers) with a disproportionate impact on low income black and brown communities, who lack the political influence to prevent waste transfer stations, incinerators, and landfills from being built in their neighborhoods. Freegans employ strategies to put this waste to practical use and to keep useable commodities out of the waste stream.

Freegans see a petroleum-based economy as ecologically disastrous and inextricable from warfare and third world domination by the United States in the interest of oil conglomerates With experts now predicting that global oil supplies will run out within decades, freegans believe that we need to start shifting now towards simpler, more localized, less consumptive economies, and promote non-petroleum based means of transportation

Many freegans see parallels between the sort of society they wish to create and pre-agricultural gatherer cultures, viewing these societies are excellent models for living happy and ecologically sustainable lives in mutually supportive cultures. Recent anthropology has dispelled the myth that precivilized human life was short and brutal (Mason), and even traditional hunter-gather cultures in the modern era represent a healthier and happier way of life than that of civilized cultures. Freegans see wild foraging as one way to reconnect with our roots as a gatherer species. Many also see urban foraging as an adaptation of gathering to the realities of our throwaway culture.

Freegans envision a future based on self-sufficient, sustainable communities, where we obtain vital resources in ways that don’t exploit people, animals, and the earth and share them freely to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, and where cooperation, not competition is recognized as the fabric of a happy and health society. To freegans, the best way to shape this future is to put these values into practice today.