Why Freegan?

An Attack on Consumption – In Defense of Donuts

NOTE: This is the text of the original freegan manifesto, which appeared in February 2000. The zine’s author, according to some sources, is Warren Oakes, drummer of the band, Against Me! We didn’t change anything from the original zine obtained from the Death Metal Militia Distro/Green Monkey Collective. (Copy of the paper zine with fun and funky illustrations visible on the zine library, here!) If you lack a printer or are reading this at a library with no printers, etc, and want paper copies, try writing to them at PO Box 17838 / Clearwater, FL 34622 or write to them via email at clearwaterfnb@hotmail.com for more info. We do not know if this collective still exists but we hope they do.

Freeganism is essentially an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating; asking “Why freegan?” is essentially asking “Why not consumerism?” So here is a quick criticism of consumerism.

Treading lightly on the Earth – Our high impact, produce & consume society puts a very intense strain on the Earth and her resources. Rainforests are clear-cut to provide more land for food production. Food production also consumes vast quantities of fresh water, one of our fastest-depleting resources. And then there is the packaging! Go look in your trash right now and most likely it will be filled with plastic, paper, and Styrofoam packaging from food products (if not you get mad props!). Go look in any trash or landfill and you will see literally tons & tons of packaging. The act of consumption is the transformation of natural land and resources into money for corporations and acres of trash in landfills. (This is not a good thing.)

Anti-Capitalism – If you are an “anti-capitalist”, what better way to protest the economy than withdrawing from it and never using money?

Working Sucks – Where does the money you spend come from? You or your folks working long hours at a dehumanizing job, most likely. You don’t have to compromise yourself and your humanity to the evil demon of wage-slavery! Working sucks and if a little scavenging can keep you from needing a job than go jump in a dumpster! Even if you do need to work to pay your bills, think about how much less you would have to work if you didn’t have to buy food.

Privilege – We, in America, have so much and so many people all over the world have so little. Why do we have more? Because we’re number one! Other folks are literally starving so that we can have fully-stocked shelves at our supermarkets and health food stores. If this concerns you (as it should) you can protest the unbalanced distribution in America and the world by sacrificing some of your privilege and feeding yourself off of the ridiculous excess of food instead of consuming products from that supermarket shelves we are so unjustly privileged to have access to.

The Ultimate Boycott – By not consuming, you are boycotting EVERYTHING! All the corporations, all the stores, all the pesticides, all the land and resources wasted, the capitalist system, the all-oppressive dollar, the wage slavery, the whole burrito! That should help you get to sleep at night.

Your Life – Think about how your life is wrapped up in the game of consumptions: think about the job you hate, the ugly billboards in your community, the horrible waste, the stink, the fast pace and lack of compassion that surround you and understand that as you consume it, it consumes you. How much of your day is spent dealing with money? How does money affect your ideas about other people? Think abut how much more to life there is and find it, do it, go!

Criticism of Veganism:

The vegan theory is essentially a boycott of any products that injure animals in their production. The vegan consumers are flexing their monetary muscle and “voting with their dollars” for the products that don’t injure animals. These dollars are voting for coca-cola, big corporate grocery stores, greasy-fast food (we all know Taco Bell vegans), and worse. Shouldn’t truly conscientious folks seek something more? I don’t vote because no matter who I vote for, the government always wins and when you “vote with your dollars”, consumerism always wins, capitalism always wins. So…. make a list of all the unethical practices that really piss you off and make a list of all the corporations and products you want to boycott. Veganism is a good first step, but is your only concern animals? I made this list and when I was done, I couldn’t really justify buying anything, I couldn’t get behind any aspect of the corporate death consumer machine so I decided to boycott everything. I still spend money sometimes (I love going out for Thai food) but I try to be very conscientious about my consumption. Besides the concern that veganism as an ethic for eating stops short, it is also still a very high impact lifestyle. The packaging from vegan food doesn’t take up less space in the landfill or consume less resources just because the food is vegan. The whole produce and consume dynamic is still played out, but the setting is a fancy health food store instead of a supermarket. Veganism is not a threat, or a challenge to the wasteful practices of our capitalist society.

How Freegan?

Freeganism, also known as ethical eating, voluntary simplicity, monetary minimalism, the ultimate boycott, etc is fun and easy. Here are some basic tips:

Quality of Food – Freegans widely vary in their concern for health – some freegans gorge themselves on dumpstered donuts and some are still totally vegan, but get all their food for free. Most fall in the happy medium who would rather eat a load of bread with whey in it than make a $2 donation to the corporate death machine. Some freegans eat “edgy” food (on the edge of edibility) and some don’t take chances. Some folks are even “meagan” – they eat meat if they get it for free.

Quantity of Food – A lot, everywhere. You have all seen that Food Not Bombs flyer about how many million pounds of food is wasted; well, it is true. The food is plentiful. The food is good.


Dumpster Diving! – The best, easiest way to get the most food. Just head to your local grocery store, produce store, bagel and donut shop, bakery, K-mart (expired shelf goodies), and open up the dumpster and take a look. Don’t be afraid to climb in and dig around! Have fun, go with your friends! If you just find a big, scary compactor behind the store (a bunch of big supermarkets have these), then you can’t get in, but you can fight back. Start a local DLF (Dumpster Liberation Front!) and stick it to those compactors: superglue them so they don’t work or hit them with a bat or pee on them or paint them up; have fun – compactors are the enemy. P.S. Food is not the only thing in dumpsters! Happy scavenging!

Give-Aways! – A lot of small, independent places and even some bigger stores will give you food they are about to throw out if you just ask them for it. Also, free lunches and soup kitchens! Make sure you aren’t taking food from someone who really needs it if you don’t, but most places have a lot of extra to go around. If you can get government food or food stamps, go for it! Go to Food Not Bombs and help out, then take some extra soup and bagels for the road… Just don’t be afraid to ask and the food will come to you.

Plate scraping/Table-Diving – Go in a restaurant and either ask a worker if you can eat plate scraps or just sit with a drink and hop up and grab plates off tables when diners leave and finish off what they left. In fast food places you can pull half-drunk sodas and half-eaten orders of French fries out of the trash. Me and my dear sweet friend Peter once sat in Denny’s for hours eating table dives. After a while, diners would intentionally leave food on their plates for us or actually bring leftovers to our table. If a waitress/waiter lets this go on, leave a tip! I have heard stories of plate-scrapers in the mall food court getting offered money to buy some food– free cash if you want to work the pity. It is possible that you will get harassed and kicked out so this method is not fool-proof.

Wild foraging/Gardening – Get a book on edible plants and start looking around; there is a lot more edible food growing all around us than we realize. Also, if you live down the street from orange and grapefruit vines, don’t buy oranges and grapefruit! If you live down in West Palm Beach, don’t buy cans of coconut milk for Thai curry. Learn what grows in your area and find it or plant it. You can start your own garden in your yard or in that empty lot up the street. You don’t need a lot of land of gourmet soil, just some dirt. Maybe your city even has a community garden and you and your friends could get a plot. For seeds, remember all those great fruits and veggies you just dumpster-dove? Plant the seeds and stick the bad parts, stems and excess in a pile outside with some dirt. As the plant matter decomposes it will be magically transformed into super-rich compost, which makes a great fertilizer. Your newly planted seeds will be thrilled.

Barter – Set up a local network that trades and/or shares goods and services. “I’ll give you my extra tend pounds of broccoli if you fix my bike.” “Hey dudes! Feast at my house! We made a great find and I love sharing the wealth of the dumpster!”

Scams/Shoplifting – There are a slew of shady ways to score free food…always let your conscience be your guide!

Shoplifting – There is some debate over how freegan this really is because you are still creating an empty shelf that must be restocked, but it is more freegan than forking over big bucks. This is a more direct attack on the store selling the goods, not the producer (unless you hyper-boycott a product: pick something you can’t stand and consistently get it off the shelves, steal it, break it, hide it, just eliminate it and the store will eventually stop selling it) so you should consider if you are putting a ma & pa organic veggie stand out of business or just chipping away at a corporate giant.

Employee Theft – Some folks believe this to be more ethical than shoplifting because it is a trade-off: they steal your time and energy and you steal their food. If you work somewhere that sucks, hook yourself up, hook up your friends, hook up strangers, hook up your local FNB! I have heard tales of a kid who feeds a three-person household of his workplace acquisitions from the health food store. They eat damn good, too! You can also get the insider scoop and may be able to intercept food headed for the dumpster.

Returns – Example: we just dove a bunch of jars of mayonnaise. We don’t want to eat it, so we return it to the store, say we bought it and couldn’t use it/don’t want it and trade it in for cash or good food or store credit. Some stores throw away anything that is returned that costs less than $50, so you can find expensive stuff, in a package, with a receipt!

Extending the Ethic – Withdrawal from the consumer death culture doesn’t have to end with food:

Energy – Use solar energy, make a solar oven, hang our wash on a line, don’t use the air conditioner or heater when you can put on/take off clothes, open a window or use a fan, wash your dishes by hand – dishwashers consume a lot of energy and water, turn off lights when you aren’t using them.

Water – Don’t shower often and when you do, instead of showering, “go swimming” in the shower with a friend – it is fun, explorative, liberating, and consumes less water! Don’t flush when you pee! It won’t hurt you, pee just sits in the toilet not bothering anyone; it doesn’t warrant the 10 gallons per flush just to get rid of it. Wait until you get a good healthy poop in there and then flush it all away. If you don’t like the smell of pee stagnating in the toilet, pee outside or dilute your urine (7 water to 1 pee) and fertilize with it, or drink it (Gandhi drank a cup of his own pee every day). Also, you can make manure out of your own poop! Or… dumpster dive some adult diapers and have a party where everyone straps one on and fills it up — no water wasted.

Carlessness – Cars are gross and expensive, not to mention the gas companies, who are as evil as can be (look at Iraq, do you really want to fund the slaughter of innocent people?). Ride a bike or a bus or put a bike on the bus or hitchhike or walk or roller skate or canoe or skateboard or hop a train or if you are gonna use a car than carpool, for Pete’s sake! Or have 10 people split the cost of a community car that you all share. Or at least convert your engine to run on recycled vegetable oil. (Yes, this can be done!)

Homebrew – Don’t buy alcohol! Alcohol corporations are big and scary and perpetuate fucked up gender roles and beauty myths with their advertising. Brew your own wine and beer!

Get a Cup! – Get a big, durable plastic cup with a lid and a fork or spoon and carry it with you at all times. This will dramatically reduce the amount of disposable silverware and bowls/plates/cups/bottles you consume. Instead of buying a bottle of beverage, fill up your cup with water. Eat out of it too. If you get one that seals, you can take home restaurant leftovers in it instead of in Styrofoam!

Get a Hanky! – Carry a handkerchief with you and you won’t need tissues or paper towels and it is handy to have for spills, tears etc.

Squat – If you can live in an abandoned building for free, do it!

Stretch Stretch what you have! Before you throw something away, ask yourself (repeatedly) “will I ever use this for anything? Do I know anyone who will?” Before you buy anything figure out if you can make it, borrow it, do without, fix the one you already have or get it for free somehow. How long will it last, how often will it get used, can you share it with others, can you recycle it or reuse it when it stops working? If it costs $5, ask yourself if it is worth an hour of your life. If not, do without it. Repair your clothes, buy second-hand, share! Fix old stuff instead of buying new stuff. Learning how to fix things yourself saves you money and brings independence and self-reliance. Free yourself from the consumer mindset – the solution to all your problems can not be found at the shopping mall!


There are two options for existence: 1) waste your life working to get money to buy things that you don’t need and help destroy the environment or 2) live a full satisfying life, occasionally scavenging or working your self-sufficiency skills to get the food and stuff you need to be content, while treading lightly on the earth, eliminating waste, and boycotting everything. Go!

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