2005 Boston Globe

Old saying: Waste not, want not.

New: Go freegan

By Nathan Hurst, Globe Correspondent | October 9, 2005

The bills are paid and there’s nowhere to go — within a budget stretched by soaring housing and living costs, at least.

Welcome to the empty-wallet world of your average Bostonian, who spends thousands more on living expenses than counterparts in other areas of the country, according to the third annual ”Housing Report Card,” a report put out by the Boston Foundation and the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. So what’s a broke urbanite to do?

One could take advice from Emerson College sophomore Brett Schweinberg, and go freegan.

Think of freeganism as one step up from the moral high ground of veganism, a lifestyle dedicated to minimizing the suffering of animals. That means giving up food and other items made from animals or their by-products.

Freegans instead target what they see as excesses of humanity.

Schweinberg, who describes himself as a vegan with freegan tendencies, said freeganism makes sense for those for whom social inequities are the greatest concern. ”If the meat were going to waste anyway, I’ll eat it,” he said. ”The whole idea behind vegetarianism to me is that I don’t want to make animals suffer so I can eat. But if the meal is already prepared and would go into the garbage anyway, I’d rather eat it.”

Freegans aren’t the average trash picker or Dumpster diver. Many eat solely off others’ discarded scraps, live in so-called ”found housing” and only use what they can find — the leftovers from what the rest of the world has deemed useless. The website www.freegan.info offers comprehensive information, including tips on eating safely and staying healthy following the freegan lifestyle.

While the freegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, the strapped city dweller might take some sage freegan advice: Use what isn’t being used to its fullest potential.

Take the time to explore Boston and the surrounding communities of Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville, and goods and entertainment can be found for a bargain, many times for nothing at all:

Allston-Brighton: If an item can be bought, it’s a decent bet it can be bought for less in Allston Village, the area surrounding the intersection of Harvard and Brighton avenues. Second-hand thrift stores and vintage shops line both of the main corridors, which are also packed with discount furniture stores, inexpensive ethnic restaurants and a number of bars that have low-cost or free shows featuring local and regional musicians every night of the week. And save the dates Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for next year, when the annual two-day moving circus of renters living in limbo for a night between old and new apartments turns the neighborhoods into a free-for-all of discarded home furnishings and random items set out with the trash.

Back Bay: One of the best free things to do in Boston is in one of its most exclusive neighborhoods: Head to the Charles River and enjoy a stroll on the Esplanade. Cross the Fiedler Footbridge at Arlington and Beacon streets. In the summer, it’s also the place for free concerts and film screenings at the Hatch Shell.

Beacon Hill: Skip the expensive gym membership and pump up and down the steep slopes of this neighborhood’s narrow streets. And while no self-respecting Bostonian would be caught dead on the Freedom Trail unless herding around out-of-town guests, the lesser-traveled and lesser-known Black Heritage Trail gives a glimpse into the city’s and the neighborhood’s role in African-American history.

Charlestown: Spend an admission-free afternoon at the Charlestown Navy Yard or on Bunker Hill. The views of the downtown skyline are special. Pack a lunch and make a day of it.

Chinatown: There are so many authentic restaurants with such low prices it’s impossible to pick a definitive best, but take a walk down Beach or Tyler streets and the variety offered makes it well worth the trip from other areas in the city.

Dorchester and South Boston: The bevy of beaches that stretches from Castle Island in South Boston to Columbia Point in Dorchester are clean, easily accessible by Red Line or by car (free parking). Walking, biking, putting your feet up and relaxing — it’s all free. Likewise, the Neponset River Reservation borders Dorchester and offers traditional trails for hiking and biking. Franklin Park, wedged between Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain, is home to the Franklin Park Zoo, where visitors can enjoy a host of wildlife for under $10 each.

Downtown: Post Office Square, between Pearl and Congress streets, is small in size but big in beauty. Lush grass, colorful plantings, latticed walkways and stately fountains offer a midday vacation that beats out the corporate lunchroom.

East Boston: Hop off the Blue Line at Maverick Square and take a 10-minute walk to Piers Park for million-dollar views of the Financial District and the waterfront across the harbor. Thanks to renovations by MassPort, visitors can enjoy access to shade pavilions, well-tended landscaping and outdoor fitness equipment.

Fenway/Kenmore: Can’t afford tickets to the nation’s smallest and most expensive ballpark? Take a tour of the famous stadium and its inner workings, $12 for adults, and $10 for children. 617-226-6666, tours@redsox.com.

Jamaica Plain: Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau’s favorite spot to wax poetic, has nothing on Jamaica Pond. Urban anglers may find stocks of trout, salmon, pickerel, bass, hornpout and perch, courtesy of the Commonwealth. Fishing licenses, required by state law, start at $7.50 for three days, and can be purchased online at www.sport.state.ma.us.

Mattapan, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Hyde Park: The city’s most far-flung neighborhoods are often the most overlooked.

The area is home to the brand new Millennium Park in West Roxbury, which offers stunning views of the city, and to both the George Wright and William J. Devine golf courses, both of which are owned by the city. Greens fees at the two courses are $15 to $20 less than private clubs in Boston and the surrounding suburbs, and both offer discount for city residents.

North End: If people-watching were a sport, the North End would be its hall of fame. Leave the tourist-filled crowds at hot spots such as Mike’s Pastries behind, opt for a low-key alternative on a side street and enjoy a low-cost new flavor. Enjoy a walk on the waterfront.

South End: Thanks to generous endowments, visitors can enjoy the Boston Center for the Arts at admission fees that are generally less expensive than Boston’s bigger arts destinations. Many exhibits and performances are free or by suggested donation. Contact www.bcaonline.org or 617-426-5000 for exhibit and performance information.

Roxbury: ACT Roxbury, the community-oriented Arts, Culture and Trade Roxbury Consortium recently moved into new digs at the Roxbury Center for Arts at Hibernian Hall, and provides a huge schedule of free or low-cost events year-round. Visit actroxbury.org for information on specific events.

Brookline: The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., still offers a great showing of art house films and cheap ($6) midnight features on Friday and Saturday evenings. www.coolidge.org

Cambridge: Set the alarm early next Saturday morning and head to the plethora of art museums owned and operated by Harvard University. The museums — including the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard’s oldest — are free every Saturday until noon. www.artmuseums.harvard.edu

Somerville: Check out the squares. Davis, Union, and Porter, all T-accessible, are the three names you’ll need to eat, shop, and be entertained on a low budget. Davis Square is home to the Somerville Theatre, which offers patrons the chance to catch up on second-run and independent features for $6.50 or less.

© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.