Dumpster Diving

Dumpsters in Ann ArborI've been meaning to write about dumpster diving for awhile now, but Colin at No Impact Man beat me to it. Be sure to watch the video he posted from CNN and also all of the comments on his post...it's a great eye opener. A fortune 500 executive dumpster diver? Who woulda thought?

I just cannot wrap my brain around the fact that we as a nation throw away and waste so much food every day...and yet there are people who go to bed hungry. Why on earth would a restaurant or grocery store taint food it throws out for the sole purpose of keeping people from eating it? They threw it out...it's trash in their eyes. Why not let someone else make use of it? I just don't get it. I can understand why they would be upset if someone was taking food from their dumpster and making a mess around the area, but one of the generally known rules of dumpster diving is to leave the area cleaner than you found it.

I have never gotten food from a dumpster (although I have found other lovely household items like this!), but I am certainly not opposed to it...and have been quite fascinated by it for awhile. What a brilliant form of activism...the ultimate in anti-consumerism. Freegan.info describes the activism side of it like this:

"Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able."

I think this might be why people are so opposed to letting their trash go to whoever wants it. Food, trash, possessions....they are all highly political. The choices you make about these things reflect your values. And when you get your food from a dumpster, it makes others uncomfortable...like you are judging them for NOT getting their food from the dumpster. They don't understand it, so they fight against it. They can't imagine themselves doing it, so in their mind...it's wrong/weird for anyone to do it. There seems to be feeling of "if I have to work hard for this...then you do too!".

In the book Evasion, the anonymous author brings up the absurdity of it all:

"There is the odd paradox -- the casualness with which they will throw something into the dumpster, and the lengths they go to protect it once it's there. How an innocent and harmless act -- dumpster diving -- will be confronted by greedy shopkeepers, store managers, and employees with scathing words, rage, and violence. "

What would Jesus say about dumpster diving? I think he would hold weekly dumpster diving parties. He would be right there inside the dumpster with everyone else...exclaiming words of joy when he finds a sealed box of bread or a bright shining apple. He would take the food and feed those in the neighborhood...and then go fight for better processes when it comes to food waste!

I think one of the biggest reasons for people throwing things away, wasting food, etc. is pure laziness. I am just as guilty as anyone else of this....although I am much more mindful about my choices now. Household items that you could Freecyle get put in the trash because you're in a hurry. Restaurants throw out food because it takes too much work in their mind to partner with a food bank or homeless shelter. There needs to be a greater network of people who are willing to be the liason and fill the gap. How about a restaurant with only dumpstered food? A health inspector's worst nightmare, I'm sure...but what a wonderful thing for a community. And Jesus would be the general manager :)

More resources: Everything you ever wanted to know about "freegans" and dumpster diving at Freegan.info A friend of mine on MySpace documents her loot here. How to Dumpster Dive

Photo credit: Flickr/toddmundt