Friday, June 20, 2008

Dumpster Diving

A few months ago I caught an episode of Oprah that was talking about various alternative lifestyles. One that caught my interest was people who called themselves "Freegans". According to wikipedia it is defined as an "anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed."[1] The lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters that have passed, or in some cases haven't even passed, their sell by date, but are still edible and nutritious. They salvage the food not because they are poor or homeless, but as a political statement.[2][3]"

Getting food out of grocery store dumpsters is often referred to as "dumpster diving". One of the segments had a film crew accompanying some people to a dumpster and showing all the items they pulled out that looked perfectly fine - frozen pizzas, bagged lettuce, canned goods and much more. Ever since I saw that I've been intriqued. I was dismayed to see many perfectly good items were thrown away and I was excited about the possibility of saving money. I know, I know - my main concerns boiled down to saving money - but hopefully by saving money I will be able to increase my own generosity with those in need around me.

I told Matt about it and we've often joked about going dumpster diving. I really am curious about what I might find in the dumpter of our local grocery store - not totally sure how comfortable I would feel with actually taking food from a dumpster - but I figured you never know until you try.

Last week we had our first experience with dumpster diving. It wasn't really "we" though - it was all Matt. This is what he salvaged from a local retailer's dumpster:

Perfectly good plants that were being tossed, apparently because they were a little wilted. Since you can't really tell from the pictures, the grand total of Matt's dumpster raid was four ferns, four Hibiscus plants and one rose bush. All in need of a little TLC, but other than that, in good condition. Also, we have about four bags of mulch. Unfortunately he had the Honda and not the minivan or we could have really loaded up.

So that was our first, and relatively risk free, experience with dumpster diving. I have to admit I was so excited that I've been bugging him ever since that we need to go back and try again.

We were out on Saturday and I dropped him at the grocery store to run in and grab a few things for lunch while I waited in the car with the kids. It just so happened that we were right next to the retailer (yeah - I'm not going to name names - I really don't want my blog coming up in a google search about dumpster diving at a particular store) he had visited earlier in the week. I was all gung-ho about it - while he shopped I would swing around back and see if there was any good trash. Matt, always the one to bring me back to reality, said "You know you have to climb up into the dumpster to see what's in it?", to which I quickly responded "Oh. I'm so not doing that."

Dumpster diving is interesting and exciting and a cool way to cut down on unneeded waste - I'm just not sure how actively I'll be participating in it.


Crafty P said...

that IS interesting!
Totally would not get food out of the dumpster. I just could not do that.

But your plants! AWESOME!

renee said...

i think that is so cool about your plants - who knew?? :)
definitely wouldn't be able to root thru the dumpster for food either, but i'm sure there are many people who benefit from doing that.
hope your plants grow and thrive under your care!

Anonymous said...

Haven't we shared with you how Dad's younger sibllings made a regular practice of this when we all lived in Maryland? One result of their dumpster diving was that Dad got a case of donuts for his birthday!! By the way if you don't know what to do with all the hibiscus plants I would be glad to have one make a home on our deck. Love, mom

Kristen M. said...

Great finds. My husband was big time into dumpster diving in college. Once a freshman boy from his dorm found a bag of what he thought were softballs...they were diapers!

Teri said...

Wow! What great finds! I would be willing to dive into the plant dumpster - but not the food one! ;)

Nicole said...

I don't think I could do the food either...

but your post is a great one b/c it's making me think of all the waste...

one thing i have been doing lately is coming up with recipes that use stuff in my pantry- so that we consume less and be 'a little green'

chrissie k said...

i recall hearing that story about the donuts for some reason? so funny! i think i might have to give it a shot.

stella g. said...

picturing you bent over a dumpster is making me laugh... but kudos on the plants! you saved some good money there! and have a great story. :) ~Karen

Rebecca said...


Wouldn't it be awesome if you could dumpster dive behind some really cool high end clothing or shoe retailer or purse shop?

Do you think Coach is throwing away any good handbags?

Let me know!

Great post!

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