Oprah And The Freegans: Dumpster-Diving For Dinner
This week, Oprah is exploring a movement with which few Americans are familiar: the “freegan” movement.
Freegans are dedicated to eliminating wasteful over-consumption, sometimes giving up so much that they’re forced to dig through trash cans for sustenance.
On the show, a former business executive shows the audience how to prepare dinner using only food that has been collected out of dumpsters.
I find the movement quite extreme, but I do sympathize with their sensibilities and support a lifestyle that is efficient and waste-free. It is a movement that every lavish, financially extravagant American would be well-served to research.
Of late, my own life has taken a more “freegan” path. Initially, I didn’t choose the path because I felt the need to become more of a minimalist or had disgust for nice items around the house, but I had recently graduated from university and simply couldn’t afford any sort of expensive lifestyle.
I hadn’t a lavish lifestyle to begin with, but I got used to receiving financial aid and being able to stay in university housing. It was only after I graduated and was without housing or aid that I realized how much those luxuries helped my academic life, and I began to cut back on the items in my life that I could afford to do without.
My first expense: entertainment. I’m a big sports fan and would always buy the NBA League Pass every season, allowing me to see every NBA game of the entire regular season. The price tag was steep: $179 per season. But now that I was out on my own, could I really afford that? After all, plenty of NBA games are shown on national television on TNT and ESPN and NBATV and ABC. So I cut it out, and saved a bundle.
Next, I began to look at my food intake. It was costing me a ton every week, and I didn’t feel like I was eating very much. So I took a hard look at the items I purchase, and found that they were all way too expensive. The soda I craved was $5 per 12-pack, and those frozen pizzas really add up quickly. I cut out all the things I could do without and replaced them with cheaper alternatives-such as tea for soda, bread for muffins, etc. And I began to look at ways to get the same things, but for less. Did I really need to buy the two dollar spaghetti dinner when I could buy the pasta and sauce myself for the same price and make four times as much food? My answer was an absolute no. Pasta, potatoes, saltine crackers, popcorn, tea, and ramen noodles are all tasty and filling, and don’t cost me much at the grocery store.
And lastly, I cut down on my overall spending. I downgraded the minutes on my phone and my internet speed. I cut back on the cable channels I needed, and limit myself to one Netflix movie at a time. Whenever I go out to fast food with friends, I buy dollar menu items instead of a value meal. I buy the less expensive store-brand items instead of name-brand whenever I’m at the store. I sold my Playstation 2 and replaced it with a cheap DVD player. I got rid of the shoes I never wore, and stopped buying shirts and pants that I didn’t need. I got rid of the laptop I hardly ever use and the surround speakers and wireless air mouse that I don’t need.
And you know what? I don’t miss those extraneous items at all. And now I have extra money in my bank account to buy items that I do need, such as lotion and ibuprofen and shampoo. My room is less cluttered and I can walk around more easily without tripping over something.
So I realize, if I were a business owner, let say a restaurant or a supermarket, I think I would consider dumpster rental. I think it is better to save waste and see what we can do with the left over that we have. This is one way of helping our mother earth from the tons of waste we produce everyday.
I have a clearer, more pragmatic mindset whenever I go to the store or shop online, because I know that spending money on things I don’t need will just lead to waste. And with so many financial problems in the U.S. and across the world today, waste is something that nobody should be able to afford.
I wouldn’t consider myself a freegan or a minimalist, but I’m definitely on the right track to becoming a more efficient, less frivolous consumer. And I’m a better person for it. More information about the freegan movement can be found at its official website, www.freegan.info.