For many people, the idea of being in a dumpster is gross, unpleasant, maybe even unimaginable. And the idea of eating food from a dumpster? Probably unthinkable.
But all the people in this video, and myself, have chosen to get into dumpsters and eat food from dumpsters many times. Why? Because much of the food that is thrown away by grocery stores and food producers is completely safe and delicious to eat. Expiration dates are conservative guesses about how long the food will last, but a lot of food is still good long after the printed expiration date. If a piece of fruit gets a dent or bruise, the whole thing is thrown out even though the rest is perfectly good. Most bakeries and coffee shops throw out their leftover bagels and pastries at the end of the day. If one bottle gets broken in a pack, they throw all of them out. All of this food is sent to the landfill, where it decomposes and releases methane, a greenhouse gas. The EPA estimated that in 2007, landfills were responsible for 23% of all methane emissions.
One of the funny thing I noticed about dumpster diving at CRIC House was that many people (like myself) had never been dumpster diving before being at CRIC House, and are not particularly enthused about the idea of jumping in a dumpster. But after a few days of seeing all the amazing, beautiful food that is brought home from the dumpster, often by the carload, one gets a bit curious. So maybe you go along one night, just to see what it's about. And you experience the surprises that the dumpster has to offer, the joy of asking the Dumpster Goddess for a particular item and being rewarded. Treasure hunting, opening Christmas presents, hunting and gathering, all of these are compared to dumpster diving in these interviews. Sometimes there are not such fun nights, gross dirty dumpsters, empty dumpsters, getting caught in a dumpster, etc. But watch the video to see why many find it a worthy endeavor:
Dumpster diving is also be about not wanting to support capitalism, as is mentioned in the video. For more information about some of the socio-political reasons for dumpster diving, read up on Freeganism (I'm trying not to write a manifesto here). As Aubrie mentions in the video, at CRIC House, dumpster diving is the only way to feed at least 15-20 people three meals a day with so little money. Xander (see the Feb 5 posting) and some San Diego friends have been keeping a blog, Dumpster Aficionado, about the food that they dive and cook at their communal house.
It was said several times in the video but I think it bears repeating: we know that dumpster diving is not sustainable because it relies on the waste of the system. But since there is so much waste, why not make the best use of it? I've also often heard people say that by dumpster diving, freegans are taking food away from homeless people. I would say, there's plenty of food in the dumpster to go around. If I ever felt that I would really be taking food away from homeless people, I would definitely not. Also, there are often large quantities of certain items, like 20 lbs of green beans or peaches or potatoes, in which case it is necessary to have a kitchen to cook or preserve the food. Also, check out Food Not Bombs, which uses dumpster food to make hot meals for anyone who needs one.