Freegan Travel: A Bad Idea

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I'm chopping an onion for the tomato and beef ragu and shouting happily to Ruth: 'This and a bit of olive oil are the only things in this entire meal that were bought!' But she sniffs and says: 'Have you really thought through the ethics of this?'--Guardian UK

Caveat: This post is really a thinly hidden pointer to a heated discussion I'm having with a writer at Brave New Traveler. The issue at hand? He's advised dumpster diving as a good way to score food while traveling. I could not disagree more. I encourage you to check it out.

Freegan scavenging is so institutionalized that you can find mash up sites with Google maps on the web. Gridskipper has a Manhattan Dumpster Diving post with descriptions of the goods and details on how to access the dumpsters.

We recommend just hitting up the farmers market if you don't want to feed the capitalist machine. However, if you must jump on the hobo-chic bandwagon, we've scoured the ever so helpful Freegan website Freegan.info for the most bountiful dumpsters in Manhattan.

And the LA Times has an article in their archives about New York City trash tours.

Two men in dark dress slacks, button down shirts and shiny shoes approached the trash tourists. "Pardon me, what is this?" one asked. "Vegetable justice?"

"It's over-consumerism," said Gracie Janove, 19, an anthropology student with a crescent moon pendant hanging around her neck. Janove, who participated in her first dumpster dive during a trip to France, frequently searches the trash of New York bakeries for pastries and the garbage of grocery stores for fruit.

Listen, cheapskate, there are plenty of things you can skimp on while traveling, but dumpster diving is not the way. First and foremost, you risk your health. Follow that with the possibility that while you're involved in travel - essentially a luxury pursuit - you are potentially depriving the desperate and needy of their last hope of food. Next up? In some places, dumpster diving is a crime. The hotel you'd planned on spending your saved money might very well be a jailhouse. And finally, good lord, look at yourself. You're a representative of your home country. Are you really planning to lecture the restaurant owner who's stepped out for a smoke on your anti-consumer lifestyle and his waste? What kind of ambassador are you?

Before you get all up in my face about how I'm a patsy for the man, let me say that I decry the waste and think that if you have the time and inclination to go diving, you should also make the time and inclination to contact the store owners and find out how you can match their discarded food with organizations that so desperately need it. I'm not going to tell you not to go diving, if you insist on it, only that for travelers, this is a bad idea. Again, health, economics, crime, and diplomacy. See the previous paragraph again.

Finally, I'm a big fan of free stuff for travelers, especially when it fosters cross cultural understanding. Couchsurfing, for example. Here are few real life participants.

I have been a fairly active CouchSurfer recently. Right now we have a very delightful guest J (who is sitting next to me drying her hair) from Germany. It’s very nice coming home to nice cooking smells (she cooks beautifully) and a clean kitchen (she also does the dishes) in exchange for a room and bed (or in our case, carpeted floor or 3 seater sofa).--Here There Nowhere

it was a fun two nights, filled with wine, cheese, tons of walking, and a crash course in French manners. (The guy waxed political sometimes, but hey, I’d rather talk for hours about serious shit with my couchsurfers than wake up one day and find out that they skipped town and nicked my wallet in the process. Seriously, there are worse things in life than hosting a philosophe. Or a tool!)--Transitory Residence

Just then some fellow named Andy called up. He said he was biking across America, and he was wondering if he could crash at my place for a night. Turned out it was Andy Skelton, who is on the core team of WordPress. So he stopped by and we spent some time talking about the client and talking about how to customize WordPress. What are the chances of such a thing?Team Lalala

Try trading work for places to stay on Help Exchange. Again, here's some real life participants.

I stayed at 8 different places while I travelled around Australia and I can't even begin to explain how invaluable it was. The work was fair and I did some fun things like milking a cow, making preserves, cooking dinners, and looking after horses. I was also put up in some lovely homes and fed some delicious meals...and made a few myself, BUT by far, the greatest value of this exchange was in meeting some absolutely brilliant people whose wisdom and knowledge have had a resounding impact on me. --All Shanadian

That afternoon I logged on to the 'help exchange' website to find some work. Help exchange is a website that helps travelers find work at farms or hostels where they work in exchange for free food and a bed. Sometimes if you are luck they might pay you a little bit on top of that. I found a job at a hostel called La Casa sul Lago in Torricella near Mangione and Perugia in Itlay so I made plans that afternoon to travel to Italy.--Hong Kong to London

Now, get out of the dumpster, go take a shower, and participate in society, don't just feed off our flaws.

Pam blogs about travel and other adventures at Nerd's Eye View. And for the record, she's a big fan of Freecycle.

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