I'm doing a project about the economic impact of American waste, can someone take me dumpster diving? I'm not having good luck by myself.
By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
On a Wednesday night, four people are gathering boxes of vegetables from a dumpster behind an organic foods market near Scottsdale. The scavengers — four 20-somethings known as John Greentree, Ghost, Dee Dee, and Mr. Pink — have dumpster-dived here numerous times before. They've already put several boxes in the van when somebody sees approaching headlights.
"It's security," Mr. Pink says.
Despite the fact that these four have been on dozens of similar escapades over the past five years, nobody has ever discussed what to do if they get caught. So as the security officer drives up to the dumpster in a golf cart, everybody does the first thing their instincts tell them to do: run.
In what looks like a Chinese fire drill on fast-forward, Mr. Pink and Greentree, both dressed in dark, baggy jeans, sprint a full circle around the van to avoid being seen by the guard and then swiftly leap in the front doors. As the security guard pulls to the rear of the van, the smallest of this ragtag group of neo-hippies, 5-foot-tall Dee Dee, is caught walking out of the dumpster area.
The security guard, a heavy-set female, says hi to Dee Dee. Dee Dee nervously says hello back. Then the security guard asks, "Can you do me a favor?"
No one answers or waits around to hear what the favor is. Ghost, who's been stuck in the dumpster since security pulled up, suddenly comes tearing through the gate as if he's on fire. He takes a flying leap and propels himself six feet through the air and into the back of the van, clearing 10 big boxes of food. Dee Dee's right behind him. Within seconds, everybody's in the van, and Mr. Pink's burning rubber out of the shopping plaza.
"Ghost, that dive into the van was awesome," Greentree says.
"I felt so epic!" Ghost says.
"I wonder what the favor was that she wanted?" Dee Dee asks.
"I don't know. I think next time, we should talk to her," Greentree says.
"Should we even come back here?" Mr. Pink asks. "I mean, do you think there'll be a next time?"
Oh, there'll be a next time.
John Greentree is homeless by choice. His family lives in Phoenix, and he's apparently always welcome to sleep at his parents' home. Sometimes he does, but most of the time, he couch-hops at friends' houses or sleeps outside. He doesn't have what you'd call a job. It's all part of his utopian vision of a post-consumer society.
Greentree's what many would call a "freegan" — a vegan who dumpster-dives for his meals — but he prefers the terms "post-consumer," "urban harvester," and "vegan reclamist." Everything he eats or owns is second-hand. He manages to live virtually money-free, but modern-day hunting and gathering is practically a full-time job. And for an anarchistic pursuit, it's getting more organized all the time; in the past three months, the growing freegan community has been organizing group dumpster dives across the Valley.
It's not just food — freegans salvage everything from furniture to electronics, sometimes fixing up and reselling their finds. At one time, Greentree was renting an apartment, and he says he made enough money to pay his rent — $420 a month — simply by salvaging paints and canvases from dumpsters and selling his creations downtown. Once, he found a guitar in the garbage. "The only thing wrong with it was it had two broken strings," he says. "So I replaced the strings, painted the guitar, and sold it for $350."
And it's not just hippie types like Greentree.
The freegan lifestyle has appeal, especially during an economic downturn. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 96 billion pounds of edible food is disposed of in the United States every year. Much of that food — particularly the vegetables, fruits, breads, rice, and pasta that freegans seek — is still a week or more away from spoilage. The Phoenix freegans say they eat like kings and queens, collectively hauling in pounds of salvaged food and cooking weekly community meals.
The abundance of waste from organic and whole foods stores across the Valley, coupled with the fix-and-find economic opportunities, has led to a surge in local dumpster diving. Local police agencies say they haven't seen a huge increase in complaints, but some storeowners have beefed up security patrols.
Freegans are taking newbies along on dives and teaching them how to do what they've done for years, and people are interested in it. One of the largest groups in Phoenix on the Web site meetup.com is for dumpster diving, with 108 people interested in the topic. Across Phoenix, more people have started shopping at "D-Mart," but as more people pile on the trash-picking bandwagon, the whole thing threatens to collapse. Storeowners have taken notice, increasing security patrols, using more locks, and even installing alarm systems on their garbage bins.
So far, Phoenix's freegans have been successful at sustaining themselves on society's waste. But they just may become victims of their own success.
Conspire, a coffee house at Fifth Street and Garfield at the edge of downtown Phoenix, has become the unofficial freegan headquarters. They spend a lot of time in the anarchist library housed in the back of Conspire, and they meet here for weekly open mic nights and dumpster dives.
I'm doing a project about the economic impact of American waste, can someone take me dumpster diving? I'm not having good luck by myself.
It was good to see that the security guard was cool. I worked security for ten years and the thing we did'nt like to see was garbage strewn all over the place.
To whoever was comment 25: I don't know WTF you're talking about. I didn't say anything like that. I quoted Thoreau. Because I thought it was applicable. That's all. And, no, I am an Anarcha-Communist. I don't care what you want to call it, but, don't say it doesn't exist. You clearly don't know what you're talking about.
And comment 26:I never claimed that Thoreau was anything at all. Simply quoted him. Because I agree. At any rate, what's the difference between his political beliefs and Anarchism? And, actually, I have read all of Walden, Cape Cod, Civil Disobedience and Paradise Regained.
Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist who advocated civil disobedience, which is not synonymous with anarchy. Those who misconstrue him to be an anarchist are usually people who've never read one of Thoreau's books in its entirety.
Dear Ghost, FUCCCK QUOTING PEOPLE IN A "NAME DROPPING" MANNER! Especially if you're just taking it from a 'zine rather that reading to for yourself or Saying things such as: "I've never read Marx, but people tell me everything say sounds just like him.""I don't need to read Des'Cartes, I AM DesCartes!" (note that last one was said while pronouncing it "Days Cart Tays")
N. LeninP.s. Theres no such thing as "anarcho-communism"! It's called "free communism"! Read a fucking book you dumbass!
Dumpster diving isn't a new thing. I did it out of necessity when my son was 2 years old and we were in San Fransisco, Phx and Fortuna California. No one would hire me without an address but my son needed fed.
I fed him 5 meals a day dumpster diving at restaurants, grocery stores and the like. He ate well no matter where we had to go. Eventually, he and my other son were adopted and they are both doing well, working and one is overseas.
I was in California when they first started passing ordinances against people taking food from the dumpsters.
With the amount of disgusting waste of food and other materials we have in the USA, it is mean-spirited, greedy and hateful to deny anyone who is hungry, perfectly good food that others are throwing away.
In the near future, dumpster diving will be a necessity because people right now and in the past, refuse to practice frugality or preparedness. I give away Preparedness booklets via email right now and if I had the wherewithall, I would make hardcopies to give away too.
The ordinances that do not allow stores and restaurants to give away food before it gets to the dumpster needs to be changed.
I certainly will do it again if my family falls on hard times. As it is, we waste nothing in my family.
"Perhaps the article was poorly written. Does that mean all alleged hypocritical stances are void? Of course not."
True, and I don't mean to imply that anyone who calls themself a Freegan or Anarchist is automatically brilliant and can by no means be a hypocrite, just that hypocrisy is not inherent to those movements. There certainly are self-styled Anarchists like what you described, but Anarchism does not necessitate that sort of hypocrisy and I would therefore assert that that is not a shortcoming of the movement itself, as was implied.
"Can you say with all conviction that an anarchist nation(? If it can be called as such) would instantaneously be a utopia?"
Absolutely not. I have never claimed that. I think Henry David Thoreau said it best: "I heartily accept the motto, � 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, � 'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have....But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government."
6. "However, I really want to applaud you for highlighting some of the more hypocritical and ridiculous aspects of the movement against consumerism. I can only hope that these so-called anarchists don't brush this article or the journalist off for 'not getting it'."-Green Party Supporter
21. "LOL, you apparently "don't get it" either. This was a horribly written article. The "hypocritical and ridiculous aspects" you're talking about were fabricated. I'd like to discuss it more, but this isn't the place to do it. You [and anyone] can contact Me at firstname.lastname@example.org."-Ghost
Perhaps the article was poorly written. Does that mean all alleged hypocritical stances are void? Of course not. "At 22, Ghost considers himself an "old-school punk" and rails against younger people who call themselves such. "I've been a punk for 10 years," he says indignantly, referring to a movement that started 13 years before he was born." Perhaps this isn't true about you, but can you deny that "anarchists" of the post-punk movement exist that maintain they are original founders of the true punk movement? I cannot speak for GPS his or herself, of course, but I for one was linked to this article by a self-proclaimed anarchist who is not only starting an anarchist club at a publicly funded school, but also believes freedom of speech should only extend to those working to take down the "system of oppression" that provides that freedom. Hypocritical? Unquestionably. Congratulations. You "don't get it" just as much as you think GPS "doesn't get it".Hypocritical? You fool. Don't assume that GPS knows only as much as this article tells us.
Now, that is not to say I don't support ideals of anarchism. However, any form of government (or lack thereof) will have it's inherent flaws. Can you say with all conviction that an anarchist nation(? If it can be called as such) would instantaneously be a utopia? I would hope not, but it does carry the potential to be, but only if those working towards it are willing to recognize the fallacies in their own logic and keep an open mind to be willing to reshape what their beliefs and ideals are to constantly try and improve themselves and their community. Having an open mind is the basis to revolution and anarchism itself, it starts from breaking free of the blind patriotism, the near dogmaticism(sic) we are expected to learn as children in elementary school to carry with us through adulthood and into old age. Ghost, you are willing enough to at least live by your ideals, but please be willing to not brush off criticism so that you can find ways to better yourself and, as a result, your community.
"Is this the same "Ghost" that was afraid to show his face at a protest around a bunch of overweight crackers? LOL."
Yup. And exactly what do you know about it? You read an online article and look at a couple pictures, don't talk to anyone involved and think you're entitled to talk shit? The "overweight crackers" had NOTHING to do with it. After being tracked by FBI, having all My phones tapped, being put on the Terrorist Watch List and labeled a "high security risk" by the federal government, after several groups I've worked with being surgically terminated by FBI and police, I've started to take precautions. Though, admittedly, not enough. The bandanna at that time was just to keep the cops from recognizing Me.
"However, I really want to applaud you for highlighting some of the more hypocritical and ridiculous aspects of the movement against consumerism. I can only hope that these so-called anarchists don't brush this article or the journalist off for 'not getting it'."
LOL, you apparently "don't get it" either. This was a horribly written article. The "hypocritical and ridiculous aspects" you're talking about were fabricated. I'd like to discuss it more, but this isn't the place to do it. You [and anyone] can contact Me at email@example.com.
"Ghost will probably end up O.D.ing on heroin and dying in a gutter."
I'm actually pretty much straight-edge. Never done drugs or smoked anything except shisha and salvia. In case I'm gunna die of DTs in your next comment, I should mention now that I don't drink, either. If anything, I'll die of a caffeine OD.
"Disparaging the society that allows for the medicine, security, and plenty they enjoy? That allows for the cellphones they reconnoiter with, the bicycles and cars that let them sustain their freeganistic ways? Balderdash. I may be wasteful, but I'm no angst-ridden hypocrite."
I don't use a cell phone, I don't drive, I don't use medicine and I create My own security and enjoyment. I do ride a bike. As a matter of fact, I volunteer at a bike co-op. Meaning, I got My bike from the society I'm uplifting, not disparaging. You obviously have no concept of what Anarchism is. I am personally an Anarcha-Communist, though, I think that we would probably need to set up a system of collectivism to ease into communism. Look into it. Maybe read some Kropotkin? If you want to talk//debate about it, E-mail Me at the aforementioned address.
"alexis wrote:'how are we going to survive if we are publicly renowned.'
I don't want to speak on Alexis's behalf, but, this is a ridiculously shortsighted comment. First of all, Freegans are Freegans, not out of necessity, but due to their ethics. Not to say that Alexis IS a Freegan...I simply don't know. Also, not everyone CAN get a job. Sometimes the job[s] people have isn't [aren't] enough. Step out of your selfish, privileged box for a minute and realize that not everyone is as well off as you.
As for Alexis, I sincerely hope you [and everyone else] are not negatively affected by this article. We had reasons for agreeing to do it, but, I'd rather talk about that in persyn.
"I watched Ghost smoke several times at Conspire. Maybe he was having an off night?"
No. I have never smoked a cigarette in My life.
As for what "John" said, how self-aware I am is not an issue. What IS an issue is how misrepresented we were, in several ways. I won't worry about how I was personally misquoted and misrepresented, because that's a rather petty complaint and honestly doesn't matter that much. But I really wish direct quotes which would have accurately depicted our points of view would have made it into the article.
"1. Why is Sandy, the single mother, not on AFDC or WIC? There are plenty of government programs designed to feed women with dependent children unable to afford food. Has she been to food banks? It seems like dumpster diving would be a last resort, not a first resort, unless the aim is less to ensure food is available and more to experience a thrill."
One reason might be because she can't get the food she needs from those agencies. They are far too bureaucratic. They have rigid rules and force people into categories in a system they may not fit in at all. Also, Dumpster Diving minimizes waste and keeps participants from supporting corrupt companies and capitalism altogether.
"2. Does Whole Foods participate as a "registered donor" in the programs mentioned in the article (which Starbucks participates in)? I would be surprised if they didn't. Assuming they do participate, why is this food not donated?"
Whole Foods is rather corrupt. They are adamantly anti-union and anti-worker's rights in general.
"3. Instead of dumpster diving, wouldn't the aim of feeding the hungry be better accomplished by working with the companies throwing away edible items to get them to donate to the food banks? It would have been nice to hear from the various companies mentioned in this article to understand how this apparently edible food ends up in the dumpster in the first place."
Dumpster diving, for some, is an action in direct opposition to the companies they're diving behind. Working with Anticapitalists is the last thing many of those companies want to do.
"Otherwise, an interesting read, despite the presence of self-described "anarchists." As Mark Bowden once wrote, anyone who claims to be an anarchist should spend time in a truly anarchical society, as he did in Somalia. His advice: don't bring anything of value."
This is an incredibly ignorant sentiment. Somalia is as far from Anarchistic as possible. One group of people with guns is oppressing another group of people without guns. That's a government. Read up on Anarchy. Check out some REAL Anarchist cultures, like the Spanish communes in the 20s and 30s, before Franco and his fascist troops took over. Look at the EZLN in Chiapas right now. The Anarchist communities in Greece, up until November of last year, when police started terrorizing those communities again and they had to rise up against Greece's government. Also, many [admittedly not all] Anarchists HAVE spent time in Anarchical societies. That's how many developed their political views. I suggest that Mark Bowden spend time in a truly Anarchical society as well. As well as everyone else, of course.
And, Lukas; Thanks!
As a mainstream wage slave with little interest in dumpster diving personally (I did get some useful furniture for my college dorm), I must say, why on earth would businesses get bent out of shape if someone digs through their trash? Of course, if they leave the parking lot littered, then there's an issue, but these folks seem responsible enough to clean up after themselves. So sorry that they didn't buy their produce a couple of days earlier when the food was still profit-worthy. But you threw it away. It is fair game now. Good for the Freegans.
Thanks for your comment. And props to you for being the one who went back to talk that security person as opposed to just runningt away.
As for Ghost, I can see why he might not like his portrayal, especially it's fairly accurate.
In reference to another commenter -- there's a difference between anarchy and anarchism. If you want to read a fictional speculation about how anarchism might work (and not work) on a large societal scale (rather than a small subcultural one) then I reccommend THE DISPOSSESSED by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's a novel, and thusly is a non-academic and non-clogged by endless critique and analysis way to approach the subject.
I work for one of the major grocers and our dumpster is regularly raided by these divers. Our management is pretty cool about it as long as they don't leave the area a mess. However, me and some of the staff like to make the thrown away product a little more "organic" when it is tossed. All I can say is just make sure you wash those veggies really good before you eat 'em.
A few questions:1. Why is Sandy, the single mother, not on AFDC or WIC? There are plenty of government programs designed to feed women with dependent children unable to afford food. Has she been to food banks? It seems like dumpster diving would be a last resort, not a first resort, unless the aim is less to ensure food is available and more to experience a thrill.
2. Does Whole Foods participate as a "registered donor" in the programs mentioned in the article (which Starbucks participates in)? I would be surprised if they didn't. Assuming they do participate, why is this food not donated?
3. Instead of dumpster diving, wouldn't the aim of feeding the hungry be better accomplished by working with the companies throwing away edible items to get them to donate to the food banks? It would have been nice to hear from the various companies mentioned in this article to understand how this apparently edible food ends up in the dumpster in the first place.
Otherwise, an interesting read, despite the presence of self-described "anarchists." As Mark Bowden once wrote, anyone who claims to be an anarchist should spend time in a truly anarchical society, as he did in Somalia. His advice: don't bring anything of value. http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
Dear Scott, Manija is a good friend of mine, and does not consider herself a freegan, she asked me to add that correction for her, just like Ghost asked me to add that he does not smoke. Please realize that I am not someone who speaks for others without their permission. Please do not accuse me of placing my opinions upon others. All the people mentioned in the article are good friends of mine, and asked to write a statement of corrections/notes for all us. On the note I was also asked to mention that Mr. Pink's van is his own and not a company vehicle, and the song mention in the article is "Kill the FBI" by local Folk Punk musician Travis James (http://www.myspace.com/sirspok....
Aside from the afore mentioned items, I am satisfied with this article, others (Ghost) are not, but I think that is less for quality of the article than how they feel they were portrayed which (regardless of mistaken facts) are pretty accurate. I am a goofy faced, idealist, cheeseball, I am fine with that. Others are not as self aware.
Food belongs to everyone, we are all hungry.John Greentree
As for you saying who is or is not a 'freegan'-- can you please then direct us to where we can apply to be official card-carrying Freegans?
Reminds me of a song by David Rovics: "I'm a Better Anarchist Than You."
Thanks for commenting on things you felt needed clarification, John. I took copious amounts of notes and recorded conversations throughout reporting, so I stand by what I wrote. I don't recall you telling me that you were previously a teacher, though -- that would have been an interesting bit to include. Anyway, thank you again. (By the way, I watched Ghost smoke several times at Conspire. Maybe he was having an off night?)
A lot of the quotes in this article are in correct or slightly out of context, some are trivial, some are more substantial, here is a short list:
When I said I use the term "urban harvester" I was refering to harvesting wild plants that grow in urban areas, she had asked freeganism in general and urban harvesting is a part of that, I guess when the article becam "dumpster-centric" it became muddled in with the rest of her notes.
I never said "Ghost, that dive into the van was awesome," I did not see him jump in as everyone was in the van before I came out from in the dumpster, as I was the only still in the dumpster when the guard came. I would never feed Ghost's ego.
"John Greentree is homeless by choice."I feel the need to explain this: I am houseless and jobless by choice, not homeless. I do not spend money because I refuse pay into systems I don't believe, especially when there is so much waste involved. I took to being jobless when I realized I could make do without it, also being jobless allows me (and other anarchists) the time organize and involve myself in form of activities like Food Not Bombs. Dumpster diving allows time do other things.
Dumpster diving is not "practically a fulltime job." It,s easy. A half hour of diving equals about $200-300 of food.
I resent being called a hippie, yippie (in the fashion of Abbie Hoffman) maybe, but I'm no hippie.
Dumpster diving is not the only staple of a "Freegan" lifestyle, there is also the mutually benefitual relationship with those in the food industry.
I did not go to Chiapas I went to Puebla.
I did earn a degree, it is ironically in business, I also used to be a high school teacher.
"Ghost is at Conspire tonight, too, walking around in camouflage shorts and smoking whatever cigarettes he can bum." Ghost does not smoke, and always has large amounts of money he procures using his own methods.
"Greentree refuses to be a squatter" not true.
"He's the only local freegan who says he's gotten sick from eating dumpster-dived food � it happened one time, and it was a pork chop." Never happened.
"And though some freegans, like Greentree and Mr. Pink, are adamant that locked dumpsters should be left alone" not true.
Manija is a DD, but not a freegan.
"Then he gets into a debate with Greentree, who thinks conscious consumerism is better than anti-capitalism because people can choose to support mom-and-pop businesses. Ghost's philosophy is that all industries and resources should be collectively owned because everybody would have what they needed."If everybody had what they needed, there would be no murder or stealing," he says. "People murder and steal because the government has control of the industries and resources, and people are in need."Somebody asks Ghost if he doesn't believe that some people are more greedy than needy; people were murdering and stealing from each other long before governments existed. Ghost says that's true but his utopian vision would somehow still work. He believes that people are inherently good."Ghost would never say that, he does not trust people, this is closer to something I would say. Ghost is in favor of conscience consumerism, I am not.
I hope this helps.
Food belongs to everyone, we are all hungry.Jhohn Greentree
Dumpster Diving makes perfect sense to me. I ate an excellent dinner at a Dumpster Diver's home years ago, and he had an excellent income. Most folks would be amazed at the quality of food thrown away by food markets. Some is just 'odd lots' thrown away to make room for new inventory. Much discarded food is also still wrapped and sealed against contaminants.
When crediting previous dumpster divers, Abbie Hoffmann should be at the top of the list. Check out a copy of Steal This Book. Many of his ideas there can be executed in context with today's society and culture.
I work for one of the local trash companies here in the valley.
Sometimes I ride with the drivers and I have to say that it is just amazing to me what is being thrown away. Both the quality and quantity of the items is mind boggling.
I personally am not against dumpster diving. It keeps items out of the landfill and in this case, it is feeding hungry people.
What I am against and while most of it is attributed to illegal dumping, is the trash strewn all over the ground with the lids and locks being ripped off. Keep it clean and leave locked dumpsters alone. They are there for a reason.
It's true that waste is an epidemic in our society, and it's a good thing that some companies are doing their best to mitigate it. Organizations designed to feed the hungry are also great for America, and I'm glad that the governments put laws and programs into place that makes it easier for them to function.
However, I'm disappointed that, in this day in age, so many of these self-proclaimed "Freegans" can be this laughably shortsighted. Disparaging the society that allows for the medicine, security, and plenty they enjoy? That allows for the cellphones they reconnoiter with, the bicycles and cars that let them sustain their freeganistic ways? Balderdash. I may be wasteful, but I'm no angst-ridden hypocrite.
Alexis, cry me a river. What the so-called "freegans" are doing is pretty much considered to be theft, even if all they're doing is stealing from a garbage can. So what if more people know about it. There are still plenty of markets with dumpsters around. I guarantee that most of these kids are either trust fund babies or will be working for "tha man" within five years. Ghost will probably end up O.D.ing on heroin and dying in a gutter.
Thank you for this extraordinarily well-written article. I'm glad that the New Times is bringing attention to the majority of society's wasteful habits. It's good to let people know that even grocery store chains could be doing something other than throwing away "bad" and unsellable food.
However, I really want to applaud you for highlighting some of the more hypocritical and ridiculous aspects of the movement against consumerism. I can only hope that these so-called anarchists don't brush this article or the journalist off for "not getting it".
that wasn't very nice of you guys to inform many people of our survival tactics. how are we going to survive if we are publicly renowned.
Is this the same "Ghost" that was afraid to show his face at a protest around a bunch of overweight crackers? LOL.
The Gleaners is an international society that has been in existence for 1000s of years. In fact the Bible has laws that allow gleaning (the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest). Lev. 19:9�10., Lev. 23:22, Deut. 14:28-29.
In the modern world, gleaning is practiced by humanitarian groups which distribute the gleaned food to the poor and hungry; in a modern context, this can include the collection of food from supermarkets at the end of the day that would otherwise be thrown away. There are a number of organizations that practice gleaning to resolve issues of societal hunger; the Society of St. Andrew, for example, is dedicated to the role.
I did this type of work for our production of the Rock Against Racism (Reagan) Tour back in the 1980s with a member of the Chicago branch of the Gleaners society. We fed the whole crew at the Concert we gave at the Encanto Park Bandshell that night.
Please look up gleaning in wikipedia and learn what self-sufficient people have been doing to recycle, reduce and reuse for some time before you at New Times decided it was newsworthy.
BTW - You should do more stories like this. Your anti-green campaign has gotten old.