ABC Glorifies 'Freeganism' (Read: Dumpster Diving) As 'Sustainable' Practice in Post-Downgrade America

The credit downgrade must be having truly deleterious effects on New York-based reporters. At least one is hyping the merits of "freeganism," which is just a politically correct euphemism for dumpster diving.

"Amid S&P downgrades and widespread panic about financial markets, an anti-consumerism movement quietly marches on: Freeganism,"'s Reshma Kirpalani argued in an August 8 article: 


Freeganism, which popped up in the early 90s, rejects the idea of overspending as a "national addiction," according to New York City freeganist, Madline Nelson. The movement goes beyond veganism's rejection of animal products and bucks consumerism for sustainability. It has spread worldwide, with Freeganist websites in French, Norwegian and Portuguese.

Freeganists practice dumpster diving for food, composting and recycling. They also walk or bike instead of driving, "squat" in abandoned buildings, eat local and "work less," according to the website.

"These options are available to most people on a mortgage treadmill," said Nelson. "They don't need to wait to go to a nursing home before they downsize."


Shortly before she opted out of her job as director of Internet communications for Barnes and Noble in 2005, Nelson began dumpster diving for free food as part of her non-consumerist lifestyle.


Currently, Nelson is unemployed. She carefully lives off her savings and helps to organize bi-monthly trash tours and monthly Freeganism feasts in New York City, part of an effort to eliminate food waste in the U.S. -- an estimated 34 million tons annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Who willingly turns down a decent desk job to dive into dumpsters all day? Kirpalani failed to explore that question, humoring Nelson and the "freegan" movement, although she did worry that dumpster-diving for din-din is less than sanitary:

According to Nelson, Freeganists typically find food in dumpsters outside of food stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Duane Reade an hour after these stores close. Pre-packed meals, yogurt and fruits -- bananas are thrown out in "shocking quantities" -- are all tested by the dumpster divers for their temperature. In the summer months, if these foods are not cold, they are left behind.

But according to the New York State Health Department, these temperature-testing precautions are not enough.

"There are too many uncertainties involved about what the food in the dumpsters have been exposed to," said spokesman Peter Constantakes. "We have concerns about the practice mainly because anything that goes into trash has exposure to any sort of food pathogens, including rat droppings, pesticides, or household cleaners that can be a potential health risk."

Nelson, who employs the temperature-testing techniques, said: "People need to take the same reasonable health precautions with food outside of a store as they do inside of a store. It took me two years of doing this before I considered myself sophisticated enough with it to discern which foods were cold enough or hot enough to take."

Although Kirpalani failed to substantiate the popularity of freeganism -- in a city of millions only 20 show up for a dumpster-diving "feast" -- she closed her story by allowing Nelson to hail "freeganism" as economically and ecologically sustainable:

"Since at least 2001, I remember George Bush saying, 'if you love America go out and buy because it will support the American economy,'" Nelson said. "But if you love the economy, if you love the world, for God sake don't buy because it's 100 percent unsustainable."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.