Friday, July 10, 2009

Freegans and Freecycle and the joys of "Free Stuff"

Not long ago, Oprah had a show on Freegans. It was a fascinating look at how some Americans dumpster dive and trash pick to find food.

The people on the show do not do this out of need, but out of a moral calling. According to the Freegan website, "The outrage of wasted resources is compounded when we consider the dire unserved need of the hundreds of millions of hungry people in our world. Rather than ensuring that the fundamental needs of all people are served, our throw-away, profit-driven society continues to pollute the Earth with massive waste."

I was inspired by the show. I agree that the waste in this country is monumental and many could probably easily live off the waste of others. And while I have yet to dumpster dive for outdated apples, I have worked to keep useful things out of the waste stream and saved quite a bit of money in doing so.

Every year, our town has a giant trash day where people can put out anything they want to toss. Many of these fairly affluent families fill up the entire curb line of their property with items in the hundreds. I was so horrified the first year at the waste, I wrote an editorial to my local paper. I didn't see much reduction the following year in what people put out, but I did start cruising around in my mini-van just ahead of the garbage trucks salvaging what I could.

Many of the items were perfectly useful, clean, good items. There were baby toys, sports equipment, wood furniture, garden things, bikes, skateboards, etc. I took three entire loads worth of stuff back to my house. Two loads went to our local St. Vincents as donations which they were glad to get. About one load I kept.

In the load I kept, I had quite a few "treasures". I found a huge terracotta planter, very solid and heavy duty, at least a foot tall with an interesting design that now graces my back deck. I kept a kids bike that my son now rides, which only needed a new set of training wheels. Otherwise, it was in perfect condition. I kept a giant cardboard box of wrapping paper, much of it unopened, about 5 cookbooks, a giant sandbox shaped like a ship with a cover that I later sold for $20 on Craigslist when it became clear my kids had no interest in it.

From "normal" trash day in my own subdivision, we've gotten a complete drum set, including the drumsticks, old carpet I used in my garden under mulch for paths, and a lovely white metal chaise lounge.

I regularly set out items with a giant free sign at the end of my drive and always, things are taken within a few days. And it's kind of fun to know my neighbors to the north now sit on my two old green porch chairs to watch the traffic go by, another has my old kitchen table, another has many of the baby items my younger son outgrew to keep at their house for their grandson and many neighbors have perennials from my yard that needed dividing.

Happy trash hunting.....from your Millionaire friend;-)

Knowledge + Action = Financial Independence

Now You!

If you see something in the trash you could give a good home to, and in doing so, keep it out of a landfill, consider it your civic duty;-). And if there is ANY question about whether it's trash, knock on the door. More than likely, you'll be greeted by someone who will say, "I'm so glad you can use it!".

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