The West Coast, especially San Francisco, has always been on the cutting edge of any environmentalist movement that has occurred in America. It was right here that recycling became cool and commonplace a few decades ago, then the organic movement, then the vegan movement, and so on. If there was any kind of movement in the US, it’s likely that it either began or received a significant boost from activists here.
But forget veganism—that’s so last-decade. A more recent trend popularized here is freeganism: the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded.
The first traces of freeganism here date back to the mid-1990s, as part of the environmentalist and anti-globalization movements. But it has gained enough traction in recent years that the city of San Francisco and local businesses have had to alter their waste practices. It is not uncommon to see padlocked dumpsters around here, and by going to these extremes, it is also hopeful that businesses are finding ways to be more conscious about waste.
There is even a “Why Freegan” manifesto, which defines the practice as “an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating” and describes several alternates to actually paying for food. It also gets into water conservation, recycling, using solar energy and even employment.
Freegans themselves are also very diverse in regards to what they participate in. For example, some just dumpster dive with the goal of securing their own food, while others do so in hopes of gathering food to distribute to other people. There are also wild foragers who attempt to harvest and gather fruits or other foods that happen to be growing wildly within their communities.
So next time you want to impress your vegan friends, tell them that you’ve gone freegan—just beware, it may not be for the faint of heart.