The Art Of Dumpster Diving and Freeganism

If we are going to talk about food waste, it is also very important that we talk about how to conserve food. There are easy ways, such as eating leftovers, eating smaller portions, or even food composting, but some people want to take a more drastic approach.


These people are called “Freegans.” According to, freegans are “people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.” 


From what I understand as a result of my research and my interviews with freegans, Freeganism is essentially dumpster diving for food in order to reduce waste, save money, and combat wasteful capitalist institutions that plague our American soil.

Screenshot 2013-12-09 22.32.59


My Food Waste team members and I attempted our own dumpster dives and we learned a few important things along the way. Dumpster diving requires an immense amount of patience and familiarity with food safety in order collect edible food from the garbage. For example, we needed to learn to recognize the difference between good and bad discarded produce.  People new to dumpster diving should also become familiar with the restaurant/grocery store schedules. If you know that a store or restaurant throws away food at 10 pm every night, your can plan to go dumpster diving at 11:00, which gives you a good chance of having edible food to choose from. Sometimes restaurants simply give away food when they are closing because they need to ship in fresh food everyday. If you find a restaurant like this, you might be able to simply approach the restaurant manager (in a respectful manner) and ask for leftovers.

Screenshot 2013-12-09 22.33.47

Safety is key. It is important to be aware of the trespassing laws in your area and decide whether it is worth it to break them. Most Dumpster Diving happens at night, so be very aware of your surroundings and always bring a friend. Wear protective clothing and gloves. Wash the food that you get properly. And NEVER, EVER do anything that could compromise your safety, such as closing the lid while your inside a dumpster, or trying to get into a compactor.

Screenshot 2013-12-09 22.36.07

Don’t just do it for yourself. Being a freegan isn’t just about getting free food; it’s about sharing wealth by wasting less. Take it upon yourself to volunteer at local food banks or soup kitchens. Start a food drive. Have a barbecue with all the good food you have found and feed a couple of people who are food insecure (and probably need it more than you do). When you do shop, try to shop at your local markets, or support your local farmers. Farm_produce

Basic Rules of Dumpster Diving (according to DIVE! the film):

  • Never take more than you need
  • First one to the dumpster has first pick, but you always have to share.
  • Leave it cleaner than you found it.

But don’t fret, Dumpster Diving isn’t as scary as it seems. Trash is only “trash” if you let it go to waste. You’re not just doing this for yourself, you’re also helping your planet! But, it is important to recognize that this lifestyle is not easy, in fact, it is very hard to eat for free.


 How to Compost: