Not quite ready for full-on freeganism

Ever since the first time I dug a pop can out of the trash a few months ago, I’ve developed the habit of checking the big lunchroom garbage can on my break for items that don’t belong.

A recent peek into the trash revealed a Sprite can and two soup cans. My lunch buddy and I fished them out, rinsed them and dropped them in their proper home -- the recycling bin.

Feeling pleased that we’d saved a few cubic inches of landfill space and directed the metal materials on their way to reuse, we headed back to work.

Throughout the day, though, I dwelled on this brief experience and found myself thinking back to an NPR interview I’d heard a while back with a man who subsisted for a year solely on items he found in dumpsters.

So I did a Google search and discovered the term for an entire subculture of dumpster divers: Freeganism.

According to a website dedicated to the movement, it’s based on alternative living strategies that don’t rely on mainstream consumption habits.

My colleague Kai experienced the movement first-hand in his college days.

According to, “Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity and greed.”

All reasonable values, if you ask me.

I’m not so sure, however, that I’m ready to end my trips into Target’s front doors in favor of the Dumpsters out back.

While my head immediately takes me on a guilt trip for this sentiment, it’s not necessarily a reasonable lifestyle for many of us who have full-time jobs, kids, pets, mortgages, car payments, basketball practices, Rotary meetings, etc.

So I return to my personal mission of taking small steps. While I may not be willing to sacrifice my tri-weekly iced chai lattes ( in a reusable mug, of course) and occasional new pair of shoes, I definitely am game to stick my hand in a garbage can from time to time.

We can take a look at our daily habits and make small changes — put the pop can in the recycle bin, or make a mini Dumpster dive to do so — to live in a way that’s more responsible to our planet and fellow humans.

Dive in!

-- Ingrid Stegemoeller is a business reporter for the Herald and appreciates the economic and environmental efficiency of living green.