Freeganism is “an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources”. Basically – it means eating out of bins.
I’ve done it. In fact, I used to do it quite regularly, especially in my second year. I admit, it wasn’t out of some greater moral philosophy but more because it was free food and a hungry stomach rarely despises common fare. As well as this, it was a real adventure. Climbing walls and rooting through an Aladdin’s cave of discarded sandwiches, pies and soup tins – all perfectly fresh – knowing that at any moment you might have to make a run for it, is one of the best pastimes I can think of. Especially when you’re bored at 3 o’clock in the morning.
For me, it was merely a pastime but nonetheless I could understand why many fellow students were turning to it as a way of life. The waste I witnessed whenever I went through a bin behind a supermarket was absolutely revolting. And it never became less shocking. Not once did I ever eat anything from a bin that made me ill, or indeed tasted less than perfect. Not once. Yet all of this food, representing hours of labour, thousands of pounds worth of fuel, packaging and material, had been thrown out because of a ‘best before’ date marked on the side of the packet.
Katharine Hibbert, author of the book Free: Adventures on the margins of a wasteful society, wrote this article in the Guardian this week. In it, she discusses the ignorance which leads to such sinful (and it is sinful) waste in a world where millions starve for lack of food. Some of the solutions to the problem are surprisingly simple. Did you know the difference between a ‘best before’ and a ‘use by’ date? ‘Use by’ dates are for food that can easily go bad, ‘best before’ is a guide to peak tastiness.
It makes for an interesting and introspective read.