What's the 'Freegan' Deal?

     Out: the media showing homeless people scrounging for food in dumpster as an indictment of the economy under conservative presidents.


     In: the media showing middle class young people scrounging for food in dumpsters as an indictment of capitalism’s success.


     Washington Post staff writer Megan Greenwell devoted her article on the front page of the August 16 Metro section to the new trend for young liberal dumpster divers.


     Prince Frederick, Md teen Bryan Meadows “considers himself a ‘freegan,’” Greenwell wrote, describing the term as  “a melding of the words ‘free’ and ‘vegan’” because Meadows “tries not to contribute to what he sees as the exploitation of land, resources and animals wrought by commercial production.”


     Greenwell, a Berkeley, Calif. native, later dumped the quotation marks around “freegan” as she continued her story.


     “The number of freegans in the D.C. region is anybody’s guess, but the ranks appear to be growing,” Greenwell insisted, citing anecdotal evidence. The Post writer also blamed “disillusionment with the Bush administration’s environmental policies” that have “pushed some young people to everyday forms of protest.”


     But Greenwell didn’t just cite everyday bored left-leaning suburban teens. She also turned to an editor from a liberal Christian magazine, Ryan Beiler of Washington, D.C. who defended his dumpster-diving as a protest of “corporate farming practices” and in reaction to “the absurdity of how the American economy works.”


    What the Columbia University graduate left unmentioned was that three months earlier, Beiler wrote a virtual how-to guide for his magazine entitled “The Tao of Dumpster Diving.”


     “Dumpster diving works best in pairs,” Beiler advised readers of his May 2006 article. “One person climbs into the dumpster or stands on the side, tossing aside bags of regular trash while searching for the mother lode – bags full of overstocks discarded en masse.”


     While Greenwell briefly alluded to “trespassing laws” and mentioned that a risk of dumpster diving includes “confrontation to police,” she didn’t include any law enforcement officials or inform her readers of any criminal penalties a so-called “freegan” can rack up when foraging for expired foodstuffs.