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Freegans: Transforming Waste Into an Alternative Way of Life


An exemplary tribe that offers a fundamental lesson for contemporary society.

Numerous contemporary theories agree that excessive consumption is one of the most harmful activities of our era. Initiatives have emerged to halt this growing tendency that seek to reverse it from different angles – economic, social, labor and even psychological.

Among the proponents are the freegans, a neologism that fuses “free” and “vegan.” It refers to an urban tribe that emerged in the 1990s in the US with the aim of highlighting consumerism as an absurd source of waste. How do they show that? Simply by rescuing from the garbage all that is still useful but which people have thrown away.

Although there are no precise calculations, it is estimated that the global population of freegans is around three million, with the largest concentration located in New York, and other communities flourishing in the UK, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil, Argentina and South Korea, among other countries.

But freegans do not only carry out expeditions in places where waste is generated but they also exchange objects (without money changing hands), and carry out artistic activity days, environmental education and voluntary work. They use self-sustainable transportation and in general try to carve a niche in the margins of the system to demonstrate that another way of life is possible.

Contrary to what one might think, the tribe is not a collective of vagabonds but a community that is admirably organized and committed and in which you can find university professors and outstanding professionals who could, if they wanted to, comfortably live according to the conventional way of life.

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