Friday, 14 September 2007

The wonders of those big black bags!


Now there is an old adage that says that one man's trash is another man's treasure. This, I have realized tonight, is very true, especially when one of the men is a store or supermarket owner!!

Earlier, I went to a panel called "Extreme Green," about people who are so environmentally friendly that if I had a more developed conscience they would make me feel terrible about myself. One of the panelists was a woman who is a freegan: she lives, to the extent possible, off of what our society discards; we are American so we discard a lot!! (See freegan.info for more.) After the panel she took some of us wide-eyed listeners on a walk around the neighborhood for an informal "trash tour". This is what I brought home with me:

-A whole bag full of soft, fresh bagels.
-Three 'snack packs' of carrots, baby tomatoes, broccoli, and ranch dressing.
-Two 'party packs' of sliced carrots and celery.
-Some strawberries (packaged, do not fear) yum yum yum.
-An adorable little chair which I am sitting on right now!!!

Much of the food I think I will have to give to my friend Raia, for most unfortunately, I do not have a kitchen. But if I had a kitchen, I could have brought home even more, and it would have been a week's worth of groceries!

The point of this all, though, is not for an over-privileged little girl like me to get free groceries. The point is, of course, that we are so terribly wasteful, that there has to be some sort of way of re-distributing this food, or of not creating all that waste in the first place. This is, I suppose, what the freegans are struggling toward, and I applaud them for it, although I am not sure yet if I am so very dedicated to their movement. Re-distribution, certainly, to bring those bagels to soup kitchens: this seems very practical and possible and I would like to see if I could get involved with it in the future. Actually, I was told, much potential waste already is redistributed like that.

But we must get to the root of the problem, the wastefulness of the consumer culture of my beautiful nation, say the freegans. And this, I think, is hard. Social work is often criticized for being a band-aid type of social change; Jane Addams (the mother of social work in this country) wrote of being frustrated by fixing things that should not have even needed fixing in the first place: isn't it futile to fix a situation that is the result of a larger problem if you don't fix the larger problem itself? Maybe. And maybe I am just a band-aid type of a person, because I feel like our culture's wastefulness is such a huge problem that it would take lifetimes to even address, and in those lifetimes would exponentially multiply to the point of being simply unsolvable. Re-distribution, on the other hand, seems relatively doable, not quite so lofty, but a good way to remedy a fucked up situation.

And to get me free groceries!!!

4 comments:

Else said...

you should become a coloumnist, shane. i just missed the bus to school and i have to sit and wait for the next one, and i'll be late for my lucture. i'll think about re-dsrtibution while i wait.

Sofie said...

dumpster diving, or "skpping" as dario calls it, is fun, free and useful! (here, marks and spencer tend to throw out lots of packaged food which is still very much edible) hurrah for dumpster diving!
not only groceries though, couches, paintings, shelves, everything! computers!

Shane said...

chairs!!!

jshim said...

this is the thriftiest thing i have ever seen.