This summer I will teach Lars Eighner’s personal essay “On Dumpster Diving.” Eighner, homeless during three years with his dog Lizbeth, recounts his personal experiences and strategies for scavenging a living from the discarded food, clothes, and household items of local residents.
This essay, which turned into the longer memoir Travels with Lizbeth, surprises us with its clear, frank manner of detailing his thought process as he evaluates any variety of leftover raw foods and dry foods for safe consumption. His welcome attitude toward what others have considered garbage makes for a harrowing account of the current state of middle-class values.
Whereas Eighner scavenged dumpsters to survive, a yuppie coalition of dumpster divers has emerged with a solely political agenda. This New York Times article “Not Buying It” tells the story of these “freegans.”
“Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.”