Free and Easy: Dumpster Diving Life for Me

Surely you've heard the saying "the best things in life are free."

Some people are using that principal to reduce waste on the planet by getting their basic necessities from supermarket dumpsters and online bartering sites. Known as freegans, as in "free" and "vegan," they don't eat meat and they refuse to pay for their food.

"It's basically about boycotting consumerism," said Newsweek correspondent Raina Kelley, who is in the midst of a monthlong stint as a freegan. "In the truest sense of freeganism, the ultimate aim is to opt out of capitalism altogether. Because, they say, capitalism creates injustice."

Click here to read Kelley's blog about her experience.

Freegans aren't cheapskates. They're simply making a statement by taking a stand against consumerism, which they see as "the exploitation of land, resources and animals wrought by commercial production."

Freegans search the trash, also known as "dumpster diving," in an attempt to curtail a cycle of waste by salvaging otherwise healthy food out of the supermarket's trash.

The average American creates an average of four and a half pounds of waste each day, and disposes of 15,334 plastic water bottles and 18,306 plastic bags in a lifetime, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

We also burn through 26,408 aluminum cans and enough wire hangers -- 900 for each of us -- to wrap the Empire State building twice.

While freeganism embodies just one main rule -- to consider your impact on the planet and reduce it -- Kelley set out to make a list of her own goals.

As she began her experiment, Kelley outlined a list of "rules" for herself and her new lifestyle:

- I will spend as little as possible on food.

- I will not throw away what I already have and I will buy "green" items. I will use what I have until it's gone.

- I will scrupulously recycle, reuse and compost. If I want something, I will barter for it.

- I will put the money I save in an account. This will eventually give me the freedom to quit working.

Midway through her experience, on day 15 of the project, Kelley has developed a technique.

"I only shop at one grocery store, or at green markets," said Kelley. "I'm eating locally grown organic food, and I'm eating vegan food, because not only does the waste produced by megafarms contribute to global warming... to many freegans and vegans, there's no reason to separate cruelty to animals to cruelty to humans, and when you consider your impact, it shouldn't be a cruel one."

Kelley has lost eight pounds and gained an appreciation for soy milk. But she misses cheese. "I miss it more than shopping," she exclaimed.

Kelley has yet to dumpster dive -- nor does she plan to -- but she doesn't feel she's missing out on a true freegan experience. "The idea is that you go to grocery stores, not restaurants, and you find a lot of prepared foods left over at grocery stores, coffee shops, bakeries," she said, listing rotisserie chickens, bagels and eggs as popular examples.

As she was finishing off what was left in her cupboard from her pre-freegan days, Kelley discovered a fruit drink mix that she hadn't used in years, and now she appreciates it so much more.

"So many of us have useable things that have been sitting there forever," Kelly said.