The best cities to be a freegan
A bounty of discarded food awaits dumpster divers in these towns.
Nearly a third of the food produced around the world each year is wasted, according to the U.N. This knowledge, combined with the fact that a more vocal discussion has started about how our lifestyles impact the planet, has sparked a growing global community focused on sustainable living. Counted among this community are freegans (a portmanteau of "free" and "vegans"), a more granola way of referring to dumpster divers whose specific aim is to subsist off of reclaimed food items that are still edible but have been trashed.
Far from being the self-righteous hobby of a few hippies, freeganism includes among its ranks businessmen, students and housewives. Events are held, online communities have sprung up, and, in some places, directories have been created. Below are some of the places around the world where being a freegan is most rewarding.
New York City
New York City is a freegan utopia. The city sends 4 million tons of waste to landfills every year, almost a third of which is food waste (New York City restaurants, of which there are more than 23,000, alone generate close to a half million tons of food waste per year). But with a highly organized freegan community, as well as an easily navigable city, those on the hunt find it's not hard to secure a bounty of booty in the Big Apple.
In France, 1.2 million tons of food is thrown away every year – about 44 pounds per person. Seven of these pounds are still in their packaging, and 13 are leftovers or still-edible fruits and vegetables. As the country's largest city, Paris offers a bounty of salvagable goodies from its many markets, cafes and restaurants. In fact, the pickings are so good, a freegan restaurant has even popped up. At the Freegan Pony, diners are asked to pay a small fee in return for a meal made from reclaimed foods.
Tel Aviv offers a wide selection of fruits and vegetables to freegans. (Photo: Jorge Láscar/Flickr)
A city that lives outdoors, takes its dining seriously and boasts several farmers markets, Tel Aviv is not a bad place to be if you're in search of a bit of free food. A Tel Avivian freegan is likely to find among the booty on offer avocados and apples, peaches and pears, mangoes and melons, and an assortment of breads. Add to that the fact that the White City is a closely knit community that welcomes most any way of life, and you have yourself something of a freegan's dream scenario.
The City of Angels served as the setting for a 2011 film about freegans. L.A. is a great place to be a freegan for the same reason it's a great place to make movies: The weather. A lot of sun means plenty of time to spend rummaging through the trash. And with lots of food chains, tons of eating establishments, and a large population of wealthy people who waste food, there's plenty of good "trash" to be had.
U.K. households are throwing away 4.2 million tons of household food and drink annually – the equivalent of six meals every week, according to WRAP. In London, the country's capital and largest city, a well-organized community has emerged over the past several years, so much so that late last year, a cafe serving reclaimed foods was opened. In London there are online guides, meet-up groups and events dedicated to freegans.
Some in Australia have turned to freeganism out of necessity. (Photo: Nathan Makan/Flickr)
Yet another city with a well organized community, Sydney is the capital of a country that, by some estimates, wastes about $8 billion worth of edible food every year. Since the city attracts tons of backpackers looking to save a few bucks, and its high cost of living also necessitates a bit of ingenuity among its less affluent residents, Sydney has become a good place to get a free bite if you're willing to make the effort.
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