November 29, 2007

Turkey for breakfast, turkey for lunch...

It seems that in the Netherlands, 1/3 of all food is thrown away, according to Monday's NYT. One third of all food. This struck me for a couple of reasons: one, because our fridge is still overflowing with heaps of stuffing and sticky rice left over from Turkey Day; and two, because the Dutch tend to buy their food right before they cook it, which would seem to minimize waste. How much food are we wasting in the United States, then? Forty-three thousand tons a day, according to the Clean Air Council. (They also have a whole list of terrifying waste facts, if you dare to read it.)

Luckily, some people aren't afraid of the food the rest of us call garbage. Here in New York, City Harvest picks up leftover food from restaurants -- some 20 million pounds of food a year -- and distributes it to the needy. And let's not forget the freegans, a subculture of people who choose to live entirely off the waste of consumer society, refusing to succumb to polite culture's revulsion toward things that have been put in a plastic bag and left on the curb for garbage trucks. More eloquently, as the manifesto on puts it,
Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.
The freegan philosophy goes far beyond opting out of buying things; many also opt out of jobs, cars, paid housing -- sort of the inverse of the Trainspotting intro. Instead, they dedicate their time to gardening, community projects... and of course scrounging for food and other necessities. Personally, I don't have the guts. But certainly the rest of us could learn something from their example.

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