I have a quirky and fascinating daughter. Her hobby is research. Sometimes she’ll root through the weird videos on YouTube: dog spaying, lancing a cyst (I winced that that one too) or beard grooming. I am used to the unusual topics and the discussions to follow. One day while I was making dinner she asks me to watch a video by Rob Greenfield.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rob Greenfield, he is an untraditional environmental activist. According to his website he is “..the creator of The Food Waste Fiasco, a campaign that strives to end food waste and hunger in the U.S. He has dove into more than two thousand dumpsters across the United States to demonstrate how nearly half of all food in the U.S. is wasted.”
I watch one, then two, then three videos. I am both horrified and riveted by Rob. After a little binge watching of Rob Greenfield’s work, I stray into the bounty of YouTube dumpster divers and Freegans (people who reject consumerism by reducing waste, especially by retrieving and using discarded food). Hm, food for thought (no pun intended).
Fast forward a day or two later. My daughter asks me if I would go dumpster diving with her. She wants to try it and doesn’t want to go alone. As a mom with an open mind, I say yes. Although I have to admit I am both excited and terrified. That night we don the obligatory black garb, surgical gloves, and headlamps. We start at our local organic grocery store. My daughter dives, while I remain in the car as the lookout. (Check out the dumpster diving law here.) We are embarrassingly successful.
The chocolate bars are a week away from expiration, so is the dog food (dog food is still good a year from the expiry date). My daughter had overheard the produce clerk tell another clerk that she threw out the case of bananas because they didn’t ripen in a timely fashion. They did ripen, just two weeks later. What a waste!!
After a few successful dives at the organic market, we confess our late night escapades to our two close friends. They are curious and wanted to come along. I am delighted to have the company. It’s an adventure! We soon start to make two boxes. One for human consumption and one for their chickens. You have never seen happier chickens!
France has taken the food waste issue a step further. According to The Garden, “France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks.”
Read more about that here. Good for you France, lead the way.
We decided to add a pet store to our stop. My daughter has heard that sometimes live animals were found in pet dumpsters and I am delighted to report that was not our experience. We did, however, find enough unopened, barely expired, not recalled dog food to take home and donate to a local animal shelter. This discovery sparked outrage in all four of us. Apparently, pet stores would rather write off the loss than donate to a shelter and take the tax deduction. It is more profitable. It’s disgusting. Pet shelters will gladly take the food as long as it has not been recalled and is within a year of expiry.
We spent the fall diving, up to a couple of times a week. We added a drug store and a bath and body store to our repertoire. We started making up ziplock baggies of deodorants, body hygiene products, and food to hand out to the homeless. My mom put up several jars of blackberry jam from dozens and dozens of tossed out clamshells of blackberries. When one berry is bad, a store throws out the whole container instead of picking out the one bad berry.
By the way, shame on Bed, Bath and Beyond! They actually destroy their products then throw them away. A perfectly good item is spray painted red before tossed out. They don’t want people diving for their things or taking them to a charity shop. The waste actually made us stop patronizing them.
My dumpster diving friends and I made a weekly meal out of recovered food. We called ourselves the “Maidens of Marion” in keeping with a Robin Hood theme.
On the last dive, before I moved, we ran into several other dumpster divers at our usual haunts. They were on to us. I’m okay with that. It means less waste is going to waste.
That fall of dumpster diving taught me a few things. For a start, I am much more mindful when shopping. I consider the packaging and the impact my purchase makes on the planet. I also patronize businesses with ethical business practices and don’t patronize the ones that don’t. Although I was never really wasteful before, I am even less wasteful now. I only buy what I know we are going to eat and just prepare what I know won’t go to waste. I don’t have leftovers to spoil. I use up all the strays in the fridge in something, even if it’s soup.
Maybe we can’t always eat for free. Most of us are fortunate, we don’t have to dumpster dive. But there are those that do. We need to get our act together and be more mindful of our consumption and waste. It’s time to stop acting like selfish, consumeristic adolescences and grow up into the responsible adults we should be. Let’s be good stewards of our food, our planet and the people around us.