Tonight was lovely. I headed out on my bike after dark. Down Bedford Ave, through the Hasidic Jewish neighbourhood of Williamsburg, which was livelier than ever this evening.
As I head further north, the area turns from Hacidim to Hipster, as skinny-jean and glasses-clad 20-somethings bar-hop and hail taxis.
There’s a big pile of black garbage bags waiting for me outside my favourite organic locale. No one else has been there, and I untie each bag carefully. The first bag is full of drained cartons of soy milk and juice. I find a bag of bagels and breads and another packed full of meats approaching their expiry dates – ground beef, pork, chicken. Next is a bag of deli cast-offs: ready made meals and dips – wraps, sandwhiches, BBQ tofu, bean salads, spinach dip.
Then another jackpot – a bag full of vegetable chips and Swedish-style cookies – all still sealed (no exacto knife slash down the front of each bag, as is common as grocers seek to destroy what they can’t profit off of). Then some jars of pesto, probably about forty containers of sourcream and the same of cream cheese. More meats. An entire box of bottles of organic Kombucha. Two huge cases or organic tempeh.
More than I could ever want or need. Or – for that matter – carry. I fill my backpack and tie plastic bags to the outside. A bag lady.
I also have to mention the bizarre finds I stumbled across earlier this week: many bottles of imported bottled water, bottles of pet-stain remover, moisturizer, brand-new umbrellas and skipping ropes (in packages) – plus bananas, baguettes, peanut butter cups, Lifesavers, other candies.
I’ve jumped fully on board with freeganism now. Mark my words. There will be no more sneaking out in the late afternoon at work to go buy a blueberry bagel and read the newspaper. My new rules: buying beverages is okay – beers with friends, coffee when working at coffee shops, etc. And eating out with friends is okay too. I’m not going to pull out my dumpster-sourced pasta salad at the table if you ask me out to dinner (although going out for dinner is so expensive in NYC that it doesn’t happen very often anyway)
So now I’m a full-on vegan-freegan. A freegan-vegan. Don’t I sound like a fun dinner guest?
It’s not that I am obsessed with rules or rigidity, but this is an experiment. And the difference is interesting. In this world of infinite choice and this city of infinite availability, we all become obsessed with finding what is the best. It’s not about what’s good enough anymore, or how to make to do with what we’ve got. It’s a never ending pursuit of much coveted perfection.
But relying solely on trash takes away the infinite choice and the drive for perfection. Of course, with such a huge quantity of waste, one can still be quite choosy. But it’s not possible to just have thai food on a whim, or red velvet cupcakes at the snap of a finger, or whatever. It’s living off the land, urban style. You use what you have, and you appreciate it.