What is a Freegan? What Your Business Can Learn from the Freeganism Movement

Small Business Freeganism Freegan Rubicon Global Office

Small Business Freeganism Freegan Rubicon Global Office

Sometimes you find a partner in the most unlikely of places. On first glance, you might not think that your business could learn a thing or two from freegans–but it’s time to take a closer look. Discover what freeganism is all about, what lessons your business can adopt from freeganism, and how your business can reduce waste.

What is a freegan?

First, what is a freegan and what’s freeganism all about? Freeganism is about the dedication to minimal consumption of resources. Their strategies range from avoiding the purchase of food and reducing food waste to furnishing their homes with discarded furniture and only wearing used clothes.

Given the staggering amount of global food waste, this philosophy makes sense. After all, according to the EPA, about ⅓ of all food produced goes to waste.

So how does freeganism actually work? Read on to find out.

The practices of freeganism

A common misconception of the freeganism movement is that it’s all about dumpster-diving or rummaging through garbage for food. This isn’t the whole picture.

The main tenets of freeganism include:

  • Urban foraging: Getting discarded food, clothing, furniture, and other items from commercial businesses
  • Wild foraging: Finding edible plants in parks and forests
  • Guerrilla gardening: Taking over abandoned lots and turning them into community gardens
  • Free sharing: Bartering for goods
  • Repair: Instead of tossing goods that are broken, freegans emphasize the importance of mending clothing and fixing damaged items

These strategies all support the broader freeganism ideology–but they often get a bad rap.

Many freegans have positive relationships with local businesses to pick up food that will be tossed. Grocery stores that would discard imperfect produce or bakeries that would throw out goods at the end of the day instead give this food to freegans.

If you’re a grocery store, bakery, restaurant, or other foodservice business, consider a partnership with freegans in your community. This connection would reduce your organization’s food waste, establish a brand as a sustainable company, and potentially lead to further waste-reduction practices.

Keep in mind that urban foraging isn’t just about reclaiming wasted food–it’s also about putting discarded materials like furniture and clothing to good use.

Interested in learning more about the freegan community? Check out:

  • Freegan.info is a New York City-based freegan organization that hosts the Really, Really Free Market, a bartering bazaar.
  • Since 1980, Food Not Bombs has collected food from grocery stores and bakeries, cooked vegetarian meals from these donations, and distributed these meals to the needy.
  • Time’s Up, an NYC environmental organization, hosts free bike repair workshops.

What businesses can learn from freegans

Your business doesn’t have to start dumpster diving to adopt some of the freeganism movement’s philosophies. Your business is likely guilty of throwing out perfectly good food and gently used office supplies.   

The biggest lesson your business can glean from the freeganism movement is to be mindful of your organization’s consumption. Becoming more aware of your company’s waste and taking steps to reduce bad habits is a great way to make a difference–without going full-freegan. Wondering how to exactly do that? Read on!

How your business can reduce waste

Food waste:

  • Ensure you only stock the work fridge with snacks that will get eaten. Don’t let those company yogurts expire!
  • Donate perfectly good food to nonprofits, charities, or even freegans in your area.
  • When catering a company event, take food orders instead of ordering in bulk. That way, you’ll be less likely to be left with trays of uneaten food.

Paper waste:

  • Go digital! Make sure your team only uses the printer on a must-need basis.
  • Print double-sided whenever possible.
  • Recycle all paper products. Make it easy for your team by placing clearly labeled recycling bins around the office.
  • Consider using recycled paper in your printer.

Other office waste:

  • Get rid of plastic and disposable cutlery and cups. Ensure that your office has enough reusable kitchen supplies for your full team.
  • Say no to Keurig pods. Did you know that K-cups disposed of in 2014 would circle the earth more than 12 times?
  • Don’t provide plastic water bottles. Instead, why not give out company-branded reusable bottles? They’re great for the planet and great for company culture!

Businesses can also establish strategies to reduce waste in the office. For example, Looking for even more tips on how your business can reduce waste? Check out this post.

By adopting some pointers from the freegan lifestyle, you’ll save money and help the environment. Win-win-win.


Don’t forget to look to the RUBICONMethod, our six-step guide on recycling and waste reduction, for other helpful tips.