Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More on Freeganism

The freegans have inspired me to come up with a few ways we can apply their philosophies to our daily lives. For people with families, "squatting" in abandoned buildings, living without electricity, and eating from dumpsters is not a feasible lifestyle. Most of us want the best for our kids, and this includes stable housing maintained at a reasonable temperature, indoor plumbing, and at least the appearance of middle class normality. Even if you could make a Freegan family lifestyle work, someone is bound to call Child Protective Services. But here are a few major expenses and a few ways to make them free or a whole lot cheaper.

1. Shared, communal housing means less money, less waste, and (!!!) less housework. I think it goes without saying that you should be careful if you have kids.
2. Buy a small house far below your means and pay it off quickly. It's not free, but it WILL be in 5 to 10 years if you are vigilant about diverting extra funds to the house payment.
3. Barter. There was a point in my life when I was a single mother and even a tiny apartment would have been a financial strain. I traded services for rent on a two bedroom home in the country. The family owned several rental houses and a farm, plus they had a retarded son. I babysat the boy, fed the animals, and generally did whatever they need in exchange for that house. In California at the time, the house could easily have fetched $500-$750 a month, while minimum wage paid $4 an hour, so we all came out way ahead. Plus, I could have my own son with me while I did most of it.

1. Well, with gas prices as crazy as they are, my family is going to be doing a lot more bus riding. We have the worst public transit ever in Yakima, so if I can do it with all these little kids, I know you can.
2. Routine maintenance makes older vehicles more reliable and economical than a poorly maintained new one.
3. Get an old Volvo or VW and learn how to fix it yourself. The seventies models in particular are easy to tinker with.
4. Drive less through carpooling and good old-fashioned bumming a ride.

1. Do without temperature control unless it would endanger your health. You can put on slippers and a sweater instead of cranking up the heat. Unless you can see your breath, a cold nose won't hurt you, and even then...
2. Hang out laundry. Let the sun do the drying for you. Why is that so hard? Everyone acts like I am an extremist hippie for doing it.
3. Turn off those lights. I know everyone says this, but still we have lights on everywhere we go, even during bright summer days. Your eyes will adjust, I promise.
4. Make a one-appliance-at-a-time rule. I know what you're thinking--if I'm going to use it anyway, what difference does it make? But I have found that the one-appliance-at-a-time policy saves more electric than any other rule. So if one kid is watching TV, no computer for the other. If mom is using the dryer, no microwave. You get it.

1. It literally grows on trees. So plant a few.
2. Buy raw ingredients and make your own everything. It's not free, but so much cheaper it can revolutionize your grocery budget.

Here are a few reasons to be a part-time freegan:
1. The less you participate in a cash economy, the less you will be affected by the natural cycles of inflation and recession.
2. Buying less means less waste. Always. Without exception.
3. The less cash you need, the less you need to work. This means less transportation and more time for other carbon-saving activities. Or, you could work and earn at the same rate and use the money to save, improve your life, pay off debt, or donate to a good cause.

I know our Calvinist American heritage urges us to keep busy even when there is no need, but how many Calvinists are left? It's a dying religion, so let's let go of their neuroses.