Overproduction and Freeganism

Economic concerns are for sure very important. No one wants to be hungry and destitute. Since vertiginous earning and spending is the way to keep up the economy, materialism becomes a virtue and a measure of morality. God help us.

Our economic system has crated a culture of overconsumption and overproduction.

It seems that for a currency to maintain its value in today’s economy, the users of that currency need to circulate their money; the faster the better. In other words, in order to be good patriots and contributors to their country’s economic development, citizens need to earn and then quickly spend money. The faster they go through this cycle, the better the local economy. As the cycle of earning and spending money slows down, the economy of the land diminishes. That is a reason why we, the residents of the US, were publicly encouraged via the media in 2001, during the December shopping season, to show our patriotism by going out and spending money, as opposed to staying at home and feeling fear and depression possibly caused by the demolition of the World Trade Center in New York.

To be inspired to make money, people need to have good reasons for spending money. To inspire constant consumption, people are exposed to ceaseless advertising. Whether one is driving, walking, resting, waiting in line, jogging in a park… no matter what one might be doing or where one might be, one’s attention is constantly being distracted by advertisements. As a matter of fact, there is a war raging out there, a war for our attention.

Economic concerns are for sure very important. No one wants to be hungry and destitute. Since vertiginous earning and spending is the way to keep up the economy, materialism becomes a virtue and a measure of morality. God help us.
What does overconsumption and overproduction mean? Overconsumption means that we are consuming more than necessary. Similarly, overproduction means that we are producing more than necessary.

Rob Greenfield is an interesting fella I met in San Diego a few years ago. He is educated and has a solid means of income; yet, he has decided to subsist only on refuse. Specifically, in order to tell the world how much we are overproducing, Rob took a vow to eat only what people put in the trash and thus live the life of a freegan.

Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded. Freegans and Freeganism are often seen as part of a wider “anti-consumerist” ideology, and freegans often employ a range of alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.

Rob’s initial inspiration was triggered by Tristram Stuart, a 2011 winner of the international environmental Sophie Prize and the “Observer Food Monthly Outstanding Contribution Award” for his ongoing campaign to solve the global food waste scandal. Tristram, who is also an author of the book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, lives in England. In December 2009 he launched an anti food-waste campaign by organizing “Feeding the 5000” in London’s Trafalgar Square. To raise awareness for reducing food waste, 5,000 people were served free curry, smoothies, and fresh groceries from cast off vegetables and other food that otherwise would have been wasted.

Rob says he focuses on America because that is where he lives and where he can have the most impact. He also believes that many world problems are caused by what is being done on the American soil and by Americans. Thus activism in America can go a long way.

According to Tristram and Rob, America produces four times the amount of food needed to feed the entire American population. It appears that we throw away 90 billion pounds of food annually, the cost of which is about 165 billion US dollars. Rob’s studies show that 50% of food in markets, restaurants, and private homes is wasted, while an average American family of four annually wastes $2,270 worth of food.
Considering the statics above, how should we feel about the fact that one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables?

For an entire week Rob eats nothing but dumpster food and shows that he can eat more deliciously and nutritiously on waste than many Americans do from the store aisles. To show just how much waste there is, Rob fills an entire fridge and a few cupboards, feeds the homeless, and hosts big, classy dumpster parties at his home.

I went out one afternoon with Rob to see it all for myself. In one hour we visited three dumpsters, each located behind a large store. During that short hour, to my absolute surprise, we found an amazing abundance of perfectly good food. Many of the food items were even sealed air-tight. In these dumpsters we found a large bag of fresh bread, a case of almond milk, organic bananas, vegetables, etc. Rob’s large refrigerator, his porch, and storage are packed with perfectly good food that had been discarded.

“I don’t really want to eat food from dumpsters. For me dumpster diving is a way to draw attention to the food crisis in America and create an opportunity to talk about solutions,” says Rob. Rob also offers a few actions our readers could possibly resort to. Here is a partial list:

  • Boycott wasteful systems, especially industrial farming.
  • Shop locally. Buy from less wasteful sources such as small farmers, farmers markets, and the co-ops.
  • Don’t waste your own food. Buy only what you need.
  • Eat plant based diet, avoid meats.

To see the rest of the list please see Rob’s website www.greenfieldadventures.org/.

Ultimately we could ask ourselves what is wrong with wasting. If we ascribe moral values to the act of wasting, we are saying that one act is better than the other one and that some acts are sacred while their opposites are offensive. It logically follows that that which is real and natural holds value. That which opposes it, makes for disharmony and impermanence. However, we see that in the world of matter, hardly anything has endurance. For that reason the thoughtful have always, while dwelling in the impermanent world, endeavored for the permanent results. In the Christian tradition it is advised that we do not store treasures on Earth, but in “heaven” where things do not decay and where there is no destruction. For where our treasure is, our heart will be also. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna teaches (2.16) that that which is impermanent is in a sense nonexistent while that which is permanent is real.

Srila Prabhupada wrote (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.20.2): “The main function of the time factor, which is a representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is to destroy everything. The materialists, in material consciousness, are engaged in producing so many things in the name of economic development. They think that by advancing in satisfying the material needs they will be happy, but they forget that everything they have produced will be destroyed in due course of time. From history we can see that there were many powerful empires on the surface of the globe that were constructed with great pain and great perseverance, but in due course of time they have all been destroyed. Still the foolish materialists cannot understand that they are simply wasting time in producing material necessities, which are destined to be vanquished in due course of time. This waste of energy is due to the ignorance of the mass of people, who do not know that they are eternal and that they have an eternal engagement also. They do not know that this span of life in a particular type of body is but a flash in the eternal journey. Not knowing this, they take the small flash of life to be everything, and they waste time in improving economic conditions.”

As I see it, people are, generally speaking, products of the environment in which they live. If peeps live in a materialistic environment, they tend to think, feel, and act like materialists. If the materialistic element is reduced, people have a much better chance to be intrigued by the spiritual quest, a quest into permanence. I am convinced that reducing the materialistic fever that is currently manifested as overproduction and overconsumption is a good thing, in terms of permanence and impermanence.


Mahat is the editor of "16ROUNDS to Samadhi." Born in 1975 on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. Monk since the age of 20. Moved to Los Angeles in 1999. Moved to San Diego in 2004. Living in Berkeley since October of 2013.

1 Comment

  • Reply April 3, 2014


    now i understand the product of materialist people. envorement. thinking. feeling. acting .thanks for enlightement

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