Say what? Dumpster diving?Comment ça, faire les poubelles ?

Some dream of collecting things, I dream of collecting experiences: It might sound odd (or not, if you know me well), but one of them was “going dumpster diving with someone who knows what he/she is doing”

So when Marie, a PhD student who interviewed me for her thesis on food waste, confided in me that she and her boyfriend dumpster dove on a regular basis, I took a plunge myself: I begged her to take me along.

Contrary to the “waste pick-up on a lovely sunny morning” at the beach that I described last month, this was a much different outing: one that took place at 10 pm, on a chilly night – a time of day when my body yearns to crawl under a fuzzy blanket alongside Scott, and my brain to watch a podcast of Tiny House Hunting 😉

In anticipation of this event, what worried me most, was not:

  1. Getting cold – I’d wear my puff jacket;
  2. Losing my enthusiasm – I had plenty of it!;
  3. Running into critters – I love nature;) or,
  4. Getting caught – if I did and subsequently made headlines: “World famous author dumpster dives for food”, it would have brought attention to food waste, which is a good thing anyways!

But considering the particularities of my lifestyle, I was most afraid of running into the conundrum: what to do with packaging waste? (I mean… right? Only you, faithful readers, can understand.)

So I came prepared with my shopping kit, below. But maybe too much.

When I arrived at our meeting point, I looked like a complete novice, carrying large sturdy totes by my sides -my hosts sported more discreet over the shoulder cotton kinds. One thing is for sure, I looked like I was ready for business! Ready to grocery shop!

My shopping kit

I quickly realized that my kit was overkill: To my surprise, none of the food that we found came packaged, apart from the brown paper bag of bread below which I did not mind taking home for reuse -my clothes shopping day is coming up, so I’ll looking for something to pack my donations.

Ooh, did I feel delinquent and right at the same time doing this! The food that I collected that night had no business being discarded: As you can tell, perfect veggies and fruit! They rightly deserved to be saved from landfill.

Veggies that I could have picked from (inside) the grocery store
A bag of french loaves in the first paper bag that I bring home from a grocery store in 6 years!

 

Fruits in great condition!

(Note: I was so busy worrying about packaging waste that I completely forgot to take pictures that evening).

This is not an exercise for the germaphobe, and I am clearly not one of them. But being a virgin at it, I picked items that could be peeled: I figured, that it’d make a strong argument to get my skeptic family to take a bite into the fruits of my foray, and eliminating any chance of getting sick might encourage subsequent trips.

That week became the first time that I missed the vegetable peeler that I donated 3 years ago…

Contrary to what I would have expected, it did not bother my family to eat the discarded goods, and we ate it all without fear.

With my bounty I made:

  • Ginger carrot soup
  • Sauteed Zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown herb mix
  • Grilled zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown mint
  • Two apple pies
  • Snacks of apple slices topped with peanut butter
  • Sandwiches for a week’s worth of lunches with the bread.

As you already know, I am a forager at heart, but I am not sure I’ll have the guts to go dumpster diving in my own town. That said, I had a wonderful time and more importantly, I am grateful for Marie allowing me to cross an item off my bucket list!

Il y en a qui rêvent de collectionner des objets, moi, ce sont les expériences que je veux accumuler : Cela peut paraître étrange (ou pas, si vous me connaissez bien), mais l’une d’elles était d’ « aller faire les poubelles avec quelqu’un qui s’y connaisse »…

Alors, quand Marie, une étudiante en doctorat qui m’a rencontrée dans le cadre de sa thèse sur le gâchis alimentaire, m’a confié qu’elle et son copain récupéraient régulièrement de la nourriture dans les poubelles, j’ai décidé de sauter le pas moi aussi : je lui ai demandé de m’emmener avec elle.

Cette sortie était très différente du « ramassage de déchets par un beau matin ensoleillé » à la plage que j’ai décrit le mois dernier : elle a eu lieu à 22h, par un soir glacial – un moment de la journée où mon corps ne demande qu’à se tapir sous une épaisse couverture aux côtés de Scott, et mon cerveau à regarder un podcast de Tiny House Hunting ☺

En attendant cet événement, ce qui m’inquiétait le plus, ce n’était pas :

  1. D’avoir froid – j’allais porter ma doudoune ;
  2. De perdre mon enthousiasme – j’en avais à revendre !;
  3. De tomber sur des bestioles – j’adore la nature 😉
  4. De me faire prendre – si cela m’arrivait et que l’histoire faisait les gros titres : « Auteure mondialement connue fait les poubelles pour trouver de la nourriture », cela aurait attiré l’attention sur le gâchis alimentaire, ce qui est une bonne chose !

Mais étant données les spécificités de mon mode de vie, ce dont j’avais le plus peur, c’était de faire face au sac de nœuds : que faire des déchets d’emballage ? (enfin… vous voyez ? Seuls vous, mes fidèles lecteurs, pouvez le comprendre.)

Je suis donc arrivée préparée, avec mon kit de courses, ci-dessous. Mais peut-être trop.

Quand je suis arrivée à notre lieu de rendez-vous, j’ai eu vraiment l’air d’une novice, avec mes grands cabas à mes côtés – mes hôtes en arboraient de plus discrets, en coton, qui se portent sur l’épaule. Une chose est sûre, j’avais l’air prête à en découdre ! Prête à faire mes courses !

 

J’ai vite réalisé que mon kit était plus encombrant qu’autre chose : à mon grand étonnement, aucune des denrées que nous avons trouvées n’était emballée, à part le sac en papier rempli de baguettes (ci-dessus) que je n’ai pas rechigné à rapporter à la maison pour le réutiliser – mon jour d’achat de vêtements arrive, et j’aurai besoin de quelque chose pour emballer mes dons.

Ooh, qu’est ce que je me suis sentie à la fois délinquante et juste en le faisant ! La nourriture que j’ai récupérée ce soir-là n’avait rien à faire dans les poubelles : comme vous pouvez le voir, ces légumes et ces fruits sont parfaits ! Ils avaient bien le droit d’être sauvés de la décharge.

 

(Légende des photos : 1- Des légumes que j’aurais tout aussi bien pu acheter a l’interieur du magasin; 2- Un sac de baguettes, le premier sac en papier que je ramene d’un magasin en 6 ans ! 3- Des fruits en parfait état ! J’étais si occupée à m’inquiéter des emballages que j’ai complètement oublié de prendre des photos de la soirée.)

L’exercice n’est pas à recommander au germophobe, et je n’en fais clairement pas partie. Mais comme c’était ma première fois, j’ai choisi des aliments qui pouvaient être pelés : je me suis dit que ça encouragerait ma famille à manger les fruits de mon excursion, et que d’éliminer les risques de tomber malade ne pouvait qu’encourager de futures razzias.

C’était la première fois, cette semaine, que l’épluche-légumes que j’ai donné il y a 3 ans m’a manqué…

Contrairement à ce que je m’attendais, ma famille n’a pas boudé les aliments qui avaient été jetés, et nous avons tout mangé sans inquiétude.

 

Avec mon butin j’ai fait :

  • Une soupe au gingembre et à la carotte
  • Des courgettes sautées accompagnées d’un mélange d’herbes du jardin
  • Des courgettes grillées saupoudrées de menthe du jardin
  • Deux tartes aux pommes
  • Des tranches de pommes recouvertes de beurre de cacahuète, comme en-cas
  • Des sandwiches pour une semaine de déjeuners avec le pain.

Je ne suis pas sûre que j’aurai le courage d’aller faire les poubelles dans ma propre ville. Ceci dit, j’ai passé un moment formidable et encore plus important, je suis reconnaissante car Marie m’a permis de rayer un des éléments de ma “liste de choses à faire au moins une fois dans ma vie” !

Traduit de l’Anglais par Oriane Wawrzyniak

  1. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 4:48 am (#)

    Good job, Bea! I'm amazed at the amount of food that is wasted in this country everyday. I've read a lot about WWII shortages and rationing and love hearing how families didn't waste anything. The neighborhood victory gardens and scrap drives! We could learn a little something from that era. They were generally happier and healthier than folks these days. Great post. Reminds me of some semi-wilted lettuce in my fridge that will get tucked into something and eaten tomorrow!

  2. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 8:02 pm (#)

    To revive your lettuce, put it in a bowl of ice water – works like a charm!

  3. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 7:37 am (#)

    Love this story, Bea! For years, I've been intrigued about dumpster diving for food, but I've never had the guts, and I don't know anyone experienced at it who could take me along. Like you, I have imagined the headlines if I got caught: "Local psychologist dumpster dives for food" wouldn't do much for my career, or the image of my profession in general. But thinking about the amount of perfectly good food that gets thrown away just drives me mad! Thanks for the continued inspiration. 🙂

  4. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 8:08 pm (#)

    If you know someone that can take you along, it's definitely worth giving it a try: A good "psychological" experiment;)

  5. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 10:05 am (#)

    This takes some courage. Kudos to you, and your family. As something of a germaphobe, I don't know if I could do this >.<
    Here in Japan grocery stores will have a small section where they sell produce that is about to be discarded at a reduced price. I am now encouraged to at least buy this produce. I am curious if this exists in the States?
    Thank you for the inspiration of your zero waste lifestyle.

  6. Anonymous says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 1:10 pm (#)

    I know of only one store in my area in the U.S. that has produce items that are about to be discarded at a reduced price: an international supermarket with a HUGE inventory. And while it's economical and saves on food waste, unfortunately it is all packaged up in cling wrap and foam trays, so it defeats the zero waste ethic. Not sure I'd ever dumpster dive either, but I applaud people for making use of perfectly-good food being tossed away!

  7. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 8:34 pm (#)

    When Zero Waste wasn't part of my life, I'd buy short dates from Safeway. But you're right, the packaging was nasty, the most toxic kind that leaches into the food (Styrofoam trays and plastic wrap). If I found those items in a dumpster, I wouldn't pick them up. I know too much about their effects on health.

  8. Unknown says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 10:42 am (#)

    This is awesome! I'd be nervous to get caught, but what an adventure! I wish I had someone to show me the ropes then I might venture for such an adventure 😉 although I doubt my husband would approve or touch the food, I'm still easing him into the whole idea of reducing waste. Thanks for sharing your story and adventure I love your blog!

  9. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 8:49 pm (#)

    I didn't think my family would touch the food either (my son said that he wouldn't before I left) but peeling it and presenting it nicely changed their mind!

  10. Thaïs says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 11:16 am (#)

    How come people throw away that food ?! It's not even rotten !!
    That was courageous of you, good job 🙂

  11. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 9:26 pm (#)

    I asked myself the same question and then thought maybe it's because they fell on the ground? or had one tiny brown spot? I have seen produce staff inspect fruit before and separate them if they're not completely perfect. But there was a huge amount of broccoli that my host took: what happen there? Did a full cart fall over? -I did not take any because you can't peel broccoli florets 😉

  12. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 12:57 pm (#)

    This makes me happy and sad. Happy the food didn't go to waste, sad that so many children (and adults) go to bed hungry and the grocery store sees fit to just toss this food in the garbage. I could scream!

  13. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 9:27 pm (#)

    That's one of the many inconsistencies in life that can make you mad if you think too much about it, right?

  14. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 3:01 pm (#)

    Bea, this is awesome! Way to step out of your comfort zone and rescue perfectly edible food. But more so that just dumpster diving, you posted what you found and listed how you used it up! Spurring creativity in your readers.
    I am social worker in the USA, and almost a quarter of the kids in our rich country go to bed hungry. Wish that more grocery stores would consider donating food to homeless shelters and food banks. I know some do, in fact, but many stores would rather pay for the privilege of tossing imperfect food in a dumpster than feeding hungry kids. What a waste.

  15. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 9:42 pm (#)

    I think there is much to say about grocery store's inventory control also. Because I have volunteered a pantry who said that they sometimes get so much perishables themselves that they have to throw them out.

    Here is a snippet from a study that was conducted by Brown County: (http://www.co.brown.wi.us/i_brown/d/uw_extension/wnep/keep-or-toss-survey-summary.pdf)

    "Of all the perishable and fresh foods donated, pantries reported that fresh fruits and vegetables is the category of food that is the most likely to be tossed. Nearly half of all pantries (47%) identified fresh fruits and vegetables as a food that is likely to be thrown away or considered unusable. Several reasons were cited for this trend. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often tossed due to the quantities donated exceeding pantries’ ability to provide the refrigerated storage space needed to preserve those fruits and vegetables for longer periods of time; although most pantries have the capacity to refrigerate or freeze items, priority is given to milk, meats and other perishables that are in higher demand. In addition, some pantries distribute food bi-weekly or monthly and are not able to keep the donated produce fresh long enough due to the time that elapses between donation and distribution. Another reason cited by pantries for having to toss out fresh produce was the quality of the donations received (bruised, overly ripe, etc.). A third reason was simply due to less demand for fresh produce among pantry clients than other products; however, one pantry reported that they have never had to throw out fresh vegetables when they receive seasonal donations from local farmers and garden owners (such as squash, pumpkins, etc.), because the fresh produce is high in demand among their clients"

  16. Chevanne Scordinsky says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 11:30 pm (#)

    Great resource!

  17. (Karen) Lisa Daley says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:07 pm (#)

    Interesting foray. I've gone dumpster diving for vintage items but never for food. I'd think the stores would have cameras though. One of the grocery stores in our area sells their expired produce to a pig farm.

  18. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 9:43 pm (#)

    I did not see cameras. And they have not tracked me down yet;)
    But am glad you mention such pig farm, it's another item on my list! I ma waiting to hear back.

  19. Madeleine Lawrence says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 9:03 pm (#)

    The photo of that perfect fruit makes me think that the human race has gone a bit crazy – especially when people are going to bed hungry.

    How did we become so wasteful in just one generation? We were well off growing up, but I can assure you NO food was ever thrown away. I guess my parents grew up during the second world war and that made them forever grateful for food on the table…

    Madeleine

  20. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 10:20 pm (#)

    What matters now is not dwelling on the wrong doing but taking active steps to change things. We all have a responsibility in this!

  21. Gabby says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 9:38 pm (#)

    That's so brave of you! I am definitely a germaphobe so I don't think I'd be able to do it. I really can't believe they throw food away like that though. I wonder how much of our waste is by corporations like these.

    I just finished your book today (<3333) and was wondering if you'd blog about your upcoming clothes shopping day in April? I think lots of your readers would love to 'come along' & would love to hear how you do it all in one day. And if I could make one final shameless request I'd love a q&a post where we get to ask questions, if you have the time and want to do it.
    Love from Sweden <3

  22. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 11:12 pm (#)

    Hi Gabby: And thanks for reading my book!
    I like your idea of " bringing you along" my next clothes shopping. What did you have in mind as far as the format?

  23. Amy Elizabeth says:

    March 21st, 2015 at 12:19 am (#)

    I just wanted to second the idea of "bringing us along" on your next clothes shopping trip. I would absolutely LOVE this!! Any format would be great – a photo series, a blog post with your timeline & strategy, a video would be really awesome! Whatever you can do would be so appreciated. Thanks for all the inspiration Bea!

  24. Stargirl says:

    March 22nd, 2015 at 12:05 am (#)

    Ideas for the post:
    what you are replacing and why
    what you see in the store and why you do/don't purchase something
    fabric types that you look for

  25. Emma says:

    March 23rd, 2015 at 2:40 pm (#)

    I am deeply and really really looking forward to this!
    Love the combination: fashion lover and gleaner…..

    It makes me even more detemerined to make even more fundamental changes.

  26. Anonymous says:

    March 14th, 2015 at 11:50 pm (#)

    This topic was treated beautifully by French activist and artist Agnès Varda in her film, The Gleaners and I (2000). People have been gleaning for a long time, but today's urban take on the practice is worth learning more about.
    Robin from Encinitas, CA

  27. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 11:22 pm (#)

    Yes, thanks for mentioning it: here is the link! https://vimeo.com/37089032

  28. lespetitspasdejuls says:

    March 15th, 2015 at 12:11 am (#)

    I can't believe you found all those perfectly-looking and edible food in the garbage!
    How unthoughtful of those who dumped it all of all who don't have enough to eat.

    Good on you all to have gone dumpster diving and on your family to have cooked it all!
    Cheers!

    Jul'

  29. Anonymous says:

    March 15th, 2015 at 1:18 am (#)

    If anyone wants more information about this just google the word 'freegan' you will find a whole lot of information about dumpster diving, I would really like to try it if the opportunity ever arose! Well done Bea!
    Jenni, Melbourne Australia

  30. Bea Johnson says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 11:31 pm (#)

    Yes, there are great documentaries about this too. Like the link above, or Dive!, which I saw on Netflix a couple of years ago and loved: http://www.divethefilm.com/

  31. labourseoulavie says:

    March 15th, 2015 at 5:06 pm (#)

    Oh merci pour ce témoignage, je crois qu'on ne dira jamais assez, qu'on ne dénoncera jamais assez ce gaspillage terrible… J'aimerais aussi avec le cran de le faire, mais je n'ose pas encore… si j'étais accompagnée, alors peut-être que je m'y mettrais…

    (Cela me rappelle vaguement quand nous allions à la décharge récupérer plein de jolies choses le dimanche après-midi !)

  32. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:36 am (#)

    Il y a en effet un parallele.
    Je parcourais le quartier en voiture les jours de rammassge des encombrants (lorsque les habitants mettent sur le trottoir les meubles et autres gros objets qu'ils ne veulent plus). Mais depuis que nous avons adopte la simplicite volontaire, cela ne m'interesse plus. Je n'ai aucune envie de ramener chez moi ce dont je n'ai pas besoin, et c'est d'ailleurs ce que j'ai fait aussi avec la nourriture ce soir-la: Prendre juste ce dont j'ai besoin.

  33. labourseoulavie says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 7:50 am (#)

    Oui, je faisais ça aussi… maintenant, je les laisse pour les autres. Au début c'était un peu dur, mais maintenant, j'en suis ravie. J'ai déjà assez de mal à ma débarrasser de tout ce que j'ai fait entrer chez moi, je ne vais pas m'ajouter des difficultés supplémentaires gratuites…

  34. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:22 am (#)

    Bien dit!

  35. Amber Melody at The Beautiful Lens says:

    March 15th, 2015 at 10:54 pm (#)

    Hi Bea,

    Hahaha! You're so fab. What a great opportunity to take! Can I ask, how dumpster-ish was your diving? I've heard such a variety of reports. From real dumpster bins to much more civilised scavenging. Would love to know more.

    Amber. x

    Amber Melody | The Beautiful Lens | http://www.TheBeautifulLens.com

  36. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:41 am (#)

    These were full-on, real size dumpsters! 😉
    And those things are so high that I couldn't climb into them. But I leaned in as deep as I could, and grabbed as much as possible with my reach. The next day, my calves ached: Great exercise! 😉

  37. Amber Melody says:

    March 22nd, 2015 at 12:44 am (#)

    Extra benefits!

  38. maggie says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 3:47 am (#)

    dumpster diving has always had a certain mystery and allure for me, and yet i've never worked up the courage to do it, probably because i don't know anyone that's done it…
    i'm glad (and a wee bit envious) you got to got to do it and that it was such a success!

  39. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:42 am (#)

    Finding someone to take me was probably the biggest challenge in all! I hope you too can find a veteran and get to give it a try!

  40. Anonymous says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 6:56 am (#)

    You go, girl! Love it. I HATE wasting food.

  41. Anonymous says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 9:31 am (#)

    Around where I live the grocery stores don't have scratch and dent corner or ugly produce corners, anymore. I hope it isn't just discarded. Dumpster diving is illegal here. I know a lot of pig farmers pick up what they can. I may have to inquire at the local stores what happens to old foods.

  42. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:47 am (#)

    Of course, the ugly ones are been discarded! Check out Jordan's campaign against ugly fruit and vegetables: http://www.endfoodwaste.org/ugly-fruit—veg.html, and I love his Twitter feed https://twitter.com/UglyFruitAndVeg

  43. Véronique says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 9:06 pm (#)

    Last summer I regularly dumpster dove with my sons (2 and half and 4 years old) at a bakery in the neighborhood. Boys were so excited to eat fresh chocolat and nuts bread from "trash can". This bakery was aware that many of us get our bread from their dumpster and they always keep the bread isolated from other garbage in the dumpster (usually in another bag). They can't sell it at the end of the day but it doesn't mean we can't eat it. The only reason why we stopped is because now they gave their unsold bread to the school to feed littl hungry tummies before class (and we can't be against right?)

  44. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:52 am (#)

    Hi Veronique and thanks for sharing! I think it's great that you did it with your kids, that way they learn that dumpster diving is possible and not as gross as one might think. And they see firsthand what goes on behind the scenes of the pretty store fronts. Great field trip!

  45. Anonymous says:

    March 16th, 2015 at 10:40 pm (#)

    Surprenante expérience en effet ! Ca me fait penser aux cantines d'enfants, j'y ai déjeuné une fois pour voir. Le personnel fait un réel effort pour amener les enfants à se servir "la juste quantité" mais là encore, tout ce qui finit à la poubelle … très dérangeant, même si on sait bien qu'il est presque impossible d'en faire quoi que ce soit …

  46. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:57 am (#)

    J'estime que ce type de gaspillage commence a la maison avec ce qui leur est inculque. Il revient aux parents a apprendre a leurs enfants a se servir et a finir leurs assiettes, a faire la connection que une fois servie on s'engage a finir son assiette, que la poubelle n'est meme pas une option.

  47. jacqjoy says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 9:57 am (#)

    Once again Bea, THANK YOU! I had never heard of this before. A quick Google search showed me that it is, in fact, quite a thing where I live (Sydney Australia). Now to find a partner in crime and decide which new label for ourselves we prefer: dumpster diver, skip dipper, freegan or gleaner?

  48. Bea Johnson says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 12:59 am (#)

    Skip dipper? Did not know that one! I do like the term gleaner the most. Contrary to dumpster diver, it has a poetic connotation. Shoot, now, I want to rewrite my post!

  49. Isabelle95 says:

    March 17th, 2015 at 10:23 am (#)

    Merci pour la traduction en français. Pour ma part je récupère les "déchets" d'un magasin 2 fois par semaine mais j'ai un accord avec le patron et je viens chercher les aliments avant qu'il les mette sur le trottoir. Les aliments sont dans des cageots en bois, que je donne ensuite à un homme qui se chauffe avec un poêle.

  50. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:23 am (#)

    Genial: Zero Dechet a 100%. Merci pour ce partage!

  51. Alex Brown says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 6:17 am (#)

    This actually inspired me to go dumpster diving behind a department store in my hometown. I was so disappointed to see what I found: perfectly good jeans, a pair of adorable boots, and a bag of multicolor scarves – just thrown carelessly away. None of it ever worn and the tags still on them. I took them home, washed away the smell, hung them to dry, and donated my finds to a thrift shop that works closely with the local community. Thank you for the inspiration!

  52. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:24 am (#)

    Thank YOU for taking the leap and saving perfectly good items! Cheers!

  53. Chevanne Scordinsky says:

    March 18th, 2015 at 11:28 pm (#)

    Some months ago, I thought of intercepting discarded food from local markets to make food for the homeless. I came upon the idea after finding uses for overripe bananas. It's a pity most soup kitchens are serving packaged food, but I guess it means I should campaign for an ugly fruit and bruised veg feast!

  54. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:27 am (#)

    I found that you can even use banana peels in baking! My speaking event in Moulins in the Spring served a buffet created from fruit and veggie scraps… the most surprising to me was the banana peel cake… and it tasted great!

  55. Francoise says:

    March 19th, 2015 at 11:12 am (#)

    En Belgique, les supermarchés sont encouragés à offrir leurs invendus à des associations caritatives, et pas mal d'entre eux jouent le jeu. Dans la ville de mes parents, la municipalité en a même fait une condition à l'octroi ou au renouvellement des permis d'exploitation. Mais il y a encore du boulot!

  56. Anonymous says:

    March 19th, 2015 at 3:07 pm (#)

    The amount of waste is such a shame. You know they probably throw a lot of it out too, because selling it at a reduced price cuts into profit on the brand new "perfect" produce.

    I started cooking food for my dogs: 1/3 grain (rice/quinoa/oatmeal/etc) and 2/3 veggies/fruit (not including harmful ones for dogs: onions, grapes, raisins, etc), and this new practice has provided a beautiful way to use up slightly too ripe produce.

    And hopefully this will help with their health – I understand that there are natural ways (apple cider vinegar) to prevent fleas and other health issues – no bad chemicals from the vet!

  57. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:29 am (#)

    Yes, as I mention in my book, garlic added to their food is a great flea repellent. and Apple Cider Vinegar added to their water will stop tears,

  58. empiredays.com says:

    March 19th, 2015 at 7:09 pm (#)

    I think this is fascinating. And it's all in how someone perceives the food items, too. In a dumpster setting, people are wired to believe it's dirty, bruised or rotting beyond consumption. But in a bright, clean backdrop, the food looks delicious and completely homegrown. Loved reading this post of yours. Will there be any more futures dives?

  59. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:31 am (#)

    I have not had the opportunity to go since this post, but if I do, I will make sure to announce it on my social media:)

  60. Eco Thrifty Living says:

    March 20th, 2015 at 7:05 am (#)

    Wow – that food looks like it is in such great condition. Next time you go (if there is a next time) don't worry about peeling stuff – you can give fruit and veg a quick scrub with baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda as we call it in the UK) and a little water. Then rinse it off. It is a great food safe antibacterial cleaner.

  61. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:36 am (#)

    I knew about that trick and that of using apple cider vinegar as a cleanser, but I found peeling to be a more convincing way to "sell" my first dumpster-diving forage to the rest of my (doubious) family;)

  62. lizzie says:

    March 21st, 2015 at 5:26 pm (#)

    I have been dumpster diving – Starbucks, actually, and got 12 un-opened frappuccinos -I have never been back though although I would if I had to. You have to have quite a strong stomach to dumpster dive. It has to be safe and it has to legal; no good if it is not and it is much more fun to do it with friends.
    Have you seen the french documentary Gleaning (or Gleaners) I can t remember which – wonderful stories.
    In Tesco s in the U.K. yellow stickers are put on day-old produce and sold very cheaply. Here in the U.S some of it is given to food banks.
    We can argue that once you buy food it is yours to do with as you want, waste or otherwise. The only thing that will curb the waste is the price and that will be determined by supply and demand.

  63. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:40 am (#)

    Yes! Thanks for mentioning The Gleaners. I mentioned it on FB and forgot to mention it here: It's an awesome and instructive documentary. Here is the link!
    https://vimeo.com/37089032

  64. Energetix says:

    March 21st, 2015 at 8:00 pm (#)

    I have gleaned many times from dumpsters, particularly when I was in college, though I still don't hesitate to pick up items from the garbage or curb (I always ask when there's any doubt as to whether it is intended for the garbage man or just left out by the road by a child or harried spouse). At the end of each school year, students throw out everything from food to clothes to laundry detergents to furniture. Most times I would donate all the clothes and most furniture, and whatever food I couldn't use before it went bad, and detergent I couldn't use up in a year. I went years and years without ever needing to buy detergent or soap!

    My last year I set out giant boxes in most dorms to collect these items (rather than go through dumpsters) and the other students were thrilled to have an easy way to donate their excess. Some higher-end items I sold on eBay to compensate for my time, energy and gas expenses. Plus I made enough to pay for a few months' rent!

    Where I live now, all the groups requesting donations for their food banks request individual, heavily-packaged items such as single-serve plastic-encased fruit bowls & applesauce, juice boxes, cold cereal, individually-wrapped cheese sticks, ramen noodles, etc. I politely refuse to comply with such detrimental requests, and give instead bags of flour, large bags of rice and dried beans. These are the same foods I lived on, healthily (with veggies that I grew in containers in front of my windows), for years and years, plus (other than the flour) they're gluten-free which is rarely available at our local food banks. They're healthy, inexpensive and much easier on the earth than all that processed, heavily-packaged junk food.

    One more thing: there are 2 farmers near me who used to allow people to glean the produce that remained after the fields were machine-harvested. In 2013 I asked one of them why I hadn't noticed any gleaners. He replied that the food pantry group had come out, but had asked the farmer to sign a long legal document regarding liability; his reply that they "glean at their own risk" was met with contempt and disbelief. So he no longer allows anyone except friends to glean the produce left behind by the machines. So much produce rots on the ground, though he does till it back under to add the nutrients back to the soil, so it's not truly going to waste.

    But what a sad comment on the legal state of affairs in this country.
    Most stores and farmers and restaurants will donate their "unusable" food to someone who makes it almost-effortless for them, as long as hurdles aren't placed in their way, but they don't tend to do it completely on their own.
    We need to help find ways to make it easier than throwing it in the trash.

  65. Energetix says:

    March 21st, 2015 at 8:03 pm (#)

    Bea, I forgot to say the first thing I wsa thinking as I read your post! Congratulations on your first gleaning trip, and thank you so much for posting about your adventure!!!

  66. Vivianne says:

    March 22nd, 2015 at 1:17 am (#)

    My friend who work for TEDex introduce your website to me. Wow, I was so impress with what you did. One whole year of trash only one small jar. I immediately add your blog to my blog roll. Did I mention I would like to master French this year. Your bilingual blog posts are very unique to the blogging community. Thank you for sharing your story.

  67. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:43 am (#)

    Thanks for visiting the blog, and welcome to the Zero Waste /Zero Dechet community!

  68. Gruener Alltag says:

    March 22nd, 2015 at 10:16 pm (#)

    Bea,
    that sounds fun! What an adventure!
    It's due to ridiculous laws that prohibit products to be donated, especially unpackaged food. It's also due to the costumers not buying slightly bruised, scratched, bent or "ugly" fruit and vegetables. Thanks for drawing attention to this issue!
    Consumers also turn their back on stores that run out of a certain product every once in a while instead of just for once going with something else. No wonder grocery and other stores stock up on things like crazy and then have to throw away so much! We can all work on resolving the issue together!

  69. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:44 am (#)

    Yes: Shopping is voting; buying the "ugly" is one of the steps in resolving the issue.

  70. Ameline Nelly says:

    March 23rd, 2015 at 10:05 am (#)

    Nice story ! I am a dumpster diver (but in France we prefer to call ourselves gleaner) myself, since december, and I really enjoy it. Actually it has become some sort of a routine with a group of friends: every tuesday we go to our favourite organic store, and take the "compost bags" waiting at the back of the store. Back home, we sort out the edible fruits and veggies from the very damaged or rotten ones, and we usually end up with a week's worth of delicious fruits and veggies ! You really don't have to worry about being sick, even with the one that aren't peelable: just wash your bounty in a bath of mixed water and vinegar, and this will kill most of the germs. As for the veggies that need cooking, the heat will kill the remaining germs (if there was any). So next time, no need to spend hours peeling your apples 😉 Just wash them, and eat them !

  71. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:53 am (#)

    What an awesome way to get your weekly load of veggies! -thanks for the vinegar tip, but as I mention in another comment, I already knew about it, I simply chose the peeling technique to sell my family on dumpster diving;)

  72. Sandrine says:

    March 24th, 2015 at 2:05 pm (#)

    Béa, belle expérience. A Londres, ils appliquent en effet des prix réduits pour éviter de jeter le jour de la date de l'expiration…mais tout est sous plastique etc…sans parler des saisons qui ne sont pas respectées et des fruits/légumes, viande, crevettes qui proviennent des 4 coins du monde…ça me rend dingue…. Je n'ai encore jamais partciper à ce genre d'expérience mais pourquoi pas! Je vais me renseigner ici!
    Sinon côté France il y a eu un grand coup médiatique à l'automne dernier que vous avez peut-être suivi sur M6: Gaspillage alimentaire, les Chefs contre-attaquent: ils ont préparé un repas pour environ 7000 personnes à Lille avec ce qui aurait du finir à la poubelle… En Anglettere je n'ai pas vu d'action comme celle-la…certes tres télé réalité…mais elle a eu le mérite d'exister, et en espérant qu'ils recomment et ailleurs qu'en France. Il y a un gros travail à faire dans les supermarchés certes mais chez les industriels avec leurs packagings….Merci pour votre/ton blog que j'ai découvert il y a peu. Bravo pour votre engagement. Je suis en train de livre votre livre (j'ai pris la version kindle en angalis!) et me suis rends compte qu'il y a des choses que je faisais dejà et cela m'a aidé à faire un premier ménage de printemps!

  73. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 12:55 am (#)

    Je crois que vous faites allusion dans votre message des disco soupes, une magnifique inititiative qu'il revient tout a fait de mentioner ici. Merci! Pour en savoir plus: http://discosoupe.org/

  74. NemuriNeko says:

    March 25th, 2015 at 9:10 am (#)

    I'm astonished at the state of the food! Why on earth would anyone throw away that fruit? My first though was that it might have been a dumpster by a supermarket, but I don't think they'd have wasted that. Surely if they REALLY didn't want it they could've given it to a foodbank or to a homeless person…

  75. Anonymous says:

    March 25th, 2015 at 7:10 pm (#)

    I just discovered a movement in my city called Disco Sopa. Volunteers pick up fruits and vegetables from markets before they are sent to the trash and bring them to a park. Everyone is welcome to bring their chopping boards, knives and peelers. The food is prepared by the people attending the Disco Sopa event. It's a big free party with a DJ and all.

    Greetings from Mexico City!

  76. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:00 am (#)

    Yes it's a movement adopted in cities all over the world. It's called Disco Soupe in France, or Schnippel Disko in Germany, where the concept was launched.

  77. Denise says:

    April 1st, 2015 at 12:10 pm (#)

    It is sad to see such good food being wasted! Please be careful anytime you go into dumpsters. There could be sharp objects or even used needles in the dumpsters.

  78. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:37 am (#)

    😉 Thanks. Sharp objects is something that you should definitely worry about in certain locations: but this was not one of them…

  79. Nicole says:

    April 3rd, 2015 at 9:57 pm (#)

    I heard some stores put chemicals on food they throw out to prevent dumpster divers and homeless people from gathering.

  80. Julia says:

    April 19th, 2015 at 11:48 am (#)

    I've been a food (and other goods) liberator for years. For a while we got the majority of the food we ate from the dumpsters behind our local grocery stores. It is amazing the waste that goes on. Not just fresh fruit and vegetables but also canned and packaged goods. There was often more than we could eat. We often shared with others. As for the packaging I choose to take a "big picture" approach… I always felt that if I hadn't rescued the food in the first place it was heading to the landfill anyway. So while I may have more packaging in my trash can, by consuming the food we are reducing the overall trash output for our community.

  81. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:39 am (#)

    You're definitely not a "wasteful" household if your packaging was saved from the trash can in the first place! Kuddos to you!

  82. Nicole says:

    April 3rd, 2015 at 9:57 pm (#)

    I heard some stores put chemicals on food they throw out to prevent dumpster divers and homeless people from gathering.

  83. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:40 am (#)

    yep, in France some stores have their employees pierce very single yogurt cup so that they cannot be salvaged, and they pour bleach all over their discarded goods to deter dumpster divers ;(

  84. Maria says:

    April 6th, 2015 at 2:44 am (#)

    I am doing an school essay about zero-waste… is there any academic essay wrote by this Marie which os doing her Phd and interwied you available online??? I am able to read in French if it's the case. Thanks

  85. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:42 am (#)

    She does not have a blog and has not finished her thesis for her Phd yet; but if you send me an email, I can put you in touch with her (if she agrees of course).

  86. Anonymous says:

    April 19th, 2015 at 10:45 pm (#)

    If you like this, please pass it along. Sorry for the anonymity.—

    Love

    Think about love. Think about the kindness of love, the comfort of love, the acceptance and warmth of love, the simplicity and generosity and forgiveness of love. Think about the gentleness of love, the patience of love, the compassion of love. Think about the refuge and relief of love. Think about love.—

    That, I believe, is God. Love itself, perfect, eternal and infinite, flowing among all of us, shared as our birthright, our love uniting us and living on within God. There is nothing to fear. It's love itself that is the God we seek, here within all of us and living on forever. Love has always been here.—

    The rest, I believe, is nature. Our bodies and our minds, the self we identify as soul, heredity and upbringing, all part of nature. There is no evil, only nature, a broad scape from marvels of beauty to tragic aberrations, all nature, all fleeting. All of nature shares the same preoccupations at its own level…we seek food, continuation of our species, pleasure, safety, status and territory. Those are the things of nature and the joys they give us are the gifts of nature.—

    But our greatest days are made of love, in hours of unbearable loss, it's love that comforts us. We thrive on it, we long for it. With love, we do what we would have thought impossible, through love we make the miracles that others are praying for. It's through our own love that God comes into the world.—

    Our prayers have already been answered. We have been given love, it is already here for us. Hunger and sickness, sadness and loneliness, fear and cruelty…what we can't overcome with love, we can comfort with love so that none suffer alone and abandoned.—

    This, I believe, is our purpose. To free our love from the fearful cautions of nature, to let love dissolve the divisions that separate us, to look for love in every other being and find God. With love, we live as in heaven.—

    Think about love often, nurture love within yourself, give over some time of your days to meditate on love, to pray that we will have more love. Think about love and pray that one day we will all have the love we need for all the world.—

    This is not a religion and there is no need for money, preachers, books, or buildings. The truth is in love itself and the only outward sign of love is love. This is for you, offered in hope that it will help. The person who wrote this is an ordinary person of unexceptional virtue who will say nothing further.—

    loveisthegodweseek(dot)org

  87. Wormwood (c.2009) says:

    April 19th, 2015 at 10:53 pm (#)

    Last year a fellow mental health group therapy member gave me a gift. It was an unused set of note cards and had come out of a dumpster outside his home. I had mixed feelings about this gift.

    Primarily I was concerned about germs. However, I realize this gift, while not costing him anything in terms of money, did cost him time and effort. He thought it was a lovely note card set and wanted me to have it.

    I don't feel happy when I think of him because he was one of those severe alcoholics that also was struggling to stay clean off street drugs. He looked much older than he was because of all the chemical abuse. He allowed himself to smoke, which didn't help him either.

    One day he blurted out that his wife left him because of the alcoholism and that was why he was living in a group home setting.

    My dad is more of a dumpster diver than I am. He and mom grew up during the Korean War, so they don't believe in throwing things away. They believe in fixing things. They have quite a lot in common with people I knew who grew up during the Great American Depression.

  88. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:43 am (#)

    Or any war for that matter -or any difficult financial situation.

  89. Lindy says:

    April 23rd, 2015 at 1:41 am (#)

    Hi Bea… I need your creative mind. I recently started reusing my cast iron pans. I have a nickel allergy so they are better than stainless steel and give me iron to counteract the nickel. However you have to season them after each use! Any idea besides using my finger to distribute the oil. I have also used wax paper but don't want to use if I don't have to. Towels don't work-grease gets a rancid smell after washing… and I don't have any rags to cut up.. Suggestions? Also how do your all clad pans stay in perfect condition using steel utensils. I have realized mine are scratched and nicked! thanks…

  90. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:45 am (#)

    If you still buy butter, as we do (since butter is the only packaged food we buy), you can use their wrappers to season your pan before composting them.

  91. Anonymous says:

    April 24th, 2015 at 8:55 pm (#)

    I just watched "Just Eat It. A Food Waste Story" last night on TV. It's about a couple who chose to live for 6 months on discarded food. I know how much food is wasted in this world but yikes! It was pretty interesting.

  92. Bea Johnson says:

    April 29th, 2015 at 2:16 am (#)

    I know about that documentary but did not know it was scheduled to be on TV ;), I hope Netflix will offer it in the coming year!

  93. Thesis writing service says:

    April 25th, 2015 at 10:13 am (#)

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