Introducing The Repurpose-Driven Life, an NYC Freegan Project

04/14/2010 4:26 PM |

free food

  • All in a night’s work, all free.

As she writes in her column this week, Amanda Park Taylor—our beloved Conscientious Objector—is embarking on a crazy project in which she’ll be documenting all the useful stuff she finds in the trash (by weight and by value, with plenty of photographs, along with recipes for food finds) for an entire year… The project lives over at, but we’ll be cross-posting here at (Because we love her and she loves us.) And so, without further ado

Where Are We Going? Where Do We Go From Here?

I’ve been pulling things out of the trash since before I can remember. Clothes. Furniture. Food. Two croissants atop a cardboard box in a garbage can in Montmartre. 17 loaves of organic bread in a Brooklyn dumpster last week. A door with a mirror that almost broke my back three summers ago. Towels. Rugs. A small dresser with Tiffany and Co. sterling serving pieces in the bottom drawer.

I have become obsessed with all the things we throw out, and I have become obsessed with saving some of them.

The waste seems to be accelerating, a natural corollary of our ever-accelerating, ever-cheapening consumer culture. I started finding stuff daily, or very nearly, a few years ago, and ramped up my efforts at ‘placing’ it—taking food to people I knew needed it, towels and bedding to the local animal shelter, building supplies to a local materials-reuse group, and clothing to friends or the local thrift shop.

pastries in a bag

Now I’m immersed in the thrown away. I’ve started seeing patterns, knowing which buildings are profligate, and which are not. I’m starting to have notions: reading about how much we waste here in the United States, and many other places around the world, I’m beginning to understand that our addiction to the garbage can is like our addiction to oil, or our addiction to eating meat—unsustainable.

If we didn’t waste all the food we DO waste, we could both feed everyone who’s currently undernourished, and take a significant amount of land out of energy-intensive food production, and return it to a carbon-absorbing natural state (more facts and figures on all wild claims herein at a later date, I promise).

If we could recuperate all the usable goods that get thrown out every day- all the clothes, shoes, textiles, dishes, etc. how much energy could be saved, how many households provided for, how many charitable groups bolstered by donations of goods to use or sell or distribute?

Time to quantify, or at least document, a small slice of the waste, and its diversion.