Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Freeganism, Principles, and Underwear, Oh My!

No, I have not bought underwear yet. Can I tell you something? Organic underwear? Is kinda ...ugly. And seriously expensive. I know, I know, natural dyes, blah blah blah. But look at this!! Even the cut seems unflattering. Do I seriously have to spend $19 for granny panties?! Someone heeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeeeeeeee.

So yeah, no underwear. But what I have done is eat out. Pretty much the second my Pseudo Freegan month ended.

Being a freegan, even the pseudo freegan kind, is interesting. It was actually less difficult to find food than I thought. Pretty much every day at the office, someone would order food, or bring in bagels, or something. And so, I would eat ... whatever was lying around in the office. Which meant carbs, carbs, and more carbs until Awesomest Co-worker freaked out that I was going to overdose on carbs (psssh as if THAT'S possible) and made me eat some minestrone soup she had in her cube.

Here's the thing. Freegans, like beggars, cannot be choosers. I don't know if the NYC freegans raid organic gardens, or what, but personally? I was eating mostly non-local, non-organic free bagels and cream cheese, topped with the occasional conventionally grown tomato. When my mom sent me home with veggie burgers, I ate the veggie burgers straight for a week. Not the sort of thing I tend to eat that often since veggie burgers are pretty processed, but ... again. It was free.

One of the things I really appreciated about my non-consumerist year was that it allowed me to live in accordance with my principles. For example, a few years ago, there was a brouhaha over some Target employees refusing to fill the morning-after pill for customers. Target defended its employees, basically stating that it was up to the employee's discretion whether or not to fill the prescription or not. I was really pissed, but other than writing Target a stern email, I did nothing. You see, I WANTED to stop shopping at Target, truly, I did, but, I just didn't see such a thing as really POSSIBLE.

Looking back, that seems really ridiculous. I seriously thought that I had no choice but to shop at Target? Was someone holding a gun to my head and forcing me to purchase cute, but totally unnecessary purses? Why did I feel like I had no options?

I think part of the problem is, you get overwhelmed. Every single clothing company reportedly uses sweatshop labor. Walmart depresses local economies and treats its employees poorly. How can you boycott every major store on the planet? You can't, right? And if you can't, then you may as well shop everywhere.

That, in sum, was my argument for years. But this past year, I managed to go a whole year without purchasing anything from any of those major clothing stores. And you know what? It's not impossible. Even now, when I plan to start buying clothes, there are plenty of thrift stores to shop at (so if I want, I'm able to buy Gap clothes without actually giving money to Gap), and more and more eco-friendly stores with fair labor practices. And you know, what? It is so empowering when you realize that no, you are not entirely dependent on big huge clothing stores. You don't HAVE to shop at Target; in fact, you do just fine without Target.

On the other hand, with the freegan food thing, I felt much more conflicted. I feel very strongly about building the market for local and organic food. So the fact that I wasn't buying, that I wasn't sending my money to local food economies, was strange.

It's a delicate balance isn't it? Between not buying and opting out and supporting sustainable economies and opting in? During my non-consumerist year, I balanced the not buying durable goods with buying food at restaurants, buying songs off iTunes, paying for concerts, movies, plays, and museums. But during my pseudo freegan month, that balance was gone, and it felt weird.

Sure, I was saving money, and reducing food waste. But what about my principles? Is it really principled to be eating nothing but non-organic bagels and conventional cream cheese for a month just because it's free? Is freeganism taking non-consumerism too far? Even pseudo-freeganism?

Eventually, and, I don't know, maybe the carb overloading was causing hallucinations, but I started to come up with this analogy. Just as it takes all kinds of species in an eco-system, perhaps it takes all kinds of eco-nuts. You have your herbivores, your omnivores, and then there are the freegans: the scavengers. And you need the right balance of all these types of species. Freegans, therefore, are performing a necessary function in this eco-system.

Necessary, perhaps, but I think unfortunately, the freegans will have to do without me from now on. The farmers' market is beckoning, and, to be perfectly honest, I'm a little tired of bagels.


Anonymous said...

Re: underwear -- American Apparel has an organic line now, and there are some respectable non-granny-panty cuts available.

Farmer's Daughter said...

So the underwear wasn't that cute, but if you scroll down, the "other people who looked at this also bought" section had some cute ones!
Why not just go commando and be completely ecoconscious?

Joyce said...

You know, yesterday I realized I was wearing a shirt made in the Phillipines and shorts made in, of all places, Zambia. Both were 100%cotton, but who know where or how that was grown. It made me think- there's all this emphasis on food miles, but what about clothing miles?
So, Arduous, for your next challenge you need to take up spinning and weaving, with a little knitting thrown in. A few sheep, an acre or two of cotton, and you're set!

Sam said...

What's wrong with granny panties? At least they're wedgie free. And don't ignore Abbie's suggestion either...its a good one - no more panty lines which is apparently the worst thing to happen to women.

BTW, Decent Exposures will make thing tailored to your needs. Just ask.

EcoBurban said...

What? You didn't want to rush out and buy some victoria's secret (probably plastic and corrosive fabric dye coated) thongs? ;o)

And, I am with you on the Freeganism. While I respect it in principle, I am way too picky of an eater in practice. I have this weird thing about knowing where my food came from.

Anonymous said...

the best way to be freegan is to make friends at your local coop or fancy-schmancy organic restaurant.

Food Not Bombs typically picks up slightly damaged or about-to-be-overripe (otherwise known as "perfect) fruit & veggies from coops & other stores. Plus, since I'm not vegan, when I was doing FNB pickups sometimes the coop would give me some just-expired milk too.

When I was just poor, not philosophically against buying things, i would volunteer at the coop for a discount and also the occasional "Hey, every single one of these brussels sprouts has one wilted leaf, anybody want four pounds of wilted brussels sprouts?"

You can also hit the dumpsters at distribution points - there's a fancy single-serving organic juice distributor within biking distance of my house, that throws out all the juice on the day before it expires. Bakeries toss a *lot* of day-old bread, or if they have too much that-day bread toss it at the end of the day.

I've never had a ton of money, so all my expensive food likes - Green Machine juice, Ben & Jerries, cherry chocolate bread - are from dumpster diving.

Natalie said...

Wow! That really resonated with me. I can especially identify with the part about Target. How did intelligent, educated people like us ever get to that point in the first place? And how liberating it is to know life without that "need" these days!

And I totally agree with your theory of "taking all kinds of eco-nuts" to make the world go 'round. But I eat a lot of bagels too, so I'm likely on the same trip, man! :-)

ruchi said...

Christie, do you know, do they have organic underwear that are not thongs? That's all I could find.

Abbie, there were a couple cute kinds of underwear, but they were no less than $18 for one! As for the commando, I actually think in my case it would be less eco-conscious because as it stands I wear all my pants multiple times without washing, and I wouldn't do that if I were to go commando. Plus I wear a lot of skirts, and going commando in a skirt seems really wrong! :)

Joyce, I think that's American Apparel's thing right? That they're all made in the US, and actually the clothing is all made here in LA. Personally, I think if my shirt was made in Zambia from organic cotton under fair labor conditions, I would actually prefer it, transportation miles be damned.

Beany, Decent Exposures huh? I'll have to google them! Thanks!!

EBM, well you make them sound so appealing .... ;)

Rosa, see this is kind of why I wish I could have tried out being a freegan in New York where they have a set up for freegans. I kinda didn't know what I was doing, and didn't have time to figure out anything other than "eat the bagels until they get thrown out."

Natalie, it's a fun trip ain't it! It IS liberating to know life without that need! :)

Anonymous said...

Not-thongs: here and here (the latter can double as some superhero briefs over leggings - perfect for an LA rock show!)

I'm with you on the freeganism, and I think your ecosystem analogy is apt. I'd like to think, though, that we can phase out the freeganism, because eventually we won't have so much corporate- and consumer-waste. (And social services that reach everyone in need.) In the words of the peak-oil people, it can be by necessity or by design, and I'd rather it be by choice...ahhhh, utopia!

Good luck with all of your new choices!

Katy said...

I took my daughter to see Wall-E last night. Wow. I left that movie theater in our local mall never wanting to buy a single thing from another store ever again.

Farmer's Daughter said...

yeah, I agree that $18 is outrageous. Can't somebody around here sew and set up an etsy of fashionable, affordable, organic undies???

I need more practice sewing before that venture, but there's got to be someone who is up for the challenge!

EJ said...

I agree with your ecosystem analogy- it takes all kinds to keep going.

But seriously woman, whats wrong with those panties (and there are 2 in a pack). Who really cares what they looks like? Maybe for special occasions where something you find cuter and use these for everyday where.

Allie said...

http://www.barenecessities.com -- search for Bamboo, and they have a few really cute pairs. Still not cheap, but I have a pair of bamboo underwear and it is just awesome. Plus, it's funny, because you're wearing bamboo underwear.

Anonymous said...

You said everything so well, so I have nothing to add, except this:

There is NO such thing as carb overloading! When I was a student, sometimes I would eat nothing but a big loaf of bread for a day. Now that I have kids, I had to eat some protein just to demonstrate to them the whole "balanced eating" thing.

Whenever the kids are not around, I am still so happy eating nothing but carbs - bread, fruit (thank goodness fruit is carb), and more bread!!!

mollyjade said...

Still expensive though. I agree about not caring about distance with clothing. You'll wear those underwear hundreds of times. You only eat an apple once.

ruchi said...

Megan, thanks for the links!!

Katy, still haven't seen Wall-E! It came out during pseudo freegan month. I'll have to go.

Abbie, actually I didn't look at Etsy. That's a good point. I'll look.

E, I know it's superficial, but I haven't bought any clothes in a year, and I kinda want to buy something cute!

Allie, thanks. I'll check em out. Does that mean pandas would eat my underwear? Heh. Bamboo underwear is funny.

ruchi said...

Mollyjade, thanks for the link. Those are a little pricey but they are cute!
And yeah, I think you're right about the clothing miles. Plus I like to support third world economies (in a fair, sustainable way.)

ruchi said...

Cindy! I missed you the first time. Anyway, I agree. No such thing as too many carbs. :)

knutty knitter said...

$18 sounds cheap here. My last pair were $25 and that is not unusual. My consolation is that my sister bought some 7 years ago and is still wearing them so they last well! (And she is one very fashion conscious person).

Most stuff here is made in China. Local stuff is available but the prices are a bit extreme.

viv in nz

Green Bean said...

Loved this post. I'm catching this one late in the game but I completely agree with you. I was surprised that you decided to do the freegan thing because I think there are so many wonderful experiences/local food you can buy. And those things really do support an alternative economy that is rising up on the edges of the current one.

Great point too that we have choices. That we don't have to shop at Walmart or Target. We can find alternatives and we should look for them.

And look at Abbie's comment! The little minx.

Jenn said...

LOL - not all clothing manufacturers rely on sweatshop labor. Two of my favorites are Maggie's Organics -- they have good socks, underwear and camisoles. For clothing, Prana is one company making a real difference.

RE: Undies, I wear nothing but thong underwear. I guess it's the way I'm built, but anything else turns into a wedgie, so I just gave up and reduce the amount of fabric that gets wedged by wearing thongs. I'd go commando but then I'd be wearing a clean pair of jeans every day (hey, what can I say - I haven't had menopause yet).

RE: Freeganism and ecosystem - while I do look for lots of opportunities to take advantage of That Which Would Otherwise Go To Waste (like backyard produce), I won't eat the Friday bagels and stuff at work because, well, I just don't want to support non-organic food purchases. Yuck.

That said - if we don't buy local, organic and recycled material products, there is no market for them. At least that was my excuse for spending $45 on two violet rocks tumblers made with beach glass at Global Exchange on Saturday afternoon.


I need a bigger kitchen with more cabinets and shelf space.

ruchi said...

Knutty Knitter, $25 for a pair of underwear?! Wow!!

GB, yes, the whole freeganism thing was an experiment, because well, I'm always up for trying stuff. At the end of the day, though, I don't think freeganism is for me.

Jenn, heh, sorry, I should have been more explicit. I meant that it's hard to find a major clothing manufacturer (ie a store you'd find in the mall) that doesn't have some questionable practices! I'm with you on the commando thing. :)

JessTrev said...

There's no way I could do the freeganism, I am far too motivated by the health and avoiding toxics angle of things. But intriguing. Re: clothes (obviously wayyyy late to this conversation), I am hoping to shift us all to 2ndhand as much as possible so we can afford the egregiously expensive fair trade organic sustainable items we cannot or wouldn't want to get used. So I am loving all your underwear links!

ruchi said...

I hear you, Mamabird. I couldn't have done it forever, but for a month it seemed like a reasonable experiment!

Anonymous said...

First off I have to say that I admire the nice words from all these other writers! And I just thought that I might say that I own 217 pairs of underwear... Blog THAT! haha

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