Extreme Green: "Freegans" Live On Garbage

A new extreme-green movement is on the rise in cities across the United States, from Seattle to Chicago, to Houston and New York.

"Freegans" oppose over-consumption and capitalism. They live their lives using what others throw away.

For instance, they often forage for food in garbage in which grocery stores have thrown out their excess.

And homeless, they're not. Many of the self-proclaimed dumpster-divers are educated professionals.

The word freegan comes from a combination of "free" and "vegan."

Freeganism was born out of the environmental justice and anti-globalization movements dating to the 1980s, kind of a loose cross between vegetarians and anti-capitalists. The concept was inspired in part by groups such as "Food Not Bomb," an international organization that feeds the homeless with surplus food that's often donated by businesses.

Freegans in New York can be found through the Internet on sites such as or, where "trash tours" are open for those interested in joining the movement.
Freegans nationwide trade tips online about spots where the trash is tops.

Early Show contributing correspondent Benno Schmidt accompanied some one night in Manhattan as they sought food from garbage.

One freegan told him, "This is like living in the woods: You have to know where the mushrooms grow. You have to know where the stores are that throw out the things you want."

Despite the gross-out factor, says Schmidt, some doctors give the freegan way a thumbs-up, provided bacteria and rotten food are avoided from meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and cut or packaged fruit.

The biggest scare for the freegans Schmidt went with? Trying to stay a step ahead of that urban "freegan nightmare" -- the garbage truck!

Freegan digging isn't just for food, Schmidt points out. Freegans find other valuables in garbage, as well, such as clothing, and bedding.

It's important to note, Schmidt says, that not all stores throw excess food away. Many contribute to food banks, such as America's Second Harvest, a non-profit organization that takes surplus from grocery stores and distributes it to local food banks.

To watch Schmidt's full report,