Dumpster diving: It will reduce your carbon footprint

Brian Damage setting up for PowerPoint presentation on dumpster diving.
Photo Submiited by Mickaela Sherman

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This holds true for Tallahassee resident Brian Damage, who takes an unconventional approach when it comes to restocking his pantry.

With his carbon footprint in mind, Damage rummages through dumpsters where he puts to use the items others deem as waste. The act of dumpster diving describes those who seek out perfectly good food that has surpassed the “sell by date” or wasn’t sold in stores.

According to Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, each year as much as a 160 billion pounds of all food on grocery store shelves in the U.S. gets thrown out.

Over the weekend Florida State University Center for Participant Education along with Damage held a workshop at The Plant about freeganism (a strategy for living “based on limited participation in the conventional economy”). 

CPE is an organization on Florida State’s campus that hosts free workshops and discussions surrounding socially relevant topics, which are open for students, professor and community members to teach.

Aaron Ellis, assistant director of CPE, explains the significance of each and every workshop they help sponsor.

“Sometimes we forget about how much we can learn from each other, and that’s the importance of these workshops,” Ellis said.

Damage, who has been dumpster diving since high school, shuffled through power points giving tips on how to get the most bang for your time, every time you go out on a dive.

Freegans use dumpster diving as a way to draw worldwide attention to the massive amounts of food waste and its harmful effects to the community.

“Most uneaten food rots in landfills which accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful to the environment than CO2,” Damage said in his PowerPoint lecture.

Freeganism goes far beyond just food waste’ some people dumpster dive for clothing, artwork and furniture. Kate Emerson, a Tallahassee resident who now dumpster dives because of her boyfriend, says college areas are the best places to dive.

“I think college kids and people in general can be wasteful. I have no shame in digging through stuff that people no longer want. Before I moved here I probably would have gagged at the thought of doing it, but I love second hand things,” said Emerson.

College towns are some of the easiest areas to dumpster dive because of the abundance of items thrown out around move-out and eviction times during the summer.

While some believe that dumpster diving is not the answer to the world’s food waste problem, in order to see significant change, major steps must be taken on the way people use and think about food.