Because of the name usually ascribed to it - Dumpster Diving – Urban Foraging often gets a bad rap. Urban Foraging is the simple act of taking “goods discarded by retailers, schools, homes, businesses, construction sites” in order to make use of them so they don’t go to waste. The picture often attached to this activity is not a pretty one, with countless photos of people rummaging through dumpsters to find a few stray potatoes or onions or sad looking pieces of fruit. These photos are accompanied by stories and advice for the best times to search the garbage, the types of foods you’re likely to find and what to do if you get caught. (Urban Foraging is perfectly legal according to a 1988 Supreme Court Ruling, unless the dumpster is literally against a building or inside an enclosed area that tells people to stay away)
But Urban Foraging is based on a set of principles both political and social. Practitioners believe that modern society, with the means of production and its global interconnectedness, is based on consumption and full of waste. Urban Foragers are searching for alternatives ways of living which minimize their participation in this consumer culture and make use of the perfectly usable products other people discard. The items are used for practical living, such as decorating apartments, but there are entire associations dedicated to more charitable endeavors, such as feeding the homeless. “Groups like Food Not Bombs recover wasted foods and prepare warm meals that they serve on the streets to hungry people to challenge a society that always has money for war but never enough to ensure that all are fed.”
Weather or not your intentions are political, social or financial, Urban Foraging happens on many levels in the current culture. Many New Yorkers have been known to leave furniture on the sidewalk to be picked up on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sites such as Craigslist.com and Ebay are examples of online Urban Foraging. And clothing swaps provide an excellent way to share our resources while minimizing the amount of waste now infesting our landfill.
For more information about the basic concepts behind Urban Foraging, click here
And for a cleaner, nature-based experience, our partner GreenEdge NYC Collaborative is holding an Urban Foraging expedition in Prospect Park.