Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat July 23 2016

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  • Shannon Wolf | July 23, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Confessions of a Freegan

    Confessions of a Freegan

    PHOTO: It’s hard to believe, but all of these meals were completely free or were to be thrown away, which we gladly ate thanks to the generosity of strangers while hitchhiking along the way. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    Freegan: “A person who rejects consumerism and seeks to help the environment by reducing waste, especially by retrieving and using discarded food and other goods.”

    It all started nearing the end of 2015’s European summer when I began hitchhiking across the east with fellow traveler Jonathan from Berlin.

    We were about to embark on a hitchhiking race and dubbed our team “No Money, No Problem” to make a statement about the amount of waste produced in the world. We decided to ride the wave of anti-consumerism by traveling without a cent for transit, accommodation and most importantly, food.

    How were we going to do this you ask? One word: Freeganism.

    We lived in a tent, used our thumbs to get from place to place and consumed what was deemed by society as “waste”— which in itself sounds extreme, but in reality, it all boiled down to the art of living both ecologically and simplistically.

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    I will admit, at first this concept felt completely foreign and we had no idea if it would be possible without starving. But lo and behold, we never spent a single cent and didn’t have to succumb to dumpster diving (where I personally drew the line). We not only ate better than if we were on a budget, but the food was plentiful, fresh and we were left utterly bewildered at the end by how big of an issue food waste actually is.

    PHOTO: In one hour of sitting in a cafe, all of these items were going to be thrown away.

    Every day, Jonathan and I were given mounds of leftover food from hotel buffet trays and grocery stores that would otherwise have been thrown away: Loaves of bread, cheese and a plethora of other items with a past-fresh expiry date that didn’t affect a thing; bags of fruit and vegetables from markets because they simply were bruised and in remote areas we even managed to forage for wild plums, apples, berries and pears straight from the source.

    According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), it is estimated that “Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereal crop.”

    After the race came to a close (and we won first place out of 700-plus teams!), I continued on with freeganism, traveling for nearly two months, visiting 13 countries without a single day of spending.

    Since then, I have happily adopted the lifestyle and when my bank cards stopped working in the ATMs one day in Rishikesh, India leaving me with nothing more than 80 cents to my name until the bank could send me a new card in the mail (said to take anywhere between one and three weeks), I knew that I wasn’t entirely screwed and laughed “freeganism to the rescue.”

    One day, while sitting among my friends at our local cafe where one meal portion size is enough to feed a small country, I decided to make a game of it to see how much food could in fact be salvaged within the hour, without a penny spent, during the lunchtime rush-hour.

    Within minutes of sitting down, an ice-cold almond shake my vegan friend ordered was returned due to being made with milk instead of soy and I happily drank it as we waited, realizing this was going to be a lot easier than expected.

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    Shortly after, a girl to our left abandoned one-third of her massive lentil burger; another customer ordered a yogi-breakfast consisting of a gigantic fruit and muesli bowl but only ate half, along with a full, untouched sandwich.

    PHOTO: Zac eyes up a free fruit and muesli bowl that was never eaten because the muesli became a tad soft and would have been discarded — what a waste.

    To the right of us, a table of four came in with hungry eyes, each ordering a meal and two appetizers to share, only to find that they’d ordered far too much and left a full plate of pizza, a half plate of momos and half a salad that would have otherwise gone to waste.

    With that said, during my time with 80 cents to my name, I never went to bed hungry and ate like a king, laughing the entire way.


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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