Aug 31 - Say What? Dumpster Diving? (Guest Post)

Some dream of collecting things, I dream of collecting experiences: It might sound odd (or not, if you know me well), but one of them was "going dumpster diving with someone who knows what he/she is doing"...

So when Marie, a PhD student who interviewed me for her thesis on food waste, confided in me that she and her boyfriend dumpster dove on a regular basis, I took a plunge myself: I begged her to take me along.

Contrary to the "waste pick-up on a lovely sunny morning" at the beach that I described last month, this was a much different outing: one that took place at 10 pm, on a chilly night - a time of day when my body yearns to crawl under a fuzzy blanket alongside Scott, and my brain to watch a podcast of Tiny House Hunting ;)

My shopping kit

My shopping kit

In anticipation of this event, what worried me most, was not:
1.    Getting cold - I'd wear my puff jacket;
2.    Losing my enthusiasm - I had plenty of it!;
3.    Running into critters - I love nature;) or, 
4.    Getting caught - if I did and subsequently made headlines: "World famous author dumpster dives for food", it would have brought attention to food waste, which is a good thing anyways! 

So I came prepared with my shopping kit, below. But maybe too much.

When I arrived at our meeting point, I looked like a complete novice, carrying large sturdy totes by my sides -my hosts sported more discreet over the shoulder cotton kinds. One thing is for sure, I looked like I was ready for business! Ready to grocery shop!

I quickly realized that my kit was overkill: To my surprise, none of the food that we found came packaged, apart from the brown paper bag of bread below which I did not mind taking home for reuse -my clothes shopping day is coming up, so I'll looking for something to pack my donations.

Ooh, did I feel delinquent and right at the same time doing this! The food that I collected that night had no business being discarded: As you can tell, perfect veggies and fruit! They rightly deserved to be saved from landfill.

Fruits in great condition! A bag of french loaves in the first paper bag that I bring home from a grocery store in 6 years! Veggies that I could have picked from (inside) the grocery store. 

This is not an exercise for the germaphobe, and I am clearly not one of them. But being a virgin at it, I picked items that could be peeled: I figured, that it'd make a strong argument to get my skeptic family to take a bite into the fruits of my foray, and eliminating any chance of getting sick might encourage subsequent trips.

That week became the first time that I missed the vegetable peeler that I donated 3 years ago...
Contrary to what I would have expected, it did not bother my family to eat the discarded goods, and we ate it all without fear.
With my bounty I made:
•    Ginger carrot soup
•    Sauteed Zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown herb mix
•    Grilled zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown mint
•    Two apple pies
•    Snacks of apple slices topped with peanut butter
•    Sandwiches for a week's worth of lunches with the bread.

I am a forager at heart, but I am not sure I'll have the guts to go dumpster diving in my own town. That said, I had a wonderful time and more importantly, I am grateful for Marie allowing me to cross an item off my bucket list! What an eye opening experience.


Since 2008, Bea Johnson and her family are dedicated to living a zero waste lifestyle; they generate a mere quart size jar of waste per year. Through her blog  and with her book Zero Waste Home, Bea launched a global movement and continues to inspire a growing community to live simply and take a stance against needless waste with the application of the 5R's: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. She shatters misconceptions, proving that zero waste can not only be "stylish", but also lead to significant health benefits, and time and money savings. Grand Prize winner of The Green Awards, she speaks at universities, corporate events and conferences internationally, and opens her home to educational tours and the media. She has appeared on TV shows and in publications around the world, from The Today Show to BBC Breakfast. With her passion and positive outlook, she has become a guru and spokesperson for the zero waste lifestyle or, as the New York Times stated, "The Priestess of Waste-Free Living". She is a French native who currently lives in Mill Valley, California.