Three hundred and twenty-seven

Ways to live and eat for free

I know poverty is a devastating thing.  But what if we looked at the positive ways to sustain a healthy lifestyle without spending a lot of money?  Most of us have to pay rent and own a phone and pay bills.  So perhaps a completely free life (like the freegans) isn’t in the cards.  But here are some simple things you could do that are free (or very low cost) to keep yourself nourished mentally and physically.

Eating

Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Trade a service you can perform for food like gardening or cleaning or any other skill you have and can help others with.

Food banks.

No Frills (and some other grocery stores) has some really great ‘dollar deals’ at times.  Combine those with coupons you find online (see my month of extreme couponing) and you can get things for free.

Possesions

Clothing swap – if you’re looking for new clothes, organize a clothing swap with your friends.  You all bring the clothes that don’t fit you or you don’t wear and exchange them with your friends’ hand-me-downs.

Get things for free at places like freecycle.org or craigslist.  Or services for free at The Freeconomy Community.

Walking up and down the streets of Toronto (or the alleys in Vancouver, or I’m sure other places in other cities).  Many people leave out lightly used things (like furniture) they don’t want anymore.  This is more in the summer and spring than winter, but it does happen now too.  Most of the chairs in our apartment were found on the street.  Avoid things that could have bedbugs, though.  They  are not fun to get rid of!

Transportation

Walk

Bike (get and fix the bike from one of the websites listed above)

Hitchhike (ok, this one might be a little unsafe…)

Entertainment

The Library – borrow books for free instead of buying them.  Or swap books with a friend.

PWYC theatre – many theatre companies have Pay-What-You-Can days.  You have to get there early and wait in line, but if you can only afford $1, you can give them $1 to see a play or musical.  Look up their websites for more details.

Art galleries usually have a free evening, like Wednesday nights at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

Skating – Toronto has free outdoor skating, or Tim Horton’s offers free skating days across Canada (look at the their website here for more details)

Things I’ve mentioned before: a walk in the park, playing cards, chatting with friends.

Extremes

Some extreme ways to live freely from Mark Boyle on The Ecologist here (like humanure and dumpster diving).

Three hundred and twenty-five

“Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can”
– John Lennon

Choosing to live in poverty/without money

I’ve written about how poverty can be devastating.  How it plays a toll on physical health, mental well being and social networks.  But there are those people who choose to live in poverty.  Whether it be for environmental, political, religious or personal reasons, the following people choose the absence of money as a way of life.

Monks and Nuns

The vow of poverty made in the name of religion is one that many people know.  According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the vow of poverty “may generally be defined as the promise made to God of a certain constant renunciation of temporal goods, in order to follow Christ… A person who has made this vow gives up the right to acquire, possess, use, or dispose of property except in accordance with the will of his superior.”  From CatholicDoors.com:

the vow of poverty is not related to being poor, but rather to sharing everything in common. Those who embrace the vow of poverty do not claim private ownership of any possessions. Everything they have is used for the common good of the religious Order.

When Sister Ema of the Sisters of Mercy of Americas was asked whether she liked being poor, her response was:  “I don’t consider myself poor. Actually, I have all my needs met. It’s just that I choose to live simply. I think this is a difficult concept for many people given the way our society works.”

A similar view is found in Buddhism, where the lay people are expected to pay for and provide for the Buddhist monks who have taken a vow of poverty. (More information on the University of Wyoming Religious Studies Program study on the Buddhist Life)

Freegans

I wrote about freegans during my vegan month.  They are generally environmentalists who boycott capitalist economy and instead choose to “avoid using money; forage for food; recycle, compost and repair broken goods instead of throw them away, or share, give away, or trade goods in free markets and online (places like the free section on craigslist and freecycle.org); hitchhike, trainhop, walk, skate or bike as transportation; look for rent-free housing – become squatters who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned buildings; grow community gardens, or forage for food in city parks or in the wild; reduce their need to by employed, instead “caring for our families, volunteering in our communities, and joining activist groups to fight the practices of the corporations who would otherwise be bossing us around at work.” (Freegan.info)”  More info from my post here.

Mark Boyle, a well-known freegan and the founder of The Freeconomy Community, writes on The Guardian Green Living Blog here and here about why he has chosen to live a life without money and what he has learned from it.  A quote from Boyle: “The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.  If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t contaminate it.”

This German Grandma

Sixty-nine-year-old grandmother of three Heidemarie Schwermer has lived sixteen years without money.  She is the subject of a documentary, entitled Living Without Money (trailer below), by director Line Halvorsen.  In 1996 Schwermer decided to live without money as an experiment.  She gave away all of her possessions except what she could fit in a suitcase and backpack, and has been living nomadically ever since.  “Living without money gave me quality of life, inner wealth, and freedom.”  She trades gardening and cleaning for places to sleep and food to eat. “Money distracts us from what is important.”  (more information on Yahoo here)

Two hundred and thirty-nine

Freeganism

Many friends think being vegan is extreme.  It hasn’t actually been that hard (except being tempted by working in a pub serving chicken wings or watching my friends eat pizza and cake, while I’m eating quinoa).  There are a few extremes to veganism, though, that I think would push me over the edge a bit.  Raw foodism I will talk about later in the week, as I’m hoping to go to a talk at the University of Toronto on the raw food diet.  Today, though, I will discuss freeganism.

According to Freegan.ca, freeganism is:

a way of life based around the belief that almost all work and monetary exchanges within a capitalist economy contribute to myriad forms of exploitation such as worker abuse, animal exploitation, hunger, ecological destruction, mass incarceration, war, inequitable distribution of resources, commodification of women – almost all issues addressed by social, ecological, and animal rights advocacy groups.

Basically, freegans aim for a total boycott of our capitalist economy, choosing instead to try to avoid using money; forage for food; recycle, compost and repair broken goods instead of throw them away, or share, give away, or trade goods in free markets and online (places like the free section on craigslist and freecycle.org); hitchhike, trainhop, walk, skate or bike as transportation; look for rent-free housing – become squatters who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned buildings; grow community gardens, or forage for food in city parks or in the wild; reduce their need to by employed, instead “caring for our families, volunteering in our communities, and joining activist groups to fight the practices of the corporations who would otherwise be bossing us around at work.” (Freegan.info)

Freeganism is a combination of “free” and “vegan”, although not all freegans are vegan (those who aren’t are sometimes called “meagans” because they eat meat).  They believe the vegan lifestyle is not without exploitation (worker exploitation, use of pesticides, wasteful packaging, non-renewable resources used) and therefore choose to go to the extreme of total boycott.

The most notorious strategy of freegans to acquire food and goods is “dumpster diving”.  Sometimes alone and sometimes in groups, freegans will search through the garbages of retailers, supermarkets, restaurants, office buildings, homes, etc. to find edible food (most places will throw out food that is close to its sell-by date or has damaged packaging), or reusable, in good condition (a symptom of our throwaway culture where we replace older goods with new ones, even when the old ones work fine) or recyclable products.

As part of the anti-consumerist choices they make, freegans will sometimes set up sawdust toilets, collecting and composting human faeces to be used as manure, or “humanure”.  The plywood toilet collects excrement, which is moved to an outdoor composting bin.  In approximately one year, if composted correctly, the humanure can be used in agriculture.  For more information on how to make one and watch some videos, go to HumanureHandbook.com.

For more info on freeganism, see Wikipedia, freegan.info or freegan.ca.

Day fifty-two

Last night I attended the Buzz Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille – a tri-annual theatre work-in-development festival, which I talked a little about in yesterday’s post.  The Buzz Festival takes place over the course of a week and features three short works-in-progress and one musician or band per day.  After each presentation the audience is asked to write down their thoughts of the piece by answering specific questions given to them in a booklet form in the program.  Examples of questions included tonight were: “what images stand out?”; “was there anything unclear/confusing?”; “what do you think the focus should be?”; among other more piece-specific questions.  The goal of the festival is to allow the creators to receive specific feedback and build on the partnership between audience and story.  As Andy McKim, Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille, said in the program: “Rather than theatre being created in isolation, artists are given the opportunity to incorporate audience feedback into the development of their work, ultimately creating stronger, supported theatre.”

This was the first time I had been to a Buzz Festival, and I will definitely go back.  Not only was it great to see works-in-progress (all in different stages of development), I really did feel a part of the process.  It was encouraged to write down feedback in the booklet and also to stay and chat with the artists afterwards.  You were also able to leave your e-mail for the specific shows you were interested in to stay up-to-date with the progress of the piece.  In live performance (like theatre is by its nature), the audience is a huge part of the production.  This is a great way to get the audience involved.

I also found the atmosphere made me very open to discussion.  I ended up chatting with a very interesting couple sitting beside me.  It turns out they are activists who were arrested at the same time as Tommy Taylor – the writer and performer of the third piece of the evening, You Should Have Stayed Home (about his arrest during the G20 summit last June in Toronto).  It was very interesting to talk to them about activism and the negative spin the public generally associates with what they do.  They suggested I should do a month of activism as my last month and told me about all the different ways to get involved.  They also have vegan and freegan (more about freeganism from Wikipedia here) roommates, so I left them my e-mail in hopes that I can chat with their roommates about their lifestyle for the month of September.

Tonight I’m going to see Joan As Police Woman in concert, so will be writing about my experience tomorrow.  But here’s one of her music videos: