Commentary  Finding the feminine in dumpstering

The case for more sustainable living

There are plenty of reasons to dumpster dive. You can save over $100 dollars a week, and at the same time feel good by helping to reduce Canada’s food waste rate (an incredible forty per cent, even while food riots are seen around the Global South). The discomfort that people might have with it, generated by class consciousness and our sterile culture’s germophobia, are fairly blatant examples of capitalism’s subversion of our common sense for its own purposes.
But that’s not what this article is about. Instead I’d like to explain how diving teaches us to find the joy that’s all around us, how it returns us to our roots, and balances our psyches.
Our world is undeniably masculine. It is built upon a foundation of competition that tells us that if we want anything in life, we’re going to have to take it. And so, in general, people are taught to find happiness in achievement (while our financial system ensures that there is never enough monetary success to go around). Masculinity is about strength and imposing your will upon the world you live off of.
But the modern world is far too malleable, too easy, to find happiness this way. For those who toil in the soil and raise their food up under the sun, there is great pride and joy to be found in a piece of fruit: you can taste all your hard work in savory form.
Can you find the same pride in walking to a Provigo? It’s unlikely: it requires no effort on our part, so we don’t value it. If anything, we value the money that we worked hard to earn. We’re disappointed to trade it for something as “boring” as food and undecided if ours was the right choice from the supermarket’s dizzying array of options.
I think it’s a particular kind of insanity that keeps us unhappy or dissatisfied in such an amazing world, where any and every need or desire we might have can be fulfilled almost instantly. Again, our egos feed off of taking things and not receiving them for what they are – and so as long as it’s easy, your meal will be no more than tasty.
I do my best to follow a more feminine model of happiness. I dumpster dive. There are a lot of factors in this happiness I think – the sustainability and the cheapness – but for me it runs deeper as well. I live within my urban environment; I receive only what it gives me and I benefit it by utilizing its waste. I fill a useful niche.
It’s a return to gathering, like discovering Paleolithic berries (and spreading their seeds!) while men were hunting. There’s no challenge to it – it’s easy – but there’s a different kind of pride in saving food from an overstuffed dump.
I’m a detrivore, I help to renew the trash of this world, and my life is a delicious scavenger hunt. The world should be free: its interactions, its gifts, and its pleasures. Once it is you can enjoy them for what they are, not what they cost (in time or money), and I’ve found that I can be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less.

Alex Briggs is a U2 Mechanical Engineering student. Write him at