Eco Maniac: Everything Is Free

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Eco Maniac: Everything Is Free

I was thoroughly intrigued last year when I learned about the freegan movement — folks who eschew consumerism in favor of gathering up free goods, including food. What I just learned last week on NPR is that various factions of these so-called anarchists actually organize what they call Really, Really Free Markets around the country and, guess what, everything is free.

At a RRFM, people offer food, clothes, haircuts, firewood, massages, music and more for free. You can bring things to give away or just take things you want or need. It's all based on the gift economy that is a rising notion amongst the Burning Man set wherein nothing is expected in return for what you receive. No purchase, no barter, these are straight-up freebies.


Born as a protest to the G8 summit of 2004, the SouthEast Anarchist Network (SeaNET) held the first RRFM simultaneously in Miami and Raleigh. These days, you can find markets in Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California and more. The East Village is home to New York City's RRFM. In today's economic climate, the words free and market need to be redefined for a lot of us, so why not in this way?

But the RRFMs are more than just a protest or place to score (or unload) free shit. They are a like-minded collective of ideas and beliefs, a like-hearted community hopes and dreams. They are a social and political refuge from capitalism and a helping hand for those with less. They have no hierarchy, no leaders. It's quite the bold premise, simple as it may be.

RRFMs provide a meeting ground for all types — from middle class folks who have fallen victim to over-consumerism to the urban foragers who dumpster dive to collect food and other goods often yielding way more bounty than they can consume. RRFMs offer a space to spread all of that wealth.


Surely most folks who participate in a gift economy do so with the proper intention of actually being active in the cycle of give and take rather than just being freeloaders. I often joke that “if it's free, it's for me” which might lead some to the mistaken idea that I'm a taker. In reality, I actually give a lot of stuff away, too. However, I generally feel a tinge of guilt or debt when someone gives me something without any reciprocation whatsoever other than gratitude despite the fact that I freely give things to others all the time, including blood and, someday, my organs, with no expectation of reciprocity other than good karma.

All that being said, I think a barter system might be the better way to go. Of course, this is all based merely on my own world view, but I think having some sort of reciprocity is a good thing. It holds people more accountable and dissuades the temptation of those who might lean toward being takers. Because, again, in today's economic climate, we're all a little fed up with takers.

Comments [15]

rovermom's picture

There's this restaurant...and

There's this restaurant...and even some in Europe.....that does not have a price menu. Everything is charged by what the consumer feels it's worth.

The owner since changing the operation from fixed prices to optional.....has increased the business' earnings....and is booming with business.

It's based on giving and trust...

Robin Rigby's picture

I've signed up for our local

I've signed up for our local freecycle but have yet to post to give away anything (I'm hopelessly forgetful) even though with all of my reno I have lots of house stuff I'd love to give someone.

Lezbeth's picture

*blushes* Yes, Kelly, I am a

*blushes* Yes, Kelly, I am a dedicated reader of your blogs and sometimes click on the links, but not bad. This is the first time I went to the site.

Kelly McCartney's picture

Hey now! I know you're a

Hey now! I know you're a loyal reader of mine, Lez, so you must've missed my Freecycle mention over at OC last year. I'll take co-credit with Rusty on this recruitment.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Lezbeth's picture

Rusty, this is so cool. I

Rusty, this is so cool. I just went to the site, signed up and already have some stuff someone needs. THX

Lezbeth's picture

So cool! I have friends who

So cool! I have friends who live(d) on Salt Spring Island. Their house sat up high where we could watch the eagles circle. As far as I could tell, Salt Spring is a village or has a village mentality.

One of my favorite campgrounds is there, many memories...

Kelly McCartney's picture

I'm a Freecycler, too! In

I'm a Freecycler, too! In multiple locales.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Rusty's picture

I'm a member of a couple of

I'm a member of a couple of online groups. They claim to have almost 6.5 million members. It's through Yahoo Groups. You can post what you have or what you need. I had a 2nd refrigerator and wouldn't have even known anyone needed it until I saw a request from a new mother of twins.

Here's the link if anyone wants to find a group in their area:

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Kelly McCartney's picture

That's cool. I think more and

That's cool. I think more and more, communities will be self-organizing and finding their own solutions. I was actually regressing last night to my off-the-grid Salt Spring Island dream of self-sufficiency. And yet I know it takes a village.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Kelly McCartney's picture

Yeah, Food Not Bombs is part

Yeah, Food Not Bombs is part of this whole movement.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Kelly McCartney's picture

I actually meant to try out

I actually meant to try out the freegan thing while I was here in Santa Fe, but I sort of forgot until now. I can't say I'm interested in dumpster diving, but a conversation with a store manager might work just as well.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Fastgurrrl's picture

ZT, yah, I tried to find you

ZT, yah, I tried to find you on face but no me woman, Jodie York.

Zara Thustra's picture

Glamour mag (I'm pretty sure

Glamour mag (I'm pretty sure it was Glamour) just ran an article in this month's issue on freegans (focusing on a handful of them in NYC). I think it's wild to consider that -- if more people knew about the freegan movement -- well, perhaps capitalism in the US would really falter? I mean, what if everyone just waited around for supermarkets to toss out perfectly edibile "past-freshness" produce? Anarchy, fo' sho'

peacekitty's picture

Thanks Kelly. This seems to

Thanks Kelly. This seems to be a lot like "Food Not Bombs", the organization that goes around to restaurants and bakeries to get day old things to pass around the the homeless. It's obviously more ambitious in that it's like an actual community.

I loved this article. Smile

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Lezbeth's picture

We have a similar thing going

We have a similar thing going on in my community. I don't know who organizes it, but there was one during the holiday season. Yesterday, it was a book/CD/DVD event. It's a bring what you have, take what you want kind of exchange. It works well. There are always people who swoop. It's a small community here, though. Locals who participate in these swaps know and/or recognize each other. To some degree, that keeps most of the grabbing behavior to a minimum. Always there are leftovers. Those are spread among local thrift stores.

During the holidays, I took a large bird cage I didn't need to the swap and a couple I know, with two small children, claimed it for doves their children could watch/interact with. I felt SO good about that.