When I told my dad I had begun to eat garbage, I did not expect him to think I was awesome.
The first time I heard about dumpster diving, the journalist in me immediately reacted to the VISAK-potential* of the story. I was doing an exchange semester at a journalism school in Denmark, we were making web video news stories with environmental focus. My colleague had managed to get in touch with a group of dumpster divers, and followed them on a nightly raid in the backstreets of Copenhagen. Imagine the shots he got: blurry, half-dark, with lots of running and secrecy. I was very jealous. How did he find these crazy, garbage-eating folks?
See, in Norway there were normal people, and then there were punks. At least in my mind. Normal people buy their clothes in stores, work, exercise, watch tv and get drunk on the weekends. Punks make their own clothes out of black fabric and safety pins, hold violent demonstrations, make zines and God knows what substances they are on.
My world view has changed a lot since then. Not only did I discover there is several other groups of people, and even people who are not in groups, but I also learned about why the dumpster divers dive. And I loved what I was learning, but I still couldn’t get myself to start going through garbage cans.
That was until this week’s Really Really Free Market at Concordia. Among all the wonderful things happening there (that I did not experience, since I go to UdeM and not Concordia), there was a dumpster diving workshop, and a dumpster diving tour of the Plateau, and I was lucky enough to be included in the email announcing this.
In about an hour of dumpstering, five people had gathered a bag of zucchini and eggplant, a kilo of grapes, cheeses, 15 bags of potato chips, two floursacks of breadrolls and pastries and something like 20 boxes of ice cream. What was wrong with this food? Nothing, as far as I could tell. It was all perfectly edible, and delicious. Moreover, dumpster diving is so much fun. Presenting all the food to the other roommates was like a little party in itself.
High of the feeling of achievement, I considered who in my home country would appreciate my tales of Montréal’s trash containers. I had almost settled on not bothering to tell anyone, when I read a story in Norwegian web newspapers. Apparently, Norwegian farmers had bred too many pigs for the production of our traditional Christmas meal, «ribbe». Afraid of being stuck with this surplus, the suppliers slaughtered the pork and started selling it at insanely low prices already in november. People were buying like crazy, even feeding our Christmas delicacy to their dogs. Eventually, the retailers ran out of cheap porc, and now we have what is referred to as a ribbe-crisis. We might have to import porc from other countries. Because we fed all of our own to the hounds!
I sent a raging email to my dad, informing him of my disgust for over-consumption and my newfound taste for trash. I was expecting him to shake his head and call me a hippie (in Norway, we hate hippies). Suprisingly, this is what he answered:
You are absolutely right! One gets ashamed. (…)
Dumpster diving is cool – some people do it here to.
I am proud of you!
If you want to go out and make your parents proud, check this google map of Montréal’s dumpsters. See you out there!
*Abbreviation for the elements of a good story, according to Norwegian journalism schools. A good story includes Vesentlighet (relevance), Identifikasjon (identificatin), Sensasjon (sensationality), Aktualitet (actuality) and Konflikt (conflict)