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The freegan lifestyle is drawing a growing share of converts. One of these people is Ng Xin Yi who was first introduced to the concept of freeganism when she saw a video of someone dumpster diving.

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Ng Xin Yi was first introduced to the concept of freeganism when she saw a video of someone dumpster diving  - the practice of searching through waste containers for food and/or objects that can be salvaged and used. While being a freegan involves less dumpster diving than might be expected, Xin Yi has become a staunch advocate for the lifestyle. 

So what exactly does it mean to be a freegan? Those who embrace the lifestyle generally look at ways to reduce their waste through urban foraging - dumpster diving or simply picking up items left behind after events or outside of shops, offices and homes - and sharing of resources. 

We caught up with Xin Yi to find out what drew her to freeganism and why this lifestyle is drawing a growing share of converts. 

Ng Xin Yi is a staunch advocate for the freegan lifestyle. (Photo: Ng Xin Yi)

How did you learn about freeganism?

YouTube! YouTube recommended a dumpster diving video by YouTuber Shelbizleee and I was hooked by what looked like a very interesting and fun approach to sustainability. I then joined a “veggie hunt” in Little India and there was no turning back.

I have long embraced more sustainable and frugal habits such as buying second hand items, repairing instead of throwing, and going down the do-it-yourself instead of purchase route. I was also part of the Zero Waste movement and we would do things such as bringing our own cutlery and refusing single-use items for instance. The frustrating thing is that when I got a drink,  the drink stall owner would use a disposable cup to measure the drink, pour it into my cup, and then throw away the disposable cup he used! 

As a freegan, I  take back control by consuming the waste. I definitely feel I make a larger impact as a freegan. 

People think that we dumpster dive, that stuff in the dumpster is dirty and unusable, that we are cheapskate and that we are poor. Oh, and that being a freegan is very time-consuming!

Can you really save money?

Yes! It’s difficult to say exactly how much I’ve saved because I’ve sometimes found things that I would not have purchased to begin with. 

Things I get for free or at a significantly cheaper price: 

  • Food - I get, on average, enough free food for one meal every day. Even when I choose to buy food, I often look for items on clearance or “ugly” food which is a lot cheaper!
  • Toiletries - I don’t buy shampoo, soap and toothpaste as I get them for free from the freegan community or by rescuing excess/ near expiry items from businesses.
  • Clothing - I tend to buy second hand, thrift, go for clothing swaps, DIY, or upcycle. I also work from home mostly and that has further reduced my expenditure. 

And then there are things that other people think of as “necessities” that I’ve completely stopped buying, like tissue paper (I use handkerchiefs or serviettes I pick up from dining out); toilet paper (I use a bidet!) and menstrual products (I’ve switched to menstrual underwear and a menstrual cup).

I’ve also had cool finds like an IKEA sofa bed cover. The model I have at home was out of production and the sofa cover I found was the exact same colour and model of what I had at home (and in better condition!). It was a very serendipitous find. I’ve also found things like a Muji mirror which organisers left after a work-related exhibition, and a bread maker from a friend’s friend.

This is not an exhaustive list of things I save money on, and I can definitely save more money if I wanted to. It is just a comfortable level for me! The great thing about spending less on these “needs” is that I get to use the money on “wants” like travel, nice food or facials :)

For people who are keen to adopt this lifestyle, Xin Yi recommends understanding what freeganism is about, finding a community, and progress over perfection. And she left us with words of wisdom from Jana Stanfield which reminds us that while we cannot be all that the world requires, the world requires all the help and good that we can do! 

Psst! Here's something else you should know!

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