Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

February 28, 2008


We’ve had over 1,500 hits on our blog since yesterday…up from our average of around 50. I guess that’s what people call the “Oprah Effect.”  :)  Hi everyone! Welcome. We’re really glad to have all the visitors and all the wonderful and encouraging comments.

We’ve had a lot of people express their interest in the subject and even in possibly organizing a “trash tour.” Though we’re unable to answer everyone’s comments, I am so glad to see enthusiasm in the idea that ordinary people can make a stand against our nation’s rampant consumerism and waste. The trash tour would be more difficult than in New York, since we can’t simply walk from place to place. But we might be able to figure something out. At the very least, I would love to organize a meeting where we could discuss some of the different aspects of freeganism.

Thanks again to the wonderful people at Oprah who invited us to this conversation. I just have a couple of initial thoughts after the show.

I’ve seen a couple of comments on various places pointing out (often angrily) that “freegan” is just a new label for something that’s existed for years. That may be true. People have been dumpster diving ever since there were dumpsters, although freeganism is certainly much more than that. People have been repairing and reusing clothes and products for years. Many people in this country who were involved (whether adult or children) in the Great Depression still hold high values such as thrift, frugality, resourcefulness, and minimal waste. However, the voluntary practice of freeganism in an attempt to make a statement against overconsumption may not be as well known. In fact, we didn’t really know what freeganism was until long after we started practicing it. Even now, our approach is different than true freeganism, as are some of the ways in which we carry out our convictions. So don’t get too caught up in the term “freegan”…if you’re doing your part, you can call yourself a “bleekybleeky” for all I care.  :)

One other thing I’d like to quickly address is that of corporate donations. The show made it seem that no grocery stores donate any of their products, whereas that definitely does occur. I actually just found out that a guy at our church works specifically to convince corporations to make donating mandatory for local store managers, all in an effort to get more food donated to Second Harvest Food Bank (from there, it’s distributed to homeless shelters, etc). Costco donates, at the least, shopping carts full of bread and other pastries every day. So we do know that this happens, and encourage it. We will say time and time again that we wish dumpster diving wasn’t possible because stores donate everything possible, but that’s simply not the case…yet.

To those involved in the food / grocery business, please check out the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed by Clinton in 1996. It removes any liability for good faith donations to non-profit organizations such as Second Harvest. We have so much surplus food in this country that no one in the United States should ever go hungry. Please, I beg you, to consider those who are less fortunate and take the time and energy to see to it that everything that can be used is donated. It may take a little research on your part and it might require a few extra hours of labor a month, but even outside of your moral obligations the financial benefits are plentiful (the Second Harvest website is a wonderful tool and great place to start or increase your donations).

With that said, food donations are wonderful, important, and needed…but they will never be enough. Freeganism, like I mentioned, is about so much more than how much food we waste. We should get surplus food to where it’s most needed, we should recycle our cell phones after we’re done with them, and we should always give to places like Goodwill before we give to our landfills. But none of that significantly decreases our consumption of the earth’s resources, and it’s time we started thinking about the devastating effects of that overconsumption. Freeganism goes further than being responsible with our waste; it begs the question “why do we have so much waste in the first place?” It’s time we started loving our neighbors by shredding our credit cards and treading lightly on the earth…somewhere other than a shopping mall. 

Since we leave Friday for a medical mission trip to Haiti, we’ll be out of touch for a bit. I promise we’ll try to answer some comments eventually. In the meantime, so that our blog doesn’t become a meetup site (grin), here’s an e-mail where you can let us know of your interest in getting together with us…either for a trash tour or an informal meeting to discuss freeganism in Nashville. It’s nashvillefreegan@gmail.com and as soon as we get back we’ll start working to make that happen. In the meantime, browse around the blog and feel free as always to leave comments!!

Peace to all.



  1. I didn’t see the show, but I saw a blog about it :-)

    An alternative to donations for stores would be gleaner’s groups. The store just puts their usable waste aside for a group of people who are willing to pick it up daily or weekly and share it amongst themselves. My aunt used to belong to a group like this. It’s not realistic for us at the moment, but you’ve planted a seed in my head. And where there is one seed growing, there are certainly many more.

    Comment by Ethel — February 28, 2008 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for coming by my blog! That was fun.

    It’s really interesting to hear people’s frugal stories. We can all learn so much from each other in that regard.

    I wish you all the best. I’m subscribing to your blog so I can learn more from ya :)

    Comment by Kacie — February 28, 2008 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  3. Hello Burts,
    I have been looking at what you are all about and the freegan movement and it is very
    fascinating. I am a photojournalism student at Western Kentucky University in Bowling
    Green, KY. I am currently looking for my next subject for a photo story in which I must tell
    the story of a person or persons through the use of photos. I am very interested in
    photographing you both and your freegan movement. I was curious as to if you would
    be interested in letting me have this opportunity to hang out with you guys and
    photograph you for close to a month off and on or so. Possibly not even that long. The
    photos would not be published in a newspaper or magazine or anything unless you would
    like me to try to otherwise. They are strictly for my photography class purpose. But I believe
    this would be a great way to get your idea on freeganism and consumerism out to the
    public and students. Thanks so much. You have my email to reply back, and I am looking
    forward to hearing from you both.
    Katie Simpson
    Western Kentucky University Photojournalism

    Comment by Katie Simpson — February 28, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Reply

  4. Preach it, brother! Well, have a safe trip to Haiti. God bless!

    Comment by Susan Jaszemski — February 29, 2008 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  5. Christian freegans on Oprah

    The executive director where I work told me that there were some freegans featured on Oprah the other day (which may have helped convince one of her sisters to eat a meal she prepared which included some food we had shared from our dumpster diving boun…

    Trackback by larynandjanel — February 29, 2008 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  6. Can I have your autographs when we get to Haiti?

    You guys were awesome, and I must say, too cute and obviously in love. I was proud!

    Comment by Lisa Engel — February 29, 2008 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  7. I admire you both…congratulations on raising awareness for your cause. While I’m not ready to adopt Freeganism myself, I am, however, going to contact my local grocery stores, inform them of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, and urge them to donate to local charities.

    Comment by Christine — February 29, 2008 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  8. thanks for also sharing your faith!! that was great. sweet “new age” oprah really needs some more christians in her life. thanks also for sharing you story! awesome and convicting. i have started to do my part to switch to greener products but this made me really see how much even then i am still a part of the problem.

    Comment by erin — March 1, 2008 @ 6:43 am | Reply

  9. As a physician, i am disgusted with your decision to participate in this lifestyle. If you wanted to help society, then collect as much food and take it to the homeless. But, you would rather eat it your self is indicative of someone with depraved indifference to them selves and their life. You, as a doctor have a responsibility to live a life style that leads by example. Would you let let your child dive in a dumpster? I believe social services would have issued.

    Comment by dr walter jung — March 2, 2008 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

  10. Let me say that THIS doctor applauds the example you are setting for the world. I think it is the ultimate in depravity to live in opulence and waste while others around us are having trouble just scraping by.

    The previous Dr should note that the goods taken from the dumpster would have been permanently deposited in a landfill a few hours later if you had not taken them. I don’t see any charity in allowing that to happen.

    by the way:
    I put your appearance up on youtube if you want to put it up on your site or share with anyone


    Comment by Jason J — March 4, 2008 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  11. From another doctor:

    I applaud the example of Daniel and Amanda as well, who DO give a lot of food and time to the homeless. Dr. Jung, perhaps, has different ideas, but for God’s sake, fellow, lay off the self-righteous vitriol. If anything was clear from the Oprah show, the Burts (1) don’t tell everyone else to do just what they do, but encourage everyone to come up with creative ways to help conserve and help the poor, and (2) they DO share their goods with the poor. As Daniel’s older brothers — I’m perhaps a bit biased, though I don’t share the same view with him on everything — I know him probably a bit better than Dr. Jung. And, I know him to be someone who invites the homeless into his home for dinners, takes part in social activity to raise awareness and money for the homeless, and provides free medical care to many (he is currently working hard in Haiti to provide free eye care, where he donates his ttime and money and many pairs of glasses and meds, some of which he pays for from his own pocket).

    So, Dr. Walter, take your own advice. As a professional, begin to lead, first, by being a bit less self-righteously arrogant and judgmental of someone different from yourself.

    Dr. Kevin Burt

    Comment by kevinburt — March 4, 2008 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

  12. found your blog through another friend’s blog, and i’m so glad i did! thanks for sharing your experiences and faith so openly. may God bless you in your search for simplicity and a life that honors Him.


    summer knobloch

    Comment by summerknobloch — March 8, 2008 @ 2:24 am | Reply

  13. I let my children get in the dumpster with me. I am a sensible person and would not let them get in if I thought any harm would come to them.
    I saw the Oprah show and did not know you had a blog until now when some random thing led me from my blog to yours. I also write about dumpster diving. I am not a Freegan, but I have taken on a challenge to only wear clothes for a year that have come from a dumpster. The sad part is that this dumpster where I get most of my clothing is behind a thrift store. So people with good intentions are donating clothes, but a good bit of them are being rejected. It is a for profit thrift.
    I also wash and donate about half of the clothes I bring home. I am trying to bring awareness to the culture of waste in our society. It is nice to find others doing the same.

    Comment by wasteweardaily — March 12, 2008 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  14. Hi Burts,
    I actually found you when I was searching for frugal living sights. Then I watched some of the Oprah stuff on the web. I think what you are doing is amazing. I don’t think, as a mother of four, I would be able to dumpster dive, but I have been known to pick up stuff set out by dumpsters. Keep up the good work and thank you for letting us have a peek into your lives.

    Comment by April — March 16, 2008 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  15. Hello Burts!
    I too first saw your appearances on Oprah where I was introduced to Freeganism. For months prior to the show, I had been thinking about the lifestyle that many of us Americans lead. Lifestyles that are wasteful, damaging our global environment and not ecologically or socially responsible. I wanted to do more than just recycle, change lightbulbs, donate non-needed goods, buy eco-friendly goods, etc. Watching the show was fortuitous and I want to participate in Freeganism! At first I was disappointed there wasn’t a Freegan group in Nashville, but am so excited now to have learned that Daniel and Amanda are in Nashville! Please let me know when you get a group together in Nashville because I would definitely participate. Best to you both! Keep up the good work and thanks for creating this blog!

    Comment by Susanna — March 20, 2008 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

  16. wow … a found a link to your blog through a friend … and although i am absolutely fascinated with the dumpster diving etc. i’d like to know more about your haiti trip. i’ve gone myself 3 times – am going to take a missionary medical intensive program this summer at Equip Inc. http://www.equipinternational.com … and would like to hear more about what you do in haiti; as i have it in my heart to bring a medical team there.

    Comment by Tina Brown — May 17, 2008 @ 9:09 am | Reply

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