Urban scavenging

March 30, 2009

(CC Licensed photo from AlwaysHallways‘ Flickr stream)

Two months ago I titled this blog based on my own unemployed status (as well as some imagined other associations of the word – media to disemploy you of your time – a bit of a stretch).  And, y’know, unemployed.wordpress.com was taken.  And never updated, as is most often the case.

I still, in fact, don’t have a job.  Over two months in.  Naturally, I’m starting to feel a little worried – is all the dire economic news really true for Vancouver, despite the supposed lasting power of the pre-Olympic boom?  Much of the news media I consume is American based, and therefore often much direr than Canadian news in terms of economic forecasts.  Regardless of how this might actually influence my own life, I’m left with a fairly bleak outlook for my short term monetary future.

Which, by way of a long-winded segue, brings me to my point.  Feeling pessimistic about money leaves me searching for different, slightly ‘off the grid’ ways of making a living.  In this spirit, I noticed the Boing Boing post about a Salon article about a new book (oh, the wonderous and convoluted internets), Scavenger’s ManifestoThe book is by a pair of Berkley, CA residents who manage to live very cheaply through various forms of scavenging, from coupon clipping to snatching up curbside furniture to occasional (and only clean-) dumpster diving, while in the Salon article Katharine Mieszkowski joins the authors for a typical scavenging day.

Through these various sources, plus the comments following the Boing Boing article, I’ve become very curious about the world of scavenging.  The authors of Scavenger’s Manifesto argue that our society unfairly labels those who pick through trash as dirty – although this trash is often perfectly good, useful stuff that has outlived its usefullness for the original owners.  Inspired by my morning’s reading, I now plan to hit up some alleyways – see if I can find anything interesting, useful, or potential Craigslist sales to make a few dollars.

The only issue with this in Vancouver is the prevalence of full time scavengers.  With our mild climate, horrible governmental policies towards mental health and addiction issues, and a multitude of other factors, Vancouver has a huge population of homeless and very low income folks.  Some of these people scrape out a living by collecting bottles and whatever else appears in back alleys.  To scavenge I would have to compete, both making scavenging more challenging and making me acutely aware that I need these things far less than most.

However – people throw out so much, and particularly around this time of the month (moving day), that I’m sure there is enough to go around.  It’s certainly worth a try.  A recommended resource for free things is Freecycle.org, which allows users to post goods they don’t want, or a request for something they do want, all in the spirit of reusing rather than throwing away.  The Craigslist free section, more established in some cities (such as Vancouver), is also an excellent source of free things.  And, finally, a general resource site for scavenging of all types: Trashwiki.