I've said it before and I'll say it again - freeganism isn't about employing any particular tactic or set of tactics. It's not necessarily about dumpster diving or squatting or hitch-hiking. Freeganism is rather the praxis employed by an individual who is informed by a world view that values human dignity and ecological health over the profit motive or the acquisition of endless material goods. This praxis certainly may include dumpster diving, squatting or hitch-hiking; but it can also include hundreds of other tactics that minimize waste, restore value to discarded goods, and encourage simple and/or communal living.

I've written already about some of the drastic changes taking place in my life these days - namely, getting a job (finally!) and committing my self and my time to the Heights of uptown Manhattan. But there is still more evidence these days that I've departed from the track on which my life has traveled these past three years in NYC. I'm making new choices, taking on new challenges, and moving in what may seem an all new direction. And while there are aspects of these changes that may indicate an abandonment of freegan principles and practices, I hope to absolve myself with this here post.

One major development of the past week is that I've moved into a new apartment where I'm not only paying rent, but my name is on the lease! This is definitely a first for me and a world of difference from my wanderlusty ways these past three years and especially the last year, most of which I've lived rent-free right here in the city. Indeed, I've basically squatted a Washington Heights apartment since July! 

I have no freegan justification for the change to my new digs. I'll only say that I much prefer paying rent and having some semblance of security in my own home to constantly worrying about whether or when I'll be served an eviction notice and/or forcibly removed. Nevertheless, I assert that housing ought to be a human right, not a privilege, and it's a travesty that thousands in the US sleep without a roof over their heads while many more apartments and houses sit empty. I hope to soon join the work of Organizing For Occupation (O4O) to make sure that more of these spaces are occupied by people in need.

Though I can't justify the rent, there is at least one good freegan outcome of my living in this new apartment: it takes less than ten minutes to skate to my job-place, where I spend a significant portion of five days a week. This means that my travel expenses will be much lower and I will be using human-powered transport (skating and walking) almost exclusively.

By the same token, it's that much easier for me to get back to Darling during the closing hour to rescue whatever food is to be discarded each day. This should be a decent method of filling the fridge until I discover the bountiful trash heaps near my new home.

So you see - though I'm now a job-worker and rent-payer, I do intend to continue my explorations of life in the city with a minimal ecological/economical impact and maximum communal/cultural impact. I'll keep the reports coming right here, in hopes that you too will be inspired to do whatever you can in whatever situation you may find yourself. That's all that anyone can ask.

Another way that I'm keeping the freegan spirit alive is by making my music available for FREE download online! You can get my new album #Heliotropism at my bandcamp link and/or the "it's a post-industrial world" single, along with the original studio recording of Pax Americana at my noisetrade page.
 
 
Last June I began considering new living situations in NYC. I was feeling a little bit frustrated with the lack of intentional community at the Edgecombe House and I was hankering to move to the Heights, where I already spent a great deal of time volunteering and I knew Trinity Grace would plant a church in the not-too-distant future.

Nothing substantial came of my brief search, though, because I knew that little could tear me away from the Edgecombe House. Living there was amazing. I got along really well with my roommates; I loved the apartment, building, super, street, and neighborhood; I had a great view exiting the building and another from my desk in a corner of the dining room; there was plenty of common space to host small group meetings, regular movie screenings, freegan feasts, or even DIY shows; and the rent was reasonably low - I shared a two bedroom in Harlem with four other men, so my rent and utilities combined never exceeded $400 (for any non-NYC-dwellers who may not know this, rent that low is virtually unheard of here!)

A month or two later I was approached by one of my roommates who suggested that it would behoove us not to live together anymore. This was a hard word to take, but - after a week or two - we agreed that this would be the best for all of us.

So I returned to the search for people who would be willing to share intentional community with me in the Heights by December. Nobody turned up.

Then one day at Word Up a fellow volunteer generously offered for me to stay with him at his apartment indefinitely, in exchange for housekeeping chores and other labor. I needed some time to think about this - I would essentially be living rent-free in Manhattan, which was a pretty big deal, but I would also have to postpone community living. Regardless, I had no other options available to meet my immediate need - to get out of the Edgecombe House - so I decided to move the bulk of my possessions to his apartment at least through the end of 2011.

I've now been living with Bob for a whole month. I work fourteen hours a week in exchange for a tiny space to house my minimal possessions, freegan food, and sleeping body. This is our barter arrangement and yet another example of God's miraculous provision for me in the city, provision for which I am unspeakably thankful. Moreover, it has been and will be another opportunity for me to learn what it means to live in community as I continue to prepare and look forward to the future Heights Community House.
 
 
The presents were unwrapped and the living room left a-clutter. The event was over and everyone else in my nuclear family was recharging to meet with other friends and in-laws. Not me. I sat alone on the sofa with the sounds of Christmas glee, laughter, surprise, and Chipmunk carols only a faint echo in my subconscious. A memory. Of something long past. Of innocence.

Anais walked briskly past the living room when she stopped suddenly. I don't know how she interpreted the look on my face or the distant gaze in my eyes. She only asked, "well, what DID you want for Christmas??"

I looked up sullenly. Pensively, though I already knew the answer. Then with slight jest but real sorrow I replied, "to be understood."

Dear Santa,

My nephew and niece (5 and 3 years old, respectively) already believe that you don't exist. That is to say: they know that the heavy set man with the white beard and red suit who models for CocaCola ads, conscripts elves to create presents all year to give to the "nice" children while dropping coal in the stockings of the "naughty" ones, rides around the world on a sleigh pulled by nine reindeer, and always pauses to eat milk and cookies - they know that THIS guy doesn't exist.

Personally, I do prefer that they know the real meaning of Christmas, which has nothing whatever to do with Santa Clause, evergreen trees, or gift exchange. And they'll be the first to tell you, over an awkward Noche Buena dinner, that the real meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus. But they'll also be the first ones by the tree skirt, ruthlessly tearing the wrapping paper from packages you've addressed to them.

This is where I depart from them.

You see, they say that they don't believe in you; but they are still influenced by the spirit of unfettered consumerism that you embody in the mythology of our culture. As a freegan, I not only recognize and believe in this spirit, I denounce it! And I've done so many times, publicly, on the multiple blogs that I keep. Still, I find each year that you address gifts to me. You should know by now that I don't want them, that I'm not interested.

Look, I'm no grinch. I like presents, I really do! But I guess I turned on you when I realized that the presents you bring me are not made in the North Pole by your trusty elves. I checked the tags, Santa. The clothes you bring me are made in China, India, Sri Lanka. Even you are outsourcing your manufacturing jobs to women and children in the third world who work under deplorable conditions. I'm sorry, but I just can't abide this. Every time I read the tags it makes me feel personally responsible for the suffering of others.

"But," my sister protested, "if you didn't have any presents at all, you would feel bad."

Perhaps. But I assure you, Santa, the guilt and shame that I feel from knowing that others have suffered to produce for me clothes or toys that I don't need is far worse than any hard feelings I might have for not receiving the gifts at all.

Besides, I never said that I don't want presents. I just don't want presents made by your so-called elves in the developing world. So if you insist on bringing me gifts that are not made by your North Polish elves, then please just keep a few things in mind:
  1. I like the FAIR TRADE model best. By far. Such items are made in the same developing countries but they are made by people who are guaranteed fair wages and humane work conditions. You can find fairly traded items - clothes, toiletries, jewelry, games, even musical instruments - at fair trade stores and/or online. One great trick is to search "sweat free _______" on google. Just fill in the blank with whatever item you think would be ideal for the recipient.
  2. SECOND-HAND is second best. If you can't afford fair trade (ethical considerations are indeed more expensive) then aim low. Buy second hand. There are great stores that sell like-new clothes (Plato's Closet comes to mind). You may also get lucky at a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or even a garage sale (my most prized gift from last year was a toy accordion bought at a garage sale. I used it to record two new songs this year!) I also dig hand-me-downs.
  3. Buy local! Support your local artisans and merchants, designers, soap makers, musicians, luthiers, carpenters, welders...
  4. If there's no way to ensure that an item was made under ethical conditions, then buy American! There's no guarantee that American factories are doing it right either, but it's certainly more likely. Check the tag to make sure it was made in the USA, at least I'll know you tried.
  5. Consider utility and space. I live in NYC (!!!). So ask yourself, "does Gio really need this?" If you still can't figure it out, then just call and ask. Perhaps your tongue was in your cheek when you gave me soap and deodorant this year. I can appreciate a good joke, but I can appreciate utility even more! You rightly guessed that these are items I do not buy often and on principle. Yet I can and will use them simply because they are useful (helps that they were made in the USA ;) I've also appreciated the various musical instruments over the years. That's one thing I'll always make room for!
  6. Consider the environment. Avoid plastic and styrofoam and shoot for products made from recycled materials wherever possibe. Upon buying the item(s) let the clerk know that you don't need a plastic bag. And for future reference: I prefer Dr. Bronner's Castile soap, you can get it at Whole Foods or any other health food store.
  7. Be creative, not compulsive. Don't just buy me anything. If you must buy me something, make it something meaningful (if you've bought something with the above considerations in mind, then mission accomplished!) And if you're still struggling, then please don't feel pressured to buy anything at all! Create something. Say something. Take me somewhere (it need not cost anything)... Or just play board games with me.

I think that's it!

Look, Santa. I know that times are hard. You don't always have the time or money to get some of the items mentioned above. Still, if all else fails, just remember that I prefer no gift to - well, you know, the normal stuff you give me.

I do hope I haven't come off as ungrateful; but I also hope that I won't have to write another letter like this next year! Perhaps this one will help spare both of us any hard feelings. Until next Christmas, here's wishing you and yours a joyous and peaceful new year.

Shalom,
Gio
 
 
I invited readers at my portfolio blog site to ask thoughtful questions about freeganism, to join the discussion. A dear old friend was up to the challenge. From my blog at gandollo.weebly.com:

What kind of a difference exactly are you trying to make? I know what you're trying to change, but how does a "freegan lifestyle" contribute to that change? ... Is there any way to go about making a difference without such radical life changes, or are we so far gone that the only way out is to completely change our lives?

These are great questions! Let's do this people!

Let's start with the real difference freegans are making from day to day. I would cite:
  • Rescuing viable food, clothes, furniture, energy, TIME from the waste stream
  • Feeding ourselves and hungry people in our communities (homeless or otherwise)
  • Educating people about waste and other inherent problems with capitalism, materialism, corporatism; holding up a mirror to these realities which are so deeply engrained and normalized in us
  • Liberating minds and consciences from the hamster wheel of consumerism
  • Otherwise building sustainable community with our neighbors
The truth is - none of these are really a big deal. As my interviewers have been quick to point out, rescuing a few bananas from my local grocery store doesn't stop the deaths of thousands and thousands of hungry people around the world. Showing people the ills of our economic systems - of systemic injustice and waste - won't lead to justice and sustainability.. 

Or will it?

Many people dismiss freeganism as futile because they don't see a direct connection between our activism and the injustices we are reacting to. They don't see it because it isn't there. There is no direct connection. But does that diminish the value of what we do or what we hope to accomplish? Not at all!

This brings us to the real difference we are trying to make, that which freegans really hope to accomplish: to increase the collective consciousness until we determine as a society that
  • The waste is unacceptable
  • Injustice and inequality are unconscionable
  • Our current economic systems and consumptive lifestyles - ostentatiously indulgent and wasteful, built on unchecked exploitation of poor people and the environment - are unsustainable
  • Running the hamster wheel of consumerism is a futile waste of time and energy, but the best things in life really are free!
  • We need each other
To be perfectly clear, one does not have to be a freegan to hold these values, work towards this kind of world, or possess this kind of consciousness. So to answer your final question,freeganism is only one solution, the one that some of us have subscribed to in response to the points above. There are certainly other solutions. Regardless, I can guarantee you that as you embrace the values listed above and respond to them in ways that make sense to you, your life will radically change. You will see that it is impossible to live the way we are expected to live - the way "they" want us to live - while still following our consciences. 

And this is all I really ask of people, that they obey their own conscience. I promise that, in doing so, you will also free your mind, your spirit, your imagination. And we'll gradually become the change in the world we wish to see.
 
 
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Commenters on the HuffPostFood article insinuated that women aren't lining up to be with me, a freegan. I humbly suggest that perhaps it's only a matter of time. As the US government quibbles over which programs it will cut and/or whether it will raise the debt limit or default on its loans; as the two remarkably similar sides attempt to distinguish themselves from each other to  keep the farcical melodrama going; as we are continually distracted from the real moral crises we face, being bombarded with political trivialities; as the middle class becomes poor and the poor are forgotten; as we continue to fight needless wars abroad (how many now?) and spend 1.4 TRILLION dollars this year alone on the military; as we feel the real effects of climate change and environmental degradation, having overstepped so many ethical, technological, and ecological boundaries; as the desperately and abjectly poor around the world produce our goods for pennies a day while we are increasingly unable to afford those same goods ourselves…

Three things are happening:

1) The fat cats are getting fatter and cattier.
2) I'm eating (and in many other ways living) for free.
3) This lifestyle isn't looking so strange to most people anymore.

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You see that paragraph above? It's only the tip of the iceberg. Western Civilization (as we know it) is plummeting into oblivion. Our consumerism has got the best of us, as every single one of those problems is directly caused by corporate greed, government collusion, and consumer complicity via ignorance, apathy, and/or ambivalence.

Well. Starting around June 2010 it was my conscience - not consumerism - that got the better of me. I refused to be complicit any longer. After having tested the waters for about six months, I dove head first into freeganism. 

I saw very clearly that something had to give; if corporatism and consumerism were causing our ship to sink - if these are, in fact, the source of most problems our world currently faces - then why not throw them overboard? With an abundance of good food, clothes, furniture, even suitable housing going to waste, why not live off it?

So here I am just over one year later, along with freegan.info, still doing just that; more and more people join our ranks. 

"But," some have protested, "if everyone became a freegan, then there wouldn't be any food left for you." OR "You hope for waste to end. If you attain your own goals, you'll have to quit this lifestyle yourself, for there will be nothing left for you to consume for free!"

My answer to such objections is as follows:

If/when 

1) everyone becomes freegan (note: this does not simply mean eating food from the garbage; there is a certain consciousness and ethic involved with freeganism) 

and/or

2) all waste is eliminated, 

then (and only then?) will we be living in a society quite different from the one in which we live. 

In such a society, the people would...
  • ...no longer be held in bondage by their own materialism, consumerism, and debt. Generosity would spring from deep within their souls and overflow with abounding abundance to any who should ever have need.
  • ...love and serve each other regardless of race or gender (I need not mention nationality or class, since nations and classes would not exist), precluding any need for war, competition, institutional health care or housing. None would be homeless, sick, hungry, thirsty, or lonely.
  • ...have no need for governments at all, since governments were only ever needed to protect power and wealth for the privileged few (it should go without saying, I guess, but since we're so used to it… privilege does not exist in this society either).
  • ...interact with their ecosystem(s) only in sustainable and compassionate ways.

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What I've described here is what many tribal people have called home; what humanists have called Utopia, what so many others have called Heaven, what Yeshua called the Kingdom of God

The Hebrew Prophets alluded to it; the Church has clumsily tried its hand at instituting it all these years; and I tirelessly work toward it every. single. day. 

Still, I get the feeling it's a long ways off, and unless or until this society (be)comes, I'm sure there will be more than enough unnecessary waste for me to consume, compost, reuse, and/or recycle (something must be done about the waste, it represents in itself a very serious problem).

So don't worry about me. Go back to that first paragraph. Join me in worrying about all of that, working to change all of that

We've got a lot of work to do!


This is the last entry for the freegan series following the HuffPostFood article published last week. If you have further questions or comments on these issues, please subscribe to this blog! I will continue to discuss freeganism, busking, volunteering, and my musings on how and why we ought to reject the global economic empire whose idealogical cornerstones are exploitation and greed and to submit instead to a God whose kingdom is built on peace, justice, and generosity.
 
 
There were hundreds upon hundreds of questions and comments generated by the HuffPost Food article published on Thursday, July 28. I'm answering them in a series of entries, each addressing a different recurring question/comment. Please keep in mind that I do not (can not) represent the whole of the freegan population. I represent only myself and my own views/motivations/concerns. 

Many people ask whether I would still practice freeganism with a wife and kids, with my family. The truth is, I don't know! I get the feeling that's still somewhat far off. Nevertheless, I can say that ideally I would remain freegan and they would join me.
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I can't speculate what will happen in my romantic future (if anything), I can only say that the kind of woman I seek is the kind that shares my concerns for the poor and oppressed people of the world, for the environment, and for the ethical treatment of animals. Freeganism is a worldview I've stumbled upon that most comprehensively and adequately addresses these concerns. As such, my conscience is clean and I can sleep at night. My future wife need not be freegan yet (or ever) but hopefully she would see with time and experience that it is, in fact, a remarkable way to respond to such concerns, even if she chose not to adopt it herself, for whatever reasons.

Commenters have joked sarcastically that the women must really be lining up to be with me. They are right in assuming that women do not line up to be with a freegan, especially in a materialist and consumerist culture like the US (further amplified in the Empire City). But I don't base existential and deeply spiritual decisions on whether women will line up to be with me. There's a greater God that I aim to please and follow. When I find a woman who is also passionately following God, working towards peace and justice, living a radical generosity and discipleship without regard to what other mere humans think - if we can call commenters on the internet human - then, and only then, will I have found the kind of woman I seek.

Some of those same commenters have suggested that women have no interest in freeganism or freegans. This is simply not true. There are far more females involved with freegan.info than males and I've met many other freegan woman (including Christians) who are as passionate about these issues as I am. Some of them are married, some of them have kids; they've made freeganism an important aspect of existential and/or spiritual praxis within their family.

As for my own family: whether my children will live and eat freegan will depend on what agreements my wife and I make regarding their rearing. If we are teaching them our same values, then I see no reason why they should not also live as freegans until old enough to determine for themselves whether it is a lifestyle they wish to keep (they may have to find their own work to provide for themselves in such a case, ha!). Some may find this to be negligent or otherwise harmful. Such accusations are utter nonsense. The food that I eat is nutritious, healthy, often organic, well-cleaned-and-cooked; many fruits and veggies, soups and salads, whole grains; I hardly ever eat junk food, fast food, drink coffee or soda. Indeed, I dare say that I eat much healthier than those criticizing me and accusing me of negligence to my own body and future family. Eating food off the shelf or restaurant plate doesnot guarantee food safety or purity. Conversely, food found in garbage bags is still food. It is just as likely to make me sick as any other food I might venture to eat. Safe preparation and cooking is what guarantees health. Surely I would employ such practices as I provide for my wife and children.

I consider freeganism a mark of God's provision for me, a great blessing, and it would similarly be a blessing to any family including my own. I understand that there are some ideological complications here. Some thoughtful commenters have correctly recognized that I live off the same waste that I condemn. They see this as hypocrisy. While I appreciate these observations, they do not present a real intellectual stumbling block for me; I've long reconciled my ideology and practice. I will thus address this seeming contradiction and delve deeper into the ethical implications of freeganism in the next entry!


If you have further questions or comments on this particular issue, then I encourage you to subscribe to this blog, where I discuss freeganism, busking, volunteering - where I continually learn how and why to reject the global economic empire whose idealogical cornerstones are exploitation and greed and to submit instead to a God whose kingdom is built on peace, justice, and generosity.
 
 
There were hundreds upon hundreds of questions and comments generated by the HuffPost Food article published on Thursday, July 28. I'm answering them in a series of entries, each addressing a different recurring question/comment. Please keep in mind that I do not (can not) represent the whole of the freegan population. I represent only myself and my own views/motivations/concerns. 

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First things first. Let's nail down this "freeganism" business. What IS freeganism and what exactly is a freegan?

I was a little annoyed that the image at the top of the HuffPost article is that of a presumably young person doubled over into a large dumpster. 

1) That image is not of me.

2) Though I am not opposed or averse to diving in this manner, this is not how "dumpster diving" is typically practiced in NYC. 

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The simple fact is that such dumpsters are quite rare in the city. Grocery stores, delis, bakeries, and pharmacies typically leave their trash bags in piles on the curbside, right in front of the store. We do not dig through municipal trash, leftovers, or rat-infested-anything. On the contrary, the food that we rescue in NYC is quite clean, healthy, nutritious, delicious, and often sealed, shrink-wrapped, or otherwise still in its original packaging!

That being said, it is also important to acknowledge that freeganism is not merely dumpster-diving, and dumpster-diving is not necessarily inspired by a freegan worldview. Many people living in abject poverty eat trash not because they are reacting to a capitalist, corporatist, consumerist economic system that they regard as exploitative and immoral. They do so because they are helplessly poor, starving, and have no other choice. 

Freegans on the other hand generally do have other options. They are typically not financially forced into a freegan lifestyle, it is rather their own economic and ethical choice (read my blog entry from Thursday to get a grasp on why I became a freegan myself). But freeganism does not pertain only to the ways in which one acquires food. We consider bicycling, gardening, composting, reusing, couch surfing, and recycling as other means of living out the freegan way. Basically - any activity that consciously minimizes waste and avoids consumption could be considered freegan. Note that it's the consciousness that makes the real difference.

Some more extreme freegan practices might include squatting, hitch hiking, freight hopping, and/or refusing work. I'm certainly interested in these and have dabbled in some, but perhaps the one that most disturbed my week-in-the-life readers was my refusing work in the form of a conventional job. Instead, I spend my time busking, creating, engaging in activism, or volunteering. 

The assumption by many was that I must be a drain on society if I'm not earning my keep. The fact is that I earn enough money busking and doing odd jobs here and there to pay my minimal expenses. Any other needs or wants are met by the communities I serve: my church, the freegan.info group, the gym and book store. I do not have health insurance, but I've been fit as a fiddle for years and years. If ever I feel under the weather, I self-medicate. I've only seen a physician once in the past four years, and this was very recent. The prognosis: I'm fit approximately as a fiddle. Commenters have speculated that surely I'm sick and/or I'll be a drain on society when I become so. I hate to pop their Tea bubbles, but I've been eating this way for over a year and a half and I seem to be doing A-OK! So no, I wouldn't say I'm much of a drain on society at all. I certainly give much more to society, free of charge, than I take out.

Indeed, I decided last November that I no longer wished to sell my time, my effort, my art. I refused to continue regarding these as commodities. How could I put a price tag on that which I regarded as priceless? I began teaching Really Really Free Guitar Lessons. It's been all downhill from there. I frequently offer my music for free download online, play free shows wherever I go, volunteer my time and service wherever I'm needed, and I hardly ever charge. The real kicker and perhaps the part that most confused my readers: I don't expect anything back from society. 

Here's the thing. Ultimately, I'm not doing this for society. I'm not doing it for the planet and I'm not doing it to be a "good" person, whatever that means. I only hope to obey my conscience, to obey God. I trust that God will provide my needs in return, especially through the generosity of my friends, family, and supporters. 

S/he has been very faithful thus far.


If you have further questions or comments on this particular issue, then I encourage you to subscribe to this blog, where I frequently discuss freeganism, busking, volunteering and where I continually learn how and why to reject the global economic empire whose idealogical cornerstones are exploitation and greed and to submit instead to a God whose kingdom is built on peace, justice, and generosity.
 
 
Great news! I was featured in this week's HuffPost Food Informants Series! Read about a week in the life of a freegan! 

The editor did use a bit of editorial license with my diary, which I'm fine with. And they've tried to represent my motivations in the introductory bio, but there is much more that could not be included in its entirety for sake of brevity. So I do hope you'll read below the full bio that I sent the editor. It paints a more complete picture of how and why I came to busking and freeganism in NYC...

I'm a writer, artist, musician - this is my existential calling, what I was born to do, so to speak. As a Christian, I believe God has given me the special ability, skill, passion to do this and it would be downright disobedient for me not to do it! 

Unfortunately in this society (in every society?) artists don't get paid much. It's our job to show others how sick, twisted, and depraved society has become - we have a special eye for this - and also to offer better alternatives, to show the way things could be. The problem is that the people who have power and money are precisely the ones who do not want anything to change! So you may call me a conspiracy theorist if you wish, but I doubt it's a coincidence that artists like myself have a difficult time surviving in a society such as ours, despite the great amount of labor, thought, and love that we put into our craft. As a society, we are conditioned to believe that artists are just fantastical idealists, unrealistic weirdos; and that our work, our art, is worthless on a pragmatic level - why would anyone financially support that which they perceive as worthless? Indeed, why would governments support art programs in schools over worthwhile and pragmatic pursuits like math and science?

Since I refused to compromise my calling and my time (by, say, getting a crappy part-time job), I had to find alternative ways of living. I became freegan. 

I believe I'd always been a freegan in ideology, at least since high school, but I sought a community of people with whom I could practice this alternative lifestyle. I was involved with the radical freegan group Food Not Bombs in Orlando, where I first dumpster dove and began to see the waste in our economy and its backwards priorities - profits over people. Indeed, OFNB has been in a long-standing legal battle against the city of Orlando which illegalized the sharing of food and feeding homeless people in a public park, hoping to quell the fears of classist and xenophobic business owners and upscale residents in this heart-of-downtown neighborhoodI recently wrote a song about the situation as 30 of my friends have been arrested in June and July for doing nothing more than feeding the homeless. Here's the link for that poem: http://gandollo.weebly.com/1/post/2011/07/lightweight.html

After a few months of living in NYC and seeking part time work, I decided to pursue my music and art wholeheartedly. I would have to take freeganism much more seriously! So I attended a freegan.infomeeting in December 2009 and I've since grown in sympathy with the Freegan cause, especially its concern for the abuses inherent in current economic systems: waste of resources, exploitation of people, degradation of the environment, calloused treatment of animals, commodification of time, labor, even war (thus human life in wholesale). Of course I write songs about these issues, among many others; I also write blogs.

The one I most prioritize currently is my personal blog and portfolio at gandollo.weebly.com. In it, I document almost everything that I'm doing in my life - past and current projects, GioSafari (my solo music project), new poetry, videos, updates, powerful quotes, and more. Another blog is atfreenyc.weebly.com, which is all about how to live on a shoestring in an expensive city like New York. I talk about dumpster diving, busking, living hand-to-mouth, the financial struggles that I face on the day-to-day; but also about the joys I find in experiencing nature, determining my own schedule (including waking up at 6am), bartering and volunteering, and freedom from running the hamster wheel of capitalism. 

I have a third blog about washing dishes (dishesdance.weebly.com) called Dance Party At the Kitchen Sink. The name comes from two popular quotes regarding revolution: 1) Everyone wants a revolution but nobody wants to do the dishes; 2) A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having! I hope to plant a church in Chicago some time in the future. That is my kitchen sink - I want to build a community that is passionate about justice, that is willing to get its hands dirty and wash the dirty dishes of our society - violence, racism, homophobia, sexism, socioeconomic inequality and injustice - but is also going to do so with a hop, skip, and dance in its step! Activists tend to take their work very seriously, to the point that their work becomes very serious. We must always remember that we are not only fighting violence and injustice (fighting - such a violent word!), we are also constructively working towards a world of peace, joy, compassion, equality, and sustainability. That's why I'm perpetually hosting a dance party at the kitchen sink!
 
 
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Yeshua (Matt 6:26)

I'm still learning what it means to live in radical abandon for the Kingdom of God, to live out my calling, and to fully trust in God's provision. A large part of that has meant committing my time, energy, and thought to the office of songwriting; busking on the subway trains; becoming freegan.

Just found this note on paypal w a $20 donation attached: 

Gio, thank you for your beautiful and inspiring music. The ride in the subway yesterday was lit up by your talent and unassuming stance.

Let's just say this brought me to tears. I still struggle to trust God as I live hand-to-mouth; it often doesn't seem like it, but he always meets me halfway. The simple fact is that I love what I do, my calling, and God is good. I can rest in this.

Anyone can send me a donation or personal gift on paypal! If you appreciate what I do and how I do it, then I would really appreciate any donations in kind! They can be sent, via paypal, to giosafari@gmail.com.

You can also now get a FREE download of my debut album, Life Is A Bike Wreck (Better Wear Your Helmet), for a limited time on Noisetrade. You will also have the option there of leaving me a tip. 

If you DO decide to contribute in either of these ways, please know that 1) it will probably make me cry, 2) I'll send you free downloads and cool stuff, 3) I'll be so very very thankful!
 
 
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Several months ago, I saw that two or three of my peers on twitter were talking about an upcoming festival (a "gathering," NOT a conference or convention) in North Carolina that would focus on the intersection of art, justice, and spirituality. It was to be called Wild Goose Festival, after a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit of God.

I contacted Jacob, one of the directors, hoping to snag some stage time at the event, but I was too late - the programming was already planned out. I ended up volunteering with the "recycling crew" instead (euphemism for the waste management team which also handled trash and compost).

Being a freegan myself - and therefore especially concerned about waste - I figured I was a shoe-in. I gladly accepted the position which would allow me to attend the entire event for free - food and camping accommodations included!

I volunteered 16 hours throughout the fest shouldering large compost bins and heavy black bags of trash and recycling into the bed of a bright blue pick up truck and emptying them at the farm's dump site. It wasn't very glamorous, but I did make friends with my fellow trash crew members and we even devised a secret handshake!

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Though it was fun and even enlightening - to a certain extent - to spend the weekend camping out, singing, dancing, playing, and engaging in conversation with my mostly-left-leaning brothers and sisters, I was sorely disappointed by their apparent inability to minimize and sort waste properly, even in a festival milieu that so aptly encouraged it! Nearly every waste station had separate bins for compost, trash, and recycling with colorful signs explaining which items ought to go in each - yet It was all too often that we found plastic bags in the compost bins, bottles and food waste in the trash. 

By the end of the festival we accumulated about two large dumpsters worth of both trash and recycling; relatively little amounts of food and paper waste were composted; stunningly exorbitant amounts of waste were improperly sorted. 

Now I hate to sound all holier-than-thou; but seriously, how can such a group of hippie, environmentalist, progressive, leftist, and/or so-called emergent Christians blow it on such a basic level? Christians really can't figure out how to reuse, reduce, recycle? To properly steward the planet created for us? If anything, we ought to be leading the charge! 

I know that many Christians are, indeed, leading the way - I first really learned about composting at a similar Xian event in 2008 called PAPA Fest - and that many of those who attended Wild Goose did their part. But on the whole the folks of this festival community (still only a small sampling of this minority appendage of the Church in the US) absolutely must do more to create a better model for consumption and waste. Here's hoping that by next year this flock gets its act straight, realizes its responsibility to care for the earth, and starts to lead the way. Our planet can hardly afford otherwise!

For more on my trip to North Carolina, check out the post on my personal blog page... click here =D