The word "freegan" is a portmanteau of "free" and "vegan". Freeganism started in the mid 1990s, out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. Groups such as Food Not Bombs served free vegetarian and vegan food that was salvaged from food market trash by dumpster diving. The movement also has elements of Diggers, an anarchist street theater group based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960s, that gave away rescued food.
The pamphlet does include a lengthy section on non-food related practices, including solar energy, conserving water, carelessness, precycling and reusing goods. Some freegans consider these non-food practices to be components of freeganism itself; others simply consider them to be complementary practices.
Many freegans get free food by pulling it out of the trash, a practice commonly nicknamed dumpster diving in North America and skipping or bin diving in the UK, as well as bin raiding. Freegans find food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores, and other food related industries, which they claim allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit the world's resources, contribute to urban sprawl, treat workers unfairly, or disregard animal rights. By foraging, they believe they are keeping perfectly edible food from adding to landfill clutter and that can feed people and animals who might otherwise go hungry.
Really, Really Free Markets are free social events in which freegans can share goods instead of discarding them, share skills, give presents and eat food. A free store is a temporary market where people exchange goods and services outside of a money-based economy.
Freegans also advocate sharing travel resources. Internet-based ridesharing reduces but does not eliminate use of cars and all the related resources needed to maintain and operate them.
Community Bike Programs and Bike Collectives facilitate community sharing of bicycles, restore found and broken bikes, and teach people how to do their own bike repairs. In the process they build a culture of skill and resource sharing, reuse wasted bikes and bike parts, and create greater access to environmentally friendly transportation.
Freegans believe that even if a product is vegan, it does not guarantee that:
Freegans claim that people sincerely committed to living the "cruelty-free" lifestyle espoused by vegans must strive to abstain not only from eating, wearing, and using animal skins, secretions (e.g. milk and its by-products), flesh, and animal-tested products, but must attempt to remove themselves from participation in the capitalist economy altogether as workers and consumers.
Some freegans, sometimes called "meagans", consume meat and other animal products only as long as they would otherwise be wasted.