This woman is dumpster diving her way through her PhD

I met Liselotte through Facebook when she commented on one of my posts, saying she is “dumpster diving her way through her PhD.” I wanted to learn more, so I invited her to do a guest blog for my website. She is an intelligent and inspirational woman doing good for the Earth and the people around her. I just had to share her wonderful story, so here it is!

When I started my PhD in environmental psychology in October 2014, I had been dumpster diving for a while, but I wanted to take it to the next level. The goal was to save as much money as possible so that I would be able to buy a nice block of land after these three years, build a simple eco-home and live mostly self-sustainably after that.

“I had heard about people living just on dumpster food, so I figured: “If they can do it, then so can I.” I live in Norway and food is very expensive here; by eliminating that expense I could just about cut my budget in half. So I decided I would not buy groceries again for at least a year. I expected it to be quite difficult, and that I would have to go through periods without much food, but instead quite the opposite happened. Not only was the food very easy to find, but I had so much of it that I really wanted to donate food to charities and other people–it was just so difficult to leave perfectly good and often high-quality food behind in a dumpster. Here are some of the things I found:

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Because I had so much more food than I could ever eat by myself, I started working together with charities. This is also how I came to pick up food directly from supermarkets, because some of them actually do want to prevent food waste, but they often lack committed and persistent individuals who are willing to put in the time and effort of picking up and redistributing the food every day (6 to 7 days a week). But that was definitely something that I was willing to do! Luckily, this is also when I found my first (free) bike trailer, which made it so much easier to transport the heavy loads of food every day.

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Because charities here don’t take foods with an expiry date, I decided to give food away on Finn.no, which is a local website where you can advertise stuff that you want to sell or give away for free. And it didn’t take long before I had several people in my contact list who were able to pick up food 2 to 3 times a week on short notice. These people are so grateful and being able to help them has made this experience so meaningful. Much more meaningful than if it were just about saving money! When I started donating, my main goal shifted and I had a renewed drive to continue and even expand what I was doing: I wanted to save as much food as possible and help as many people as possible.

Here is just one of the many thank-you messages that I received; this one I received after asking one of our friends, a single mom with three kids, if she had time to pick up food that day:

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I have learned so much from this challenge and I am still learning more. Not only have I learned a lot about food production and distribution, but also about dumpster diving, about food (about when it is still edible and when it is not), about life and about people. And most importantly, I have learned about the joy of giving. Of course, I have also saved a lot of money by living this way, but that seems much less important now that I see the bigger picture. My main motivators are now the environment, rescuing as much food as I can and helping others.

Nevertheless, I will continue my experiment at least until the end of my PhD and I want to continue to simplify my life more and more, eventually eliminating money from my life completely or at least minimizing its role significantly. At the moment, I am trying to find a basic place to live in exchange for food and other things I have to offer, such as meditation classes, cooking, and gardening.

-Guest blog by Liselotte Roosen

What an incredible woman! She told me that I inspired her first dumpster dive and I am blown away by where she has taken it. Along with her charity group, Liselotte has even installed three fridges around Trondheim, Norway where people can donate food and anyone can take what they need:

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You can add follow Liselotte Roosen on her blog or add her as a friend on facebook. And if you want to start your own food rescue program, check out this guide from Boulder Food Rescue or start a rescue program in your campus kitchen with Food Recovery Network.

UPDATE 07/04/2016: Liselotte has written another guest post to update us on what she has been doing for the last year. Read it at: Follow this Woman’s Journey of Going Moneyless