Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Dirt on Dumpster Diving

(posted by Tanya)

Most kids are embarrassed by their parents at some point in their lives, and Jason and I consider it our duty to continue that long tradition. He's driven up to the middle school carpool in his red pickup truck, Garth Brooks CD blaring and singing at the top of his lungs. I love to needle Miranda with one of the best lines from Freaky Friday, ala Jamie Lee Curtis, "Make good choices!"

But I think my Dad trumped all of that, without even realizing it, when I was a teenager. I was on a date. I don't remember who the guys was, but I do remember how it went down.

We're driving through the movie theatre parking lot looking for a parking space when we see a man rummaging through the dumpster. The man looks up and, much to my horror, it's my Dad. He's scavenging for boxes to use while doing yard work. He waves. I duck. Date asks if I know him. I reply, "Nope. Probably just some crazy homeless man." (Have I mentioned my Dad is a top official at a major university?!?) Oy Vey!

Fast forward 25 years and my kids know that while they won't find me in a dumpster, I will occasionally "street shop". Over the years my curbside treasures have included a Barbie Dream House and a solid wood rocking chair that I recently sold on Craigslist.

But there are folks who take dumpster diving much further than me and even my Dad.

(side note: I love that the one guy uses the Girl Scout phrase, "Leave it better than you found it"!)

Later this month, Birmingham's East Lake United Methodist Church will screen the documentary "Dive!" about people who eat out of dumpsters. Before you assume they're all homeless, let be clear -- they're not. Many are just frustrated by the BILLIONS of pounds of food that go wasted each year.

My friend Wade Kwon writes about that waste and the film on his website The film has been around a while but is still making the rounds and causing a buzz here, here and here on one of my favorite public radio stations.

Check it out. It probably won't make you join the Dumpster Diving Fellowship. But it might make you think about all the wasted resources in your life and how you can reduce, reuse, or recycle them.


  1. My friend Emily Reddy is a reporter at WPSU in State College, PA. Here's a link to a story she produced on Dumpster Diving:

  2. Thanks for the link and shout out, Tanya! I'm flattered.

    Your readers might find it shocking to know that we as a nation throw away a fourth of our food every day every year.