Commentary: Living in Singapore doesn’t have to be so expensive when you’re a freegan


Alongside the growing popularity of freeganism is rising concern about our carbon and waste footprint. According to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies published in 2021, three in five Singaporeans believe protecting the environment should be prioritised over economic growth.

However, making more sustainable choices is not always cheap. Vegan and fair-trade foods and clothes tend to be more expensive than their regular counterparts. So are electric cars, even with incentives and rebates.

But the freegan lifestyle marries sustainable and frugal living through its emphasis on reducing consumption. Each item you buy comes from a long supply chain that uses up resources and produces waste at every stage, even if those products are sustainably sourced.

Take for example an audio store owner whom I recently met. He needs to keep a surplus stock of earphones to provide exchanges for customers claiming their warranty. After a few years as warranty periods lapse, the remaining stock is discarded.

That’s how I ended up receiving a hundred boxes of brand-new earphones. Multiply this by the number of businesses in Singapore, big and small, and it’s no wonder the country’s non-domestic sector generated 5.12 million tonnes of waste in 2021.


But freegans don’t always strive to cut waste out of a passion for the environment. Some have a much more pragmatic reason – to reduce personal expenditure.

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I used to spend S$2,000 a month in my pre-freegan days. Now my necessary monthly expenses have dropped to just S$350, including insurance. As I eat mainly rescued food, I’ve lowered my food costs from $500 a month to zero, not counting the occasional birthday treat at a restaurant for a loved one. I am also a lot healthier as the variety of food I eat has expanded.

I don’t remember when I last stepped into a shopping mall because I’ve been able to get items on my wishlist for free. What I spend on entertainment has plummeted because all my favourite leisure activities cost nothing: Communing with nature, visiting our island’s many parks and beaches, volunteering with social causes, and enjoying meals made from rescued food with friends.

Artmotion Asia

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