Woman’s Bold Strategy To Stop Wasting So Much Food Is Making Some People’s Stomachs Turn

Sippin’ out of your metal water bottle, cloth tote slung over your shoulder, the feeling of eco-conscious living comes as naturally as breathing for some. Now, we can’t all be Al Gore or Leo DiCaprio, but taking steps towards reducing your carbon footprint makes a significant difference.

As one unconventional woman discovered, though, chasing greener pastures can take you down a peculiar path. She took up a new hobby that folks might call gross, but, negative perceptions aside, her pastime had delicious and cost-effective results that changed her life for the better…

Renae Scott has always moved to a different rhythm from most people. As a young adult, she grew frustrated with the regimented structure of traditional life. Go to work, pay your rent, rinse, repeat. 

Ranaeskee / Instagram

Her job as a yoga and dance instructor allowed her to escape a desk job, but she craved more. Renae wondered why we have to sacrifice enjoying life. She longed to climb mountains, gulp fresh air, and travel at a moments notice.

Ranaeskee / Instagram

So back in 2015, she decided to make a major lifestyle change to suit her restless spirit. Packing her Honda with essentials, she left her house behind and moved into her car for good.

Ranaeskee / Instagram

Tiny living suited Renae. She traveled across several states, earning an income teaching yoga, and a variety of dance classes, like hip hop. Students would get their work out in nontraditional spaces for a fraction of the cost. 

Dirtbag Yoga / Facebook

Early on in her new unburdened lifestyle, Renae met some like-minded individuals. These fellow nonconformists told her about a new kind of outdoor activity that saved money and benefited the planet — dumpster diving. 

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The idea of digging in the trash for food turns some people’s stomachs. Not Renae though! In fact, she was curious. She explained, “I’ve never been a germaphobe, and I highly value resourcefulness, so it was easy for them to convert me.”

Ranaeskee / Instagram

Rather than the slippery and slimy contents you’d imagine in the dumpster, Renae quickly discovered quite the opposite. Stores and restaurants tossed perfectly good, packaged, and fresh foods, just to make room for the new inventory.

Ranaeskee / Instagram

With each dive, Renae was feasting like a queen. On every trip she’d rip open garbage bags full of high quality, expensive food that she never would buy grocery shopping. It was all perfectly preserved but headed to the landfill.

Ranaeskee / Instagram

The impact on her wallet was instantaneous. Opting to dive several times a week, rather than making the regular few stops at the store, reduced her bills significantly. In fact, she saved between $150-200 per month.

Kevin Irvine / Flickr

With that extra cash, Renae and her husband Yoav have been able to spend their money the way they please, traveling in their upgraded tiny home van. So far, they’ve visited ten states, from South Dakota to Texas, and dipped in every dumpster along the way too.

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What started as a fun hobby, turned quickly into a moral obligation. Seeing the overwhelming waste people discarded day after day, Renae couldn’t get it out of her mind. 

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Instead of donating, or discounting food deemed “unsellable,” stores just let it collect in bins. Renae wanted to de-stigmatize what shouldn’t be shameful, eating perfectly fine food. “It’s made me more aware of waste, as well as our society’s misconceptions about food safety and how wasteful these misconceptions encourage many people to be.” 

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Plunging into the dumpster isn’t for everyone, and Renae and Yoav still go to the store to satisfy those hankerings the trash can’t fulfill. But on Instagram, the open-minded couple shares funny, yet impactful images of their dive experiences in an attempt to rouse the curiosity of others to give it a try.

Ranaeskee / Instagram

Getting started as a thrifty sustainability warrior doesn’t have to be as extreme as Renae’s foraging. Other people out there have their own unusual tricks to save and ultimately leave a lighter carbon footprint…

Ranaeskee / Instagram

Some people suggest keeping an empty pitcher next to your sink. Usually, tons of water runs down the drain while you wait for it to heat up. Rather than squandering all that precious H2O, collect it in a pitcher for watering plants or whatever tickles your fancy.

Go Pure Pod

If water conservation is the name of the game, put your bathtub to work. For centuries people have washed clothes by hand, and then the washing machine brought it all to a screeching halt. Working up a sweat by hand-washing all your clothes, not just delicates, saves water, energy, and money.

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Another eco-friendly way to cut costs is to make your own cleaning products. There’s been a movement in recent years to avoid using toxic chemicals in the home, but the pre-made stuff isn’t cheap. Combining vinegar and baking soda in a spray bottle provides the exact same result.

My Healthy Green Family / WordPress

Tiny dwellings aren’t practical for everyone, but there’s still hope for homeowners trying to pinch pennies. Paint your roof white, and reduce your electric bills without the massive cost of a solar panel. The dark colors trap sunlight, and the simple change cuts costs between 10 and 40 percent. 

Nations Well

Paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, all serve relatively the same purpose. Converting to reusable cloths, yep, even in the bathroom, keeps you from dashing to the store to drop $10 that ultimately, gets flushed down the toilet. 

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A simple waste of paper that you probably never think twice about? Coffee filters. They aren’t eco-friendly, or even effective in producing a decent brew. Metal and cloth coffee filters allow natural oils to pass through, making a more aromatic tasting coffee. 

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Like Renae Scott, Steve Areen sought to minimize his carbon footprint. Described by the people closest to him as having quite the creative soul, he’s shared his travels — from Iceland and to the Pacific Islands — through a digital portfolio with his friends.

Steve Areen

Of course, all that traveling had a monumental impact on his life. His first digital album, “A Bird of Passage,” chronicled his wanderings around the world and all the friends he made along the way.

Steve Areen

One of those friends was Hajjar Gibran, who lived in an eco-frienly home made of earth on a mango farm situated along the Mekong River in Thailand. Steve was enamored by the life that Hajjar and his wife created — tranquil and remote.

Dome Gaia

To Steve’s delight, Hajjar offered him a piece of his mango farm where he could build his own tranquil home. Humbled by the offer, Steve had a big decision to make. Did he really want to settle down?

Steve Areen

Steve — a musician, remember — had no idea how to build a home from scratch (and didn’t exactly have piles of money to pour into the project). Hajjar reassured him he would help him through the process and that his son-in-law, a talented stone worker, would come up with the building design. Steve liked that.

Dome Gaia

Unsure but excited, Steve agreed to take Hajjar up on his offer. In a surreal moment, Steve, standing on his new plot of land and staring at the bare soil, projected his imagination on the empty space.

Together, they decided to build a dome home. A structure of this shape has many benefits, one being that it’s a natural shape and as such can better survive natural disasters. It also offers the best open concept floor plan for a small living space. But would it be cost effective?

First things first, they surveyed the land to measure out the proportions of the house and placed wooden stakes in the ground to begin laying out the foundation. If all went to plan, when finished, Steve would have a new 500-square-foot home.

Hajjar advised Steve use a material called AirCrete, which is a lightweight, foam concrete great for regulating temperatures; it’s also malleable making it easier to form the dome shape. On top of that, it’s inexpensive, durable, and fireproof — a good material for those looking to save some money.

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The aerated concrete accelerated the building process, and, within several weeks, the outer layer of the dome was complete. Hajjar and Steve then built porthole-like windows to allow natural light to enter his home.

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For the finishing touch, they capped the top of his roof with a beautiful diamond-shaped window, which created rainbow illusions that cascaded down the sides of the walls. They also attached an elevated gazebo — a sala — using bent steel and custom wooden stairs that led to the roof. A costly flourish, but worth it.

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After only six short weeks, the tangerine-colored home sitting within a grove of mangoes was finished and move-in ready. Steve walked up to the custom mahogany front door and opened it, leading to a zen oasis. Want to see inside?

Steve Areen

An open and airy living space is one of the first things you see. There’s comfortable seating nestled in the porthole window with cushioned floor seats and a small table where Steve can enjoy his morning coffee as he gazes out the window at his waterlily pond.

Steve Areen

The space accommodates a small kitchen adorned with shelving that holds local and cultural pottery he’s collected. The wooden dining table and stools were hand carved and light fixtures were made from wicker baskets.

Steve Areen

Oh, and the kitchen’s more than just a pretty face — it’s functional, too. The refrigerator and stove sit beneath the counter to save space, so when Steve wants to cook, his stove burner, which sits on a hinge, swings out to countertop level.

Steve Areen

Continuing through his fluid home, the next area is probably the most tranquil space — the bathroom. Above the plywood, waterfall sink is a mirror made from pottery and bamboo. The walls and floors are delicately decorated with various stones and pebbles.

Steve Areen

The real highlight of the space is definitely the shower, though. Surrounded by a jungle-like atmosphere, loose river rocks create a shower floor where water mimics the gentle flow of a stream. It actually feels like you’re showering in the middle of the jungle.

Steve Areen

Off in a separate space is Steve’s bedroom. His bed rocks traditional Thai patterns that match the mango-colored walls. On both sides of his bed are multi-functional porthole windows where he can relax and write music while looking out over the mango orchard.

Steve Areen

To top it all off, located on the roof above his bedroom is a table-like deck with a hammock that boasts a remarkable view. Just follow the floating wooden stairs up to the private veranda and soak in the endless terrain. But luxuries like these don’t come without some damage to the wallet.

Steve Areen

Still, all together Steve built this eco-friendly dream home for just $9,000! It cost him $6,000 to purchase the materials and build his house; it cost another $3,000 to finish the landscaping, gazebo, and interior design. But you can’t put a price tag on peace and happiness.

Steve Areen

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