Before there was farming there was foraging. Our ancient ancestors prowled the forests and plains collecting resources that were freely available. For many indigenous people this is still part of their lifestyle, and even in Europe and America it was part of how most people made a living until very recently.
But even for the modern city dweller, foraging can add a free supplement to a vegan diet, as well as other environmentally friendly and sustainable additions to your life. It's not just about food, and it's not just about roaming the countryside.
It may not be all that these is to foraging, but for most people food is the biggest part. Even in towns and cities, many public parks and roadsides feature fruit bushes such as blackberries from which you can get great crops at the right time of year. Some plants widely regarded as weeds, such as the ubiquitous dandelion, supply tasty salad leaves. And though you need to be careful only to eat the right varieties, once you start looking you can find edible mushrooms growing in the most unlikely of places. Even some common flowers, such as marigolds and violets, can add a beautiful and entirely edible splash of colour to a salad.
Of course there's even more to be had in the countryside, in particular from trees bearing fruit and nuts. But you'd be surprised how often these same foods are growing in public parks, free to those who will take the time to harvest them.
Wood burning stoves are one of the most environmentally friendly sources of heating for your home. And they're not just for rural retreats - I have a friend who has mastered the art of whittling while breaking up kindling for his London flat.
Any wood that would be thrown away can provide fuel for your stove. Fallen branches, old pallets, even broken wooden furniture thrown carelessly into skips. This might even be your chance to do someone a favour, taking old pallets off a neighbourhood shop's hands.
There's more to free organic fertilizer than just composting kitchen and garden waste, though that's obviously a big part. Many common weeds, such as nettles, can be used to make organic liquid fertiliser. Sit them in a container of water for a few weeks and you'll produce something nutritious for your garden plants, which in turn can feed you.
Leaf mould also makes a great soil improver, and a mulch to protect seedlings during the colder parts of spring. If you don't get a lof of leaves in your garden then help keep the street clean by sweeping them from there, or take them off your neighbours' hands. Put them up in bin bags or a chicken wire leaf bin and leave them to sit. It may take eighteen months for the leaves to really break down into mulch, but all you have to do is leave them to sit and, hey presto, great food for your garden.
So go beyond just eating and growing organic. Look for forage in your area, save yourself some pennies, and save on the planet's natural resources.
Photo by Leslie Seaton via Flickr creative commons