Not just another flea market

One of the Transition Group members talking to the vendors about the group's work. Photo: Ylva Lundin.

I know I keep going on  about the Transition Group in my childhood town Alingsås, but they just keep doing such great things!

Working with the aim to reduce the local dependency on fossil fuels can be a massive task. How do you talk about these things without being dull and annoying? How do you make people, caught up in their everyday lives, listen at all?
The members of the transition group thought they’d start simple. To reuse things is important and easy to understand for everyone. And most people have a lot of things at home that they wouldn’t mind getting rid of. So a flea market seemed like a good idea.

They got permission from the city of Alingsås to use a central avenue, where they could offer people to set up a stand for free and sell their used stuff every Saturday during this summer.

I spoke to some of them before the first Saturday. They were a tiny bit nervous. What if no one would turn up? Some of them sorted out a few things they could sell, so the place wouldn’t be completely empty.

An almost unused spade? Some nice clothes? What someone is tired of, others can get joy from. Photo: Ylva Lundin.

They hadn’t needed to worry. Every Saturday since opening, the avenue has been full, even crammed, with people. Older people who have gone through attics and cellars and filled a big table with things. Young people who have cleaned out their wardrobes for clothes they aren’t using anymore. Even children, coming with their old books and toys.
Soon the group had to ask the city for more space, since people had to put their stands in double lines.

And, as with most of these sustainability-raising activities, it’s not just about the thing in itself. Used stuff getting a new life is great. But there’s also a huge social aspect to it. When I visited Alingsås in July, the street was full of people – even if it was raining! And they were not only selling and buying, but also getting to know each other and meeting old friends they hadn’t seen in a while.

It is also a golden opportunity for the transition group to tell people why they are organising these events and in what way sustainability is about more than just reusing stuff. And there are future ideas of arranging a market where instead of bringing your used stuff, you bring the surplus fruit and vegetables from your garden. This must be an excellent way of showing the potential of people’s own food production.

Building resilience while having fun? Sounds like a good concept to me.

The flea market now attracts more people than the main shopping street of Alingsås! Photo: Ylva Lundin.

  • Pol – Croatia

    It is very nice coincidence.

    Few months ago a similar flea market was organised in Pula, although with not so big success. But it was not organised in a part where lots of ordinary people go trough, like streets or main squares, yet on a parking place of former army buildings, where now is the centre of many local NGO’s.

    So the most visitors happend to be those who are active there anyway. On the other hand there were simultanously other activities held. Maybe the good idea would be to relocate our flea market also somewhere nearer to ordinary people, but would be needed to engage other groups of people, maybe who posses different varieties and larger surplus of interesting clothing. …

  • Monica-USA

    We have a saying here in the States -”One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”!! It is a wonderful idea it is like our “Goodwill or Second hand shops” here in the States where you can donate your used items at no cost to you and you even receive a receipt to use towards a deduction on your taxes (Government taxes).

  • sarajeswani

    Thanks for your comments, Monica and Pol! Monica: Good saying! Pol: Nice to hear that you are doing the same thing. I think it does help to be somewhere near where people normally go, so they can bump into these events “by accident”. In Sweden it also helps that we have a big flea market trend right now.