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.
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.