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.
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Tilda Dahl giving her grandfather a ride in a box bike. Photo: Ylva Lundin.
I know everyone’s not as bicycle fanatic as I am, but who wouldn’t love a bicycle day?
In the town where I grew up, Alingsås, the local Transition Group spent last Sunday (which also happened to be Mother’s Day in Sweden) celebrating bikes in all their forms and shapes in one of Alingsås’ parks where this group also has a community garden.
People could try different kinds of bikes, like a box bike, an electric bike, a unicycle ( a bike with only one wheel) and a tandem. A bicycle repair shop was also there, doing basic bike service for free.
Do you dare to calculate the true costs of your car? Photo: Tilda Dahl.
Another fun thing was a service where people could get help to calculate the real cost of their car. Using a graphic that we have already published in Effekt, the Transition Group not only counted what people pay for petrol and parking, but also insurance, tyres, services, taxes etc. According to Ylva Lundin from the group, not everyone was as eager to listen to the answers…
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The artist duo Bigert & Bergström fetter themselves to shackles with the shape of a CO2 molecule, symbolising an average Swede’s emissions in 10 days. Photo: WWF.
On Saturday, the organization WWF has announced a global Earth Hour, when people all over the world turn their lights off for one hour in a symbolic action. But the idea is of course to inspire people to do more than that.
Turning off the lights last year. Photo: Sayna Mostofizadeh, WWF.
During the last weeks, challenges have been flying back and forth through Sweden. One day it’s Swedish Prince Carl Philip challenging Prince Daniel to lower the temperature at home. Then it’s the pop singer Danny Saucedo challenging the other pop singer Eric Saade to reduce his showers to two minutes a day, recycle his waste and eat only vegetarian food during the whole month of March. The other day it’s politicians challenging each other over national carbon emission reductions or the carpenter Bengt who promises to go to work by bike one day a week and go by public transports the remaining days – if 100 others do the same.
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Photo: Anki-itte (CC BY-NC-ND)
Insects. I sometimes get the feeling most people see them as either a nice decoration in their gardens (butterflies) or something you would rather not have at all (the rest of them). But, as I wrote here last week about the bees : Without insects to pollinate our plants. we would soon be out of food.
Alingsås' first insect hotel. Note the four stars on top! Photo: Sara Jeswani.
In Alingsås [map], the local Transition group, which is working for a more resilient Alingsås, has made an insect hotel, to attract all kinds of insects to their community garden (photo to the right). In cities, with their well-kept lawns and big areas covered with asphalt, these small inhabitants often have problems to find good places to live. So in Alingsås a group of about 20 children, adults and elders gathered to construct this insect hotel. made of recycled materials, clay pots, twigs and straw. Now it’s there to take care of its guest, and to remind people about all we have to thank these little fellows for.
But the declining number of insects has started to concern scientists more and more, since it could also be a symptom of bigger environmental changes. To keep track of these changes, the Department of Biology at the Lund University runs a butterfly monitoring scheme where volunteers spend their summer observing and reporting all the butterflies they see.
This project started last year, and gives scientists good information about what is happening to butterflies, which also says a lot about general environmental changes, since butterflies are especially affected by this.
The architect students' own image of a sustainable Alingsås.
Earlier I’ve written about the 25 architect students from Chalmers University of Technology who have been concentrating on how to turn the ordinary small town Alingsås into a place that will work and prosper without fossil fuels.
Now the time has come for the students to present their ideas, and yesterday they met local politicians, the Transition Alingsås group and “ordinary” inhabitants in a crowded assembly hall.
All their projects are presented on their website (some of them in English) and several of them focus on the importance of producing food locally in a world where greenhouse gas emissions must decrease and energy will be a more expensive resource.
One of the studies that I like particularly is made by Elin Erlansson, who has sketched the first steps of how to make Alingsås more self-sufficient on food. Her idea is to engage the inhabitants to start growing more food themselves, individually and collectively, and to create a food centre in the middle of town just by the train station. In this centre the locally and regionally produced food would be gathered and then further distributed to consumers coming to the grocery shop by bike or by foot, or transported to people’s home areas with public buses that will anyway make their way through town.The centre also houses a restaurant serving locally produced dishes and Elin discusses the possibility of using a local currency to facilitate these local supply chains.
Another project work written by the students Hajir Latifi, Virginie Ducournau & Daniela Farias (in English) target on how the city centre has been flooded with cars and how this could be changed, making Alingsås a town for pedestrians and cyclists.
It all sounds very nice and when you think about it, it’s easy to start wondering why these aren’t ideas always applied: After all, having towns made for the people living there, making sure they will have food, clean water and encouraging their engagement in the local environment sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?