Ever look around the house and wish to declutter without tossing so many things in the garbage? In Stockholm, Sweden, a store called Swop Art that aims to declutter all that junk and turn it into a zero-waste business. Green City Challenge interviewed Swop Art founder Mariam Nordmark about starting her business.
First opened in January 2010, Mariam found inspiration in Berlin, while visiting a freeshop run by artists. Seeing how well these artists found some kind of value in someone else’s trash, Mariam re-evaluated how she perceived everyday items: “When I came home I started thinking about my own consumption and wondered if there was a way to make a business of a freeshop. The idea of barter [struck] me and I searched the internet and found lots of examples and it inspired me to create my own thing.” Starting Swop Art was quite easy, since “people throw it away so much and willingly give it to you” but Mariam mentions there would be “more difficulties in making a living out of it as a small business.” With a background in art history, Mariam has learned as a businessperson “to stand on many legs” and “not to rely on just one product or service and to rethink and be flexible about your idea.”
Swop Art, a combination of a shop and art gallery, operates on three levels of economic commerce, “the gift economy, barter and monetary.” There is one section where you can simply take seemingly low-value items for free, another where you can barter for a small fee, and the third where you purchase artwork made from found items.
From these very simple premises, Mariam hopes to merge all three components “into a freeswop as a permanent installation, a reaction to the consumption in our society.” For now, her humble business has brought both publicity and goodwill, emboldening her “about making a difference and the customers really love it.”
Mariam sets an inspiring example by manifesting her eco-friendly efforts into a commercial venture. Even though its only a small operation (and in one of the most environmentally-conscious countries in the world), it gives us all a seedling of an idea of what is possible to help us live greener.