A new trend has spread in Denmark the last couple of years. People come together at so called swap markets (byttemarkeder) where they swap things and clothes that they no longer need. The idea of swapping is not new at all, and it’s been quite common for women to meet up with a few friends and swap clothes with each other.
What is spreading is the idea that when 200, 500 or 1000 people come together, there is a much bigger chance that you’ll find what you need – and that you’ll meet someone who need exactly the things you no longer want. There is no money among the participants, it’s free to participate and it’s mostly volunteers to take care of all the practicalities.
The Energy Academy is a great place for such an event with space for all the people and their belongings. We host this in collaboration with Rosa Føge and Lama Juma from Copenhagen who travel to different cities in Denmark to engage more people in hosting swap markets in their local community.
Drop by and trade if you are on Samsoe on March 22 from 10 am to 4 pm.
They are very passionate about supporting people and sharing their experience, which they also blog about in Danish. They’re in the process of translating their material into English so that more people can grab the idea and put it into good use.
The trend started in Aarhus in 2010 and has spread to 20 other cities in Denmark so far. The concept is really simple: Borrow a large venue, put up a lot of tables, clothes racks and hangers and make sure there are signs with categories like toys, books, shoes, womens clothing, electronics, mens clothing etc. Have a group of volunteers to do that with you and to keep order during the day and welcome the participants, maybe explaining the swapping rules.
“Give what you can, take what you need”.
The participants go around and place their items on the market, and once they’ve contributed to the market, they’re free to take home whatever they find. All is free, there are no price tags.
Anywhere between 200 kg and 7,5 tons of things and clothes find new owners in an afternoon. Needless to say, this means loads of resources and money are saved by the participants. The obvious wins are free things, cleaning out closets and a greener conscience. The unexpected gifts are the overwhelmingly warm and fuzzy feeling from the happiness of seeing your trash becoming another person’s treasure.
Over and over again people are surprised of themselves – it almost feels better to see your old things find new owners, than it feels finding something for yourself. This experience have people talk to neighbors and strangers, sharing stories and feeling more connected to their local community. Another interesting side effect is the conversations that emerge from seeing the result of (over)consumption.
Most Danes have more things than they need, and yet we still have a habit of buying new. Seeing all these free things piled up in one room pokes us. Value seems to have nothing to do with price, and we start thinking about what things we need rather than what we want or desire. If you can take home anything you want, what do you ACTUALLY want?
If we can swap things that no longer have a monetary value to us rather than throwing them into the bin, we can save many resources in production various places in the world. Flea markets and online 2nd hand sites still handles the more expensive items, but all the things people don’t bother saving gets a second chance at a swap market – and a third and fourth.
People share how they stopped throwing good things away after they’ve seen how much joy those things will give to others. Who could have guessed that a simple concept like swapping openly and in large groups with very open rules could spur this many conversations and even change the habits of some of the participants?
If you wish to read more about swap markets you can go to the blog www.smapmarket.wordpress.com (English) or www.byttemarked.wordpress.com (Danish). You can also check out the many videos on youtube to get a sense of the atmosphere at a swap market. You can search for “byttemarked” to see all the Danish videos, or watch the English edition here: