Interview: CIRCLE CENTER LUND, by Martina Forbicini
Who is the Circle Center Lund? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
The idea for Circle Centre was first brainstormed and pitched during Climathon 2018 here in Lund by a group of brilliant students. The original concept was further developed by the founding team as a university project and then registered as a non-profit in early 2019 and began hosting events. Circle Centre officially opened as a lending library space at Stenkrossen in September of 2019. Currently, our second generation of officers is working hard to promote a culture of sharing and alternative consumption patterns in Lund to prevent unnecessary material use. We are six international master’s students at Lund University, five of us study Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science and one of us studies Retail Service Management. Several of us have prior experience working in NGO’s and come from different cultural backgrounds which makes working together really interesting and fruitful. Our work is supported by the board, which includes founding Circle Centre officers and additional Lund University graduates, and volunteers with a passion for sustainable consumption and waste prevention. It is really incredible to see how big our team has become in the last year and we are really looking forward to our upcoming events and collaborations.
- How did you come up with the idea of Circle Centre Lund? And how does it work?
The 2018 Climathon challenge was to design a solution to reduce the environmental impact of plastic. Rather than designing a new recycling system or packaging system that would reduce plastic use, our founders decided to take a solution approach that could change our culture of consumption, preventing plastic use in the first place. While the majority of plastic in our environment comes from single-use plastic packaging, longer use consumer goods also make up a large share of the plastics market. Inspired by local tool library initiatives like the Tacoma Tool Library and Malmo’s Tool Pool as well as broader lending libraries like the London Library of Things, our team set about creating a space for sharing goods and ideas to prevent over-consumption in the Lund community. Circle Centre provides a library of items that, though very useful at times, don’t necessarily need to be used every day. The goal is to prevent buying new items that can easily be borrowed for short-term use. People living in Lund can become a member and borrow things for one to two weeks. Our inventory includes outdoor and camping supplies, kitchen equipment, tools, and electronics. For example, if you are planning to go camping, you can borrow a tent from us, instead of buying and owning one. In addition to reducing environmental impact, borrowing items helps students save money and storage space. We have a space at the culture center in Lund (Stenkrossen) where people can drop by twice a week to look through our inventory, all our items are also listed on our website to browse through and reserve items. Circle Centre goes beyond just being a borrowing service, we really try to embrace the sharing community in Lund through partnerships with other organisations, hosting discussions about environmental concerns, and sharing a workspace for reuse and repair. In the past, we’ve hosted repair and maintenance workshops, lectures about plastic pollution and zero waste, and discussions on fast fashion, sharing economy and inequalities. Our motto is ‘sharing is caring’!
- Do people borrowing your items show a different interest in short-term rents compared to long-term ones or viceversa?
We started with a focus on short-term rentals with specialty kitchen items, games and recreational equipment. During our work we noticed a great deal of bedding and household items like lamps were ending up in the dumpster at the end of the semester. Many people only move to Lund for an exchange or a one-year program and have to purchase these items when they arrive. This inspired us to begin offering bedding, wifi routers, laundry baskets, and desk lamps to students for 6 months to a year after leaving a security deposit. We received an incredible number of donations last semester and right now we are working hard to reach out to new students moving to Lund before they start purchasing stuff for their rooms. So right now, it is definitely the case that the short-term borrowings are more successful than the long-term rentals, but we see great potential for the long term rentals to become more popular as word gets out.
- When it comes to fighting against overconsumption and promoting the culture of sharing, what is the difference between buying second-hands in a thrift shop and borrowing items at Circle Centre Lund? Why should people choose the latter option?
At Circle Centre we are trying to change the idea of ownership. We strongly believe that there are a lot of items that we do not need to own. Sharing things is beneficial for everyone. You save space and money if you share rather own something. It is really nice to watch when people are returning items during opening hours and start sharing their experiences with the item. For example, we have an ice cream maker in our inventory and last time it was returned we got a recipe for yummy ice cream which we can now pass on to other people borrowing it. You do not have those little moments of sharing when you go to a secondhand shop and buy an ice cream maker. We also try to guarantee the quality of an item as much as possible before we lend it out and make sure that all items are clean and functional. Sometimes browsing a thrift store can be a bit of a gamble not knowing whether or not they have what you’re looking for. Through our online inventory and member reservation system we try to make it clear what we have and when it’s available so it’s easy to plan cooking a new recipe with our baking tins or borrowing camping gear for the weekend.
- Which is the biggest challenge you’ve faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?
A non-profit organization like Circle Centre with limited financial resources always requires a lot of motivated minds dedicating a great amount of their free time. We have been really lucky with the people on our team and so far it has worked quite well. A good team spirit, frequent team reflections and the openness to say “no” from time to time if we are taking on too much has helped a lot. This year, we have had a lot of challenges due to covid-19 including hosting our events online, adapting our opening hours to individual pick ups and not being able to hold team meetings in person. We really hope that we will be able to resume open hours and host in-person events soon.
- Which kind of reactions/feedbacks has Circle Centre Lund received?
It is really great to watch Circle Centre gain recognition in Lund. Since the opening of Circle Centre less than a year ago, we have enabled more than 120 borrowings and recruited more than 100 members. Many people we’ve encountered are really engaged when they first hear of Circle Centre which always reassures us that the work we do is important and welcomed here in Lund. It is amazing to be part of such a fast-growing sharing community!
- In your opinion, which role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?
Youth movements are an integral part of climate change awareness and momentum and have clearly taken on a leadership role in confronting the challenges we are facing in today’s Climate Emergency. One could argue that this is because we are the future and we have to face the delayed consequences of the generations before us. Maybe it is also that we feel so responsible about taking action, because we grew up with the struggles around us and can not look away from them. It has been very motivational to participate in the Friday’s for Future strikes with other local environmental organisations and activists taking place not only locally in Lund but around the world. There are so many different linked facets of sustainability and youth activists are doing a great job drawing the lines between diverse environmental and social issues to call for interdisciplinary solutions.
- Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?
Circle Centre is not in itself a movement, but as a local non-profit organisation we see ourselves as an actor in a larger sustainable consumption movement alongside many others working towards positive community-level change. We hope to provide resources and space for public discourse about the future we want for Lund and more globally. There are many ways we could have gone about designing such a project but what is most important is that we are able to adapt to the needs of the community we serve. For the start we probably could have benefited from more local stakeholder involvement and this is something we will continue to work on as we reach beyond the international student niche.
- Do you think this model of circular economy could be exported in every country in the world?
Implementing the concept of circular economy requires a lot of change in society, policies and in our economy. Often policy makers only associate recycling rates with it but there is so much more to it. Circle centre on the other hand is working hard to embrace a sharing economy which is not the same as a circular economy. By creating a sharing economy we decrease the individual consumption by sharing items. A project like Circle Centre is based on a very local context. Our specific model may not translate well to all cities as it is quite tailored to a university town community. It’s most important when coming up with new solutions to problems of waste and consumption to understand the local need and way of life, otherwise an idea may not integrate well with local culture. For Lund, we felt it was important to have a central physical space where members can gather and create community. Finding a place at Stenkrossen where many other local projects operate including Bike Kitchen, Matkooperativ, and Lunds Opena Verkstad was key. But in another context, a lending library or sharing space may need to have a different model.
10.What’s next for you and Circle Centre Lund?
Our short-term goals are to expand our network, to have more members join and especially to engage more with Lund residents outside of the student sphere. We are constantly expanding our inventory and hope to do so in the future. We also plan to host more events in cooperation with other great initiatives in Lund. In the long term we are dreaming about a Lund where each person knows Circle Centre and is making the choice to share rather than to buy everytime they need something new. We are hoping to create a sharing space that can be open more frequently and a stable financial situation that allows us to do so.
11.Which advice would you give to the young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?
One thing we always try to remind ourselves of is that every small contribution we make, every conversation, every event, and every borrowing counts, and that we are all change makers. This thought allows us to stay motivated and engaged. The more we work in the topic the more incredible organizations and people we get to know. So, open yourself up for the things that are out there, start having a conversation and be active 😊
” The project of Circle Center Lund is quite ambitious but the team is very committed to the cause of circular economy so I’m sure they’ll go far! Thanks for promoting the culture of sharing and trying to shift the concept of ownership to a whole new more sustainable level!
Good luck for the future!”
CIRCLE CENTER LUND