Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Would you take home a piece of furniture that someone has left in the dumpster and that is still in good enough condition to use again? The question can get very typical responses, but this reflection is at the heart of a new movement, born from the heat of social networks. It is called stooping and consists of just that, taking advantage of what someone no longer needs.
Someone sees something usable, alerts the people managing the Instagram account where they post the notice—stooping is done by city—and a photo is uploaded alerting where it is and in what state. If you want it, just stop by and pick it up.
Magali Navarro opened the Stooping Vigo account in 2021. "On the walks I took every day around the neighborhood, I would always find something: a suitcase, a chair, a sofa, etc.," he noted. "I was surprised how often I saw them, even in the rain, and it broke my heart not to be able to take them. Although I was able to "rescue" some things, like plants, books, and chairs," she noted. Social networks opened up a potential world for her, with these profiles that post images of sightings in dumpsters and on the streets. "The dynamics of stooping seemed to me as simple as they are wonderful: a group of people, organizing themselves out of pure altruism to "rescue treasures" that others throw out, helping to reduce waste and pollution, and saving money at the same time," Navarro stressed.
The Vigo profile is, in fact, one of many on Instagram in Spain. Barcelona, Madrid, Lugo, Getxo, Valencia, and Santander are some of the places where there are already accounts that support the idea—the bio of the Santander account—"One person's trash is another's treasure." Possibly, the one in Barcelona is the most popular of the Spanish accounts with 23,400 followers. They are, however, still far from the high number of followers of stoopingnyc (about 440,000), the leading account in this world.
On the other end of the phone, Andrés Morales Pachón, professor of the Master's Degree in International Development Cooperation: Management and Project Management at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR) and researcher in circular economy, explains that in the United States and Canada there is already a culture of leaving things that are not used for others to pick them up. The first successful Instagram accounts appeared in those countries (New York, but also Toronto), which also lent a certain 'cool' vibe to the practice.
And this is important because it helps to view positively what the circular economy is all about. "I think it's important to attract people," Morales Pachón noted.
A change of philosophy
Although it has a flashy—and in recent weeks viral—name, stooping is just one more aspect of a new way of managing with things. In other words, to reduce the environmental footprint so that consumption does not burden the planet, any more than at present, we must take advantage of what already exists. We can reuse it.
"When I see a piece of furniture in good condition in the trash, the first thing I think is that it could be useful for someone else and that it's a shame that it might end up in a dumpster or landfill, when it could still serve its purpose perfectly well," Navarro explained. This is the concern of the stooping participants.
Who is most receptive to this idea? Is it a thing for young people or the general public? "Without a doubt, younger generations," the UNIR professor asserted. It makes sense: Morales Pachón noted that they are more aware and that social networks are already talking about this. There are influencers, he pointed out, who are already addressing these issues.
Even so, it would be a mistake to think that this issue is only for youth. The fact that brands are increasingly committed to issues such as reusing products shows their potential and their future, the expert reminded. In fact, when the professor is asked where the future is headed, there is no question for him: the super recycling market is going to expand. "Not reusing things, but recovering them," he stated. This is known as 'upcycling', creating new and updated products from others that already existed.
If Stooping Vigo can serve as an example to understand what is happening, the impact of the practice is already present across society. The project head assures that there are already "people of all ages" sending photos and following up on the sightings. The response from the community has also been very positive. "I just manage it. The real work is done by the community on the other side," Navarro stated. "Word of mouth also helped a lot in making the account popular, and interest has grown tremendously," she stated.
The sightings have very fast response times. "If it is something original and beautiful, regardless of whether it is old enough to be considered a relic or modern in the purest Scandinavian style, it lasts less than an hour on the streets," Navarro noted, who also points out, however, that these times depend a lot on the type of furniture or product published. "But almost everything is used and salvaged," she added.
No, it does not glamorize poverty
Whenever one of these activities becomes popular, particularly when the name is in English, where people use what others throw away, a new debate comes to the surface. Is this a way to reduce consumption or is it simply glamorizing poverty and the lack of access to certain resources?
Morales Pachón is clear: stooping does not glamorize poverty. "It's a bit of ignorance when it comes to what the circular economy is all about," he replied, when asked why someone could come to a conclusion like this. In fact, he pointed out that it is almost preferable to glamorize trends like these than to do so with consumerism. Navarro feels the same way. "It doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have the money to buy another piece of furniture. And if that's the case, what's the harm in doing so?" she reflected. "What we shouldn't glamorize, I think, is the throwaway lifestyle," she asserted.
And yes, we are talking about this now because it has become fashionable, but perhaps this is the first step to establish the circular economy in everyday life. "It all starts as a fad, but then it becomes part of our daily lives," Morales Pachón noted. Fifteen years ago, there weren't even recycling garbage cans everywhere, he recalled, and now we see it as just another part of the world.
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