Circular Study Trip in the North of Sweden

Day one

The trip began in sunny Jokkmokk with our tour leader Amanda and our driver Tomas. We were twenty eager participants, mostly from Jokkmokk, but also from Luleå and Gällivare. After short introductions from everyone in the bus, we took a coffee break at our first destination, the Moskosel Creative Lab. We were given an exciting tour by the founders, Gonçalo Marques and Linda Remahl. They presented, for example, the recycled cottages that are meant to function as living and working space for guests. The visit gave us new perspectives and challenged our thoughts about creative development in rural areas.

After Moskosel our journey continued towards Storuman where Lappland Deli served us lunch. After our meal we crossed the road to meet Anita Stenmark, who loves denim and runs a clothing brand and a vintage store called Handkraft & Återbruk. After the lunch break, Tobias Jansson continued with a SYMBIOS workshop on the bus. He gave examples of how companies can make money from what others throw away as waste. Tobias challenged the participants with a circular mindset, and ideas were raised about symbiosis between local businesses. The highway 45 has rarely felt so short and before we knew it, we arrived at a hotel in Östersund.  A dinner with local flavours at Norra Station was the perfect way to end an eventful first day on the road.

Day two

After a good night’s sleep in the heart of Jämtland and a leisurely breakfast, the GRUDE crew headed to the hub C:nen in central Östersund. Some participants were dropped off for a workshop “Equip yourself and your business with circular skills” (for those who are curious, the workshop is held digitally on several occasions around the year. You can read more and register here).

The rest of the group went on to Gomorron Östersund and first listened to a lecture by the renowned Per-Ivar Persson about the challenges in the hospitality industry. He introduced us the sustainability journey and strategy of Södra Årefjällen (Södra Årefjällen och Vision 2030). After Per-Ivar, Lisa Esseen talked about Östersund municipality’s work on green transition, and presented intiatives, such as the Recycling Park. Anna Gutke Bergqvist, also from Östersund Municipality, then continued, and spoke about the recycling of building materials. Fruit and good coffee helped keeping the guests focused throughout the session.

After the presentation from Östersund, Anna Bylund from Rework Åre Inderöy continued with an introduction to the municipality of Åre, and its need to speed up the various circularity conversion processes. The municipality’s project is funded by Interreg, and it will, among other things, create increased employment through the development of a circular economy.

Linda Kalkan, then, gave a number of examples of different, more practical recycling solutions that have been developed in Åre. Finally, Hannele Lanner, a development strategist with a passion for social sustainability, talked about Östersund Municipality’s pilot study concerning circular transformation with a focus on visitor and experience-based industries.

After the information-packed morning, the whole group met up for a much-needed (vegan) lunch at the restaurant Hamngatan 12 that has a goal to minimise food waste. All the furniture in the restaurant is also recycled and is also for sale. After lunch, the energetic Emil Eklöv from Gomorron Östersund showed the participants around Gomorron’s co-working space and explained the importance of an involved and change-driven landlord. Then, Anna Rex, analyst at Remote Lab, took over and told us more about the on-going research about the ways of work in the future.

The jam-packed programme continued in Remote Lab’s cosy conference room. Karin and Bert-Ola Bångman talked about Project Kaxås. The project aims to create conditions for young families who want to make a lifestyle change, and move from the city to the countryside. The project has witnessed an incredible development from a dying village to dense population!

Our last stop of the day was Sundsvall, or more precisely, Birsta City and Circuit. On the way there, conversations continued about everything the participants had learned, and even a few more participant presentations were given. When we arrived in Sundsvall, the centre manager Jill Hallström met us with an insight into Circuit’s new circular everyday life (repair, rental, flea market, etc.) in the middle of a classic shopping centre. She also revealed that this was just the beginning of the new concept! After getting acquainted with the different participating companies in Circuit, a bunch of tired participants got back on the bus and were safely guided to the hotel in Härnösand.

Day three

The last day of the study trip began with a brief presentation by the project manager Linda Lundberg about the first recycling shopping centre in the north of Sweden: Re:store Höga Kusten in central Härnösand. Linda gave us useful information about the choice of partners and circular business models, as well as the procurement and checkout systems and selection of products that can be given new life and sold again.  

One of the ideas in Härnösand is that entrepreneurs who want to start business at Re:store should have an easy and relatively risk-free way to get started. This is ensured by the fact that the new businesses do not have to tie themselves to a long and expensive lease contract. Linda’s presentation also inspired discussion about the entrepreneurial spirit, and how it can be supported and reinforced in an area.

After Lindas presentation, we ate lunch at Smulans in Re:Store. Smulans is a new start-up that makes use of fruit and vegetables from the grocery store Ica Maxi that normally would go to waste. Once everybody had got their bellies full, we got on the bus, and continued our way to Umeå.

On the lower level of the MVG mall in central Umeå, the recycling shopping centre Revolt is emerging. Cathrin Sandström and her colleagues from corporate sponsor Companion shared the process leading up to the establishment of the physical store and the digital part of the project.  We ended our visit in Umeå by eating dinner at Gotthard’s restaurant, which offered seasonal local produce. Before coffee, we also listened to Liv Öberg, who talked about her efforts of encouraging the circular economy in Umeå Municipality. After dinner we began the long journey back home to Jokkmokk, Luleå and Gällivare. It felt even a bit sad to part ways just after we had learned to know each other.

To sum up, the study trip was an enriching experience with many lessons learned about topics, such as business symbiosis, circularity and reuse – just to mention a few. At the same time, the trip was a filled with good food and great company. The realisation that there is a great interest in the north for circularity and reuse, has been incredibly inspiring.  Although, this study trip ended and the participants dispersed in different directions, the journey has only just begun for each of us and our respective organisations!

Text and pictures:
Carl-Johan Utsi, Photographer, Jokkmokk

Header illustration:
Nikki Schimdt, Big Brain Agency