Meet our member: Susanne Ringström, founder of Möbelbiblioteket
Möbelbiblioteket (The Furniture Library) is a service that enables a transition into more sustainable furniture consumption. Through their digital peer-to-peer platform, Möbelbiblioteket’s users can lend and lend out their furniture depending on their current needs. Meet Möbelbiblioteket’s founder Susanne Ringström – on a mission to transform furniture consumption and use as we know it!
How did it all start? What’s your background and how did you end up developing Möbelbiblioteket?
– The idea of The Furniture Library, “Möbelbiblioteket” in Swedish, first came to me during my years of study at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm seven years ago. It was an education very focused on furniture design (I still thought I was going to go out and be a furniture designer then). At the same time, I was also attending a course in sustainability and socio-ecological systems at Stockholm Resilience Center (an environmental research center). I was learning about the planetary boundaries and the importance of transitioning from a linear economy to a circular one, while getting more and more frustrated with what I witnessed in the furniture world. I couldn’t see any sustainability focus within the furniture production and consumption journey, no matter the brand developing them. No environmental focus in the sourcing of the materials and no social focus on the working conditions for the people sourcing them. The same lack of sustainability in the production phase of the furniture.
And in the consumption phase… a lack of understanding of the consumer and how to design business models that keep the furnitures in circular loops of usage. Actually, I saw quite the opposite: something called ‘Planned Obsolescence”, which is basically a business model where they plan for objects to break after a short amount of time so that consumers will have to get new ones quicker. I didn’t become a furniture designer. Instead, I became a service designer - a role more focused on redesigning services and systems based on understanding the consumer’s behaviours, rather than focusing on developing more products.
How did you come up with the idea for Möbelbiblioteket?
– The silver lining of my frustration, was great energy and almost a fire within me to make a change towards sustainable consumption and production within the furniture industry. I wanted to create a new circular system for people to consume furniture. In the beginning, the idea was actually a physical space where people could lend furniture provided by the Furniture Library and produced in a circular way. It was a bit naive and the business model wasn’t great. Today the service is very different from that! The Furniture Library is now a digital peer-to-peer service, where people can lend and lend out furniture to each other. The service is still at an early stage and it’s free to lend and lend out for now while building a bigger community of users. But we will continue to develop functions to rent and rent out (make money as users), and then we will start to take a service fee on the furniture transactions.
If I want to use your service, what do I do? How does it work?
– You can find us on mobelbiblioteket.se! As a user, you go to the digital platform and check out available furniture. If you want to borrow one of them or lend out one of your own furniture, then you have to become a member. Through our free membership, you become a part of our sustainable community with access to the furniture that the other users lend out.
In the furniture listings, you can fill out the dates when you’d need the furniture and ask the owner for permission to lend. You can converse with each other as much you want and when the loan is accepted, you decide on when to pick it up. If you need help with transport, you can easily book with our partner MoveByBike. The furniture is all yours to enjoy and to take care of during the lending period - and then we’ll send a reminder to return it.
If you have furniture you want to lend out, you can easily make a furniture ad. There you describe how you want the other users to care for it, add images and write where to pick it up.
Then wait for other users to start booking your furniture. :)
Why is Möbelbiblioteket needed?
– We strive to meet the consumer’s needs connected to furniture, as well as the planet’s needs to stay within the planetary boundaries (for example by reducing the use of natural resources and the CO2 emissions).
To understand the consumer needs we have involved potential customers while developing the service. We understood that there are different situations where there is a need for the service: when you move and quickly need new furniture or don’t have space for your furniture anymore. When you want space in your storage or don’t want to pay for storage. These are very practical drivers. But there are also drivers to be a “do-gooder”: to do good for other people and for the environment.
The service has to meet people’s needs in order to be used. And we want it to be used and for the usage to scale – in order to create the positive environmental impact we strive for. For me and my team, it all comes back to that: the impact on the planet and the system that is broken. When looking at the statistics, interior consumption was one of the fastest-growing sectors between 2006 and 2016 in Sweden. It had a growth of 44%, which is way more than the average 23% growth in other sectors during the same period (according to MISTRA sustainable consumption - the report “Att inreda hållbart”). The interesting thing is that there is still relatively little research on the negative environmental impacts of the sector, despite the increasing importance of the industry for the consumer. What we know is that there are climate impacts and air pollution from the sourcing of materials, from the production and transports. There are chemical emissions, overuse of natural resources and water, an increasing amount of waste… and a lot more.
Even though a lot has changed in the industry and there absolutely are brands/ producers now that try to make an effort, it’s still not the “mainstream way”. Circular production is still a niche and the same with the secondhand market, circular sharing services, and repair services. The linear way of overproducing, overconsuming, and throwing it on the waste pile, is still what’s being practiced by the majority. And still what’s growing most.
What is the potential impact of Möbelbiblioteket? What will change if many people start using Möbelbiblioteket?
– Our assumption (the theory of change we want to make) is that a peer-to-peer platform to share furniture will trigger people to use it and therefore consume in a more sustainable way to meet their furniture needs. By sharing furniture in different situations, they will refrain from buying new ones. When we have scaled and enough users have shifted to sustainable consumption habits through sharing, and therefore consume less newly produced furniture – there is also less incentive to produce new furniture. Producing less furniture will reduce the use of natural resources and the negative environmental impact in the production phase. Consequently, we see our service as a collaborative initiative within the circular economy. Hoping both to make a change in consumption behaviours, but also to change the logic and business models for producers. And wanting to be part of a movement of other services like us – that make the circular and collaborative the mainstream choice!
To round off: What is the best part of running Möbelbiblioteket?
– Haha, as an entrepreneur with a highly-sensitive personality type, there is no quick answer to this. Running the Furniture Library is an emotional roller coaster. I actually think many entrepreneurs can feel like this. Some days you encounter difficulties that just make you want to hide under the duvet covers. But other days (most days) that fire inside sparks in a great conversation with a user about their consumption habits or while reading about circularity – and then I feel like I could run a marathon on that energy. That’s the best part of running Möbelbiblioteket. That fire and feeling of creating an impact.
Thank you Susanne! 🌟
Join the movement towards more sustainable furniture consumption.
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