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Maria Soxbo, editorial no 3.

This year, we have invited the renowned and award-winning journalist and author Maria Soxbo to work with us to raise the issue of sustainability in a modern and interesting manner. We believe that raising awareness is the first step, because awareness matures into thought patterns and actions that become more long-term. Through Maria’s words on the this subject, we hope to reach people’s thoughts and actions.

The traces of time

Many years ago, I worked in an office that was based in one of Stockholm’s oldest houses. The stone stairs leading up to my workspace on the second floor took a little practice to walk up, because each stair was so worn down after hundreds of years of feet tramping up and down that none of them was level anymore.

It’s the staircase that has stayed etched in my memory, rather than the totally refurbished, plush modern offices. I can still remember the feeling of stepping into the cool of the stairwell – or the cold, in winter – and hearing the wings of history beating as I set my foot onto its first, steeply sloping step. How many footsteps does it take to wear down several centimetres of stone? How much, or rather how little, will the soles of my own shoes contribute to the reshaping of these stairs?

Maria Soxbo is a journalist, author and co-founder of Klimatklubben

It’s interesting to think about what we truly value. Is it the thing that’s perfect, unused and unspoiled, or the one with a long history? Today we produce far more gadgets, furniture and clothes than we need, and yet we constantly want more. We replace anything that’s become dull or scratched with a glossy new version straight from the factory. The things we take out of circulation are added to the huge pile of other stuff already produced that needs to be stored somewhere. In attics and in storerooms, at flea markets and in secondhand shops and, worst case, in rubbish bins and dumps. Sure, one man’s rubbish can be another man’s treasure, but most of what’s to be found there is of little value to most of us. And that’s only because it’s used – a castoff.

But imagine if we could be party to each item’s history? If every scratched piece of crockery could reproduce all the interesting dinner conversations that had taken place around it? If every worn wooden table could tell us about the human destinies it witnessed over the years, if every made-to-measure dress could take us to the dances, parties and occasions that it was the star of? Wouldn’t we value them more then?

That a paper-thin champagne flute not only survived the human factor – clumsiness – but also countless toasts, washing-up bowls, and changes of ownership for perhaps a hundred years before being randomly sold at a flea market for a pound, is a miracle in itself. The fact that it also has an exciting, but usually hidden, history adds an invisible gilding to a very ordinary functional object. Maybe the glass was present at four weddings, and a funeral? At a child’s birth, a housewarming party, a new job, a lottery win, or a peace treaty?

Life isn’t about consuming. Certainly, a new possession can brighten things up for a while, but the pleasure doesn’t depend on it being brand new – only for it to be new to us. Because even old things become new when they change owners. And as for life? Well, that’s really about what we fill it with – memories, experiences, relationships, events. And every piece of furniture, every champagne flute, every well-made dress that enjoys a long life carries all this in its tree rings, in its hand-sewn seams, or in the patterns of its glass. Why can’t we appreciate that more?

In most cases, we’ll never know what all the pre-loved things we surround ourselves with have been through. At a pinch, we might recall their previous owner, google a signature, or think to ask the flea market seller what they know about its origins.
But does it really matter? I give my imagination free rein, noticing how it’s far more fun to daydream about people’s lives than about impersonal factories – and how, suddenly, the bargain secondhand find becomes almost invaluable.

Maria Soxbo is a journalist, author and co-founder of Klimatklubben. She switched from being an interior design blogger to become a greenfluencer, seeking to inspire more people to see the benefits of living sustainably. She is convinced that most of us would feel better by living a life within the boundaries of the planet rather than at the limits of our income and mental health, as in the treadmill of a society we live in. Together with Emma Sundh she also runs the podcast Plan B which focuses on the good life after the transition. On her own and together with others, Maria has written a total of six books about the climate and sustainability, and in 2021 she was 25th on the list of Sweden’s 101 biggest sustainability influencers.