Traditional vending machines are the beacon of consumerism: you put money in, then you take an item out. They’re designed purely to sell stuff (stuff that usually comes wrapped in plastic, and needs refrigeration). Could they ever contribute to a more sustainably-minded society?
Enter the Swap-o-Matic. The brainchild of American arts graduate Lina Fenequito, the Swap-o-Matic puts an entirely new spin on the vending machine concept. Instead of putting money in to obtain an item, you have to donate an item you no longer want. And the items up for grabs aren’t chocolate bars or soft drinks, but items from other people, which could be anything from scarves, DVDs, ornaments, books, jewellery, artworks, even poems!
It works on the principles of bartering, except all the hassle of bartering itself is removed. Simply peek inside one of the machine’s 13 cubicles and if you see something you fancy, it’s yours in exchange for something you no longer want. All ideas of ‘value’ and ‘worth’ are off the table, too, as the Swap-o-Matic operates on the assumption that value is subjective: an item you need has value, whereas one you don’t has none. Every item in the machine ‘costs’ one credit, and every item donated ‘earns’ one credit. You don’t even have to do a straight swap, a lot of people simply enjoy the act of giving.
It’s hoped that the Swap-o-Matic will inspire people to rethink their consumption habits and get into the routine of reusing stuff, instead of buying new items or simply discarding old ones, all the while delivering the ‘quick-fix’ and instant gratification that shopping brings. Less waste, more fun!
You can learn more about the Swap-o-Matic here (sadly, it looks like it’ll be busy in the States for the foreseeable). In the meantime, though, check out these other cool vending machines that are turning their energy-guzzling, consumerist reputations on their heads and helping make the world a better place.
Vegetables need sunlight to grow, right? Not anymore! This Japanese vending machine, aka the Chef’s Farm, is able to grow 60 heads of lettuce a day using fluorescent light bulbs only. Obviously it’s not ideal in terms of energy consumption, but could it address the growing global food challenge? Find out more here.
One of the biggest gripes with vending machines is their energy consumption, but Coca-Cola and Fuji have addressed that by developing a machine that can operate without power for up to 16 hours a day, reducing energy use by 95%. Find out more here.
Fashion and environmental-awareness went hand-in-hand at this year’s New York Fashion Week, thanks to a smart vending machine that dispensed a limited edition designer T-shirt – made from recycled plastic fabric – in exchange for a plastic bottle. Find out more here.
Already well-established in Australia, Envirobank’s ‘reverse vending machines’ allow consumers to deposit plastics, glass and aluminium containers into machines located in public spaces, and earn points in return. These points can then be spent on all kinds of lovely treats from their Envirostore. Now that’s an incentive to recycle! Find out more here.
‘Seed bombs’ sounds like a dubious name, but you’d be doing the world a favour by detonating a few! Made of clay, compost and seeds, these little balls are designed to be thrown into barren and neglected urban areas, transforming them into colourful, natural areas. And this smart machine dispenses them like candy! Find out more here.
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1Monthly cost - Representative monthly direct debit costs based on a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas) paying in advance by direct debit, including online discount. All rates correct as of 23/08/16, but may go up or down.
2Weekly cost - Representative weekly costs based on a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas). All rates correct as of 23/08/16, but may go up or down.
3Pay Monthly Savings are based on the average estimated annual costs for new PAYM OVO customers quoted through the OVO website (based on household and/or consumption information provided by those customers), compared to their current supplier and tariff. Comparisons taken between 01/01/2016 and 11/10/16. Incl VAT. Actual savings may vary according to your current supplier or tariff, individual tariff options, household information, consumption and location.
4Pay As You Go Savings are based on the average estimated annual costs for new PAYG OVO customers quoted through the OVO website (based on household and/or consumption information provided by those customers), compared to their current supplier and tariff. Comparisons taken between 01/01/2016 and 11/10/16. Incl VAT. Actual savings may vary according to your current supplier or tariff, individual tariff options, household information, consumption and location.
We include almost twice as much renewable electricity as the national average: At least 33% of electricity in all of our tariffs comes from renewable sources. The national average, according to Ofgem as at March 2014 was 16.7%. For more information please visit this page.
33% of your electricity comes from renewable sources: 33% renewable electricity as standard as of 1st April 2015. Renewable electricity is generated from wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogas.
3% interest: Calculated at 3% per year, paid monthly based on number of days in credit and the amount left in your account after you’ve paid your bill. OVO Interest Reward is capped at 12 times the amount of the current direct debit amount and is available to customers paying by advance direct debit. Terms apply: http://www.ovoenergy.com/terms/
95% of new customers save when switching to OVO: Based on all new customer signups between 01/02/2016 and 31/07/2016
94% of surveyed customers would recommend us: OVO conducted a survey of their customers in between 1st January 2016 and 15th April 2016. Out of 15,312 customers who responded, over 94% rated OVO 6+ when asked 'how likely would you be to recommend us to a friend and family, on a scale of 1 to 10.
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