Extract from “Reimagining the world of (care)work: the case of Cargonomia“, Ágota Csoma and Orsolya Lazányi, 2019

The case we aim to present in this paper is a degrowth-inspired open collective called Cargonomia which operates in Budapest, Hungary as an organic food distribution point, a cargo bike centre, and an open space for community and educational activities related to degrowth, well-being, ecology and sustainable transition. The mission of the collective is twofold; on one end Cargonomia aims to increase access and knowledge about local, organic food production and sustainable mobility for citizens, and on the other it supports the creation of local, decent jobs connecting rural and urban areas by partnering with local, small scale business.

The background of this open collective is based on a cooperation between a cargo bike messenger company, Kantaa, a biodynamic farm, Zsámboki Organic Garden and low-tech design and fabrication cargo bike workshop, Cyclonomia. The result is a diverse portfolio of activities offered under the umbrella of Cargonomia. These activities are centred around a physical space that serves as the dispatching centre for bike messengers and where 50-80 vegetable boxes are distributed each week containing organic vegetables, fruits, bread and wine. These organic products and vegetable boxes can be picked up in person at the headquarters of Cargonomia or delivered by the locally produced cargo bikes within the inner districts of Budapest.

The available resources and infrastructure allow Cargonomia to develop further activities. The cargo bikes and the physical space not only serve the delivery of vegetable boxes, but Cargonomia also offers solutions for sustainable transportation for the wider community of Budapest. People can try cargo bikes or consult personnel about their usage during the numerous events organized by the open collective. It also connects people who own and those who would like to rent or try out this type of bicycles. In 2018 the community cargo bike sharing platform was launched to connect community places and citizens and to increase access of this sustainable way of transportation. Through this recent project, Cargonomia works together with other partners in all over Budapest where cargo bikes and trailers are placed and citizens can borrow them through an online platform.

The overall cooperation and the practical activities of Cargonomia support its partners in their long-term economic viability. Given existing services and infrastructure, Cargonomia acts as a tool in linking and streamlining these, with a focus on communication networks and operating space. The partners are independent in their daily operations with their own budget and individual responsibilities of offering competitively priced high quality goods and services. However, being part of Cargonomia provides greater stability and flexibility for the members than could be achieved if working individually by pooling infrastructure and human resources.

Besides supporting traditional business activities, the cooperation enables outreach activities to a wider audience. Regular events and workshops take place at Cargonomia headquarters, in the bicycle workshop, on the farm and in schools, community gardens, etc., where the group is invited for knowledge-sharing. Cargonomia also became an open space for dialogue about the importance of local food production, sustainable mobility, and transition towards a degrowth society. These dialogues contribute to the promotion of the services of the partner organizations – e.g. organic food sale – but more importantly the space becomes a place for democratic knowledge sharing.

See the Cargonomia website.

In French, the interview of Vincent Liegey, one of the founders,  by Mediapart in 2019 and podcasts on degrowth.