Espoo’s circular economy pilots circulate items in the immediate neighbourhood

Published: 18.8.2021 5.58Updated: 18.1.2022 8.06
A woman with a baby in her arms stands in front of a shelf.
Photo: Petja Partanen

Coreorient Oy and Yhteismaa non-profit organisation are developing alternatives to ownership, piloting housing company-specific online item lending and neighbour-to-neighbour sales service in Espoo.

The clever digital services and pursuit of an ecological lifestyle have made Facebook’s recycling groups and online sales platforms very popular. In Espoo, ways to promote peer-to-peer sales and item lending in the neighbourhood are being piloted. Sanna Kurlin, Chair of the residents’ committee of the Espoon Asunnot site in Suurpelto, opens the door to the street-level bike storage facility at her home building.

Next to the door is a white open shelf, where Harri Paloheimo, CEO of Coreorient Oy, who organised the Tavaralainaamo item lending pilot, pushes a new yoga mat for the house residents to borrow.

By the shelf, there is an A4-size note explaining how it all works. The massaging chair, Lego piece collection and other items on the shelf can be booked for personal use free of charge on the service’s website.

The pilot aims to determine how borrowing items between the residents could work in Espoon Asunnot’s rental apartments without major investments.

“This is based on trust,” says Sanna Kurlin.

Circulate goods within your building

The pilot is a continuation of Coreorient’s Liiteri.net item rental service set up in the yard of the shopping centre in Suurpelto. Since summer 2020, people have had the opportunity to rent various household items, power tools and cleaning equipment and pick them up from the white metal container around the clock.

According to Kurlin, having the item rental service in the neighbourhood has been practical.

“I washed the carpets in my home with a carpet cleaner from Liiteri, for example.”

An item lending point in the common areas of the apartment block further shortens the pick-up distance.

“It would be convenient to have the items in the building so that you don’t need a car to go get them,” says Sanna Kurlin.

The purpose of the two-month pilot is to find out how a building-specific item lending point could work. Many people have useful items at home that they could lend to the neighbours. During the pilot, items can be borrowed free of charge, but you could also do a little business with, for example, a battery tool kit you have at home.

“That is possible. We have now an opportunity to try different operating models,” says Harri Paloheimo.

Other possible uses for the item lending point are also being considered.

“This could also serve as a recycling point. If you don’t need something anymore, you can give it to someone else,” says Kurlin.

“That’s a good idea,” says Paloheimo.

Sanna Kurlin, Chair of the residents’ committee, was delighted with the Tavaralainaamo pilot in the bike storage facility. While goods are currently borrowed only from close acquaintances, a lending point in the building might promote the lending culture further. Photo: Petja Partanen

Neighbour-to-neighbour sales can generate income

Trading in second-hand goods has quickly become mainstream. According to Statistics Finland, three out of four households have bought second-hand goods at a flea market or auction during the past year. Borrowing goods is also common. According to a Centre for Consumer Society Research report, 60 per cent of consumers have received, or borrowed goods from others, and more than half have received help from their neighbours over the past year. The most commonly borrowed items include tools, building materials, cars and trailers.

Providing a digital platform for lending and neighbourly assistance activities extends the opportunities for the sharing economy beyond the circle of close acquaintances. The new platform is being tested in another Espoo circular economy pilot in Matinkylä and Niittykumpu. Yhteismaa non-profit organisation provides residents with the Naapurikauppa service, or Neighbour’s Market, where they can buy from and sell goods, products and services to each other online.

Anyone can set up their own store in Naapurikauppa. Online shopping is made safe: once the order has been placed, the payment will not be transferred until after the buyer has approved the product, rental or service. Issues related to taxation and paying wages have also been considered. Naapurikauppa can handle, for example, the reports to the Incomes Register when you hire a nanny.

“We want to encourage the peer-to-peer economy, the sharing or rental of tools and vehicles, and the sale of services in the neighbourhood,” says Tanja Jänicke, a founding member of Yhteismaa non-profit organisation.

“People possess a huge amount of goods from steam juicers to tools and various useful skills from giving haircuts to gardening. These can be turned into money or a summer job for young people.”

Importance for the economy growing

According to the Centre for Consumer Society Research, the importance of sharing for the economy is increasing. Particularly the well-off middle class seems to be enthusiastic about the sharing economy. For example, in the children’s clothing recycling groups, clothing changes hands quickly, and buying second-hand goods does not stigmatise people as poor, says the report.

“Through the pilots, we collect information about Espoo residents’ preferences and experiences about sharing economy services operating in the immediate neighbourhood,” says Circular Economy Specialist Mia Johansson from the City of Espoo.

According to Jänicke, the Naapurikauppa pilot has already in the early stages received such encouraging feedback that it is being developed into a permanent service for the whole of Espoo and the rest of Finland. Coreorient will also continue discussions with Espoon Asunnot based on the Tavaralainaamo pilot. Paloheimo hopes that the pilot will find a replicable operating model to serve all 30,000 inhabitants of Espoo’s largest landlord.

But can borrowing items between neighbours generate profitable business? The pioneering companies behind the pilots in Espoo are certain of that.

Harri Paloheimo points out that the need to manage the vast number of items in homes has created a successful rental warehouse business, for example. The next logical step will be circular economy services such as the Liiteri item rental and Yhteismaa’s Nappi Naapuri online neighbourly assistance service.

“Not all people in the world can own all the things they need. Natural resources are simply running out,” says Harri Paloheimo.

“Peer-to-peer economy will be a big business in the future,” says Tanja Jänicke.

Trading in second-hand goods is already flourishing online, but the neighbour-to-neighbour economy is a rising trend.

“There is a strong tradition of voluntary work in Finland, and neighbours help each other a lot. But you don’t have to do everything for free; you are also allowed to make money from it,” says Tanja Jänicke.

 

Try the Naapurikauppa service at https://naapurikauppa.sharetribe.com/

Read the research by the Centre for Consumer Society Research of the University of Helsinki: MEAE publications 2020:3 (in Finnish)

The Naapurikauppa and Tavaralainaamo pilots are part of the KIEPPI project (6Aika Partnership model for sustainable neighbourhoods) to promote circular and sharing economy services. Together with the companies, other development partners and residents, the City of Espoo wants to promote the sharing economy and a sustainable way of life in Espoo.

 

Inquiries

Mia Johansson, KIEPPI Specialist, City of Espoo

mia.johansson@espoo.fi, tel. 040 553 0439

 

Text and photos: Petja Partanen

Mia Johansson

Specialist040 553 0439