Thursday, July 9, 2015

If someone were to set up a telephone booth sized box on your street filled with unwanted items — such as books, toys and small knick knacks, perhaps — and then topped it off with a “Free” sign, what do you think would happen?

If Switzerland is any indication, passersby turned salvagers and recyclers would appear out of nowhere, sifting their way through other people’s unwanted discards, thinking up ways to put their newfound discoveries to good (re)use. Some would even add their own unwanted items to the box.

Neighborhood exchange boxes have helped Geneva, Switzerland reuse 32 tons of goods thus far thanks to a program called BOÎTES D’ÉCHANGE ENTRE VOISINS–A box for exchange between neighbors. But can it work in other cities?

Started in 2011, people leave items that they do not want, and take items that they do want. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

The environmental benefits of increasing reuse are obvious, but from the project creator’s perspective, there’s more to the Neighbourhood Exchange Box program than just going green.

It’s also part urban art and part social experiment, providers of unusual opportunities to create social and cultural links between people in a neighborhood.

The program page explains:

Neighbourhood Exchange Box is a project which explores reciprocity between neighbours. It brings a new impulse into the neighbourhood and a sense of belonging and involvement to the local community by prompting opportunities of exchange and contact.

Behind it all is Happy City Lab, founded by Dan Acher, an “artivist” from Geneva focused on creating happy cities.

Most of us know by now that reducing and reusing are part of the answer to what our planet needs more of, so instead the program toils over questions like:

Nowadays, whilst most of our interactions depend on money, is it still possible to establish a completely disinterested form of exchange, without even knowing who the beneficiary is? Is it possible to extend such a project to the scale of a whole town? That of a region? A country? Further?

Content Courtecy :enn