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Mailbox Stickers Offer An Analog View Of Your Neighborhood’s Sharing Economy

Sometimes the simplest idea is the best.

Although the Internet has done a lot for the sharing economy, it’s not essential in order for people to share. Most sharing takes place at a local level anyway. So, knowing who has a car or power-drill available in, say, Manitoba isn’t that useful if you live in Connecticut. What you really want to know is who has shareable stuff down the street.

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In Switzerland, a growing number of people are eschewing the hi-tech in favor a few smartly designed stickers. Designed to be placed on people’s mailboxes, they let you display what you have to offer to neighbors–saws, rakes, stepladders–without ever booting up an iPad.


The stickers come from a work collective in Zurich, called Meteor. The four-member group is building a sharing community called Pumpipumpe. “These are very simple, everyday objects. So it’s really annoying to make a photo, make an account, and upload the things [to the Internet],” says group member Lisa Maria Ochsenbein. “It’s much easier to just have stickers on a mailbox so people around you can see. I think that’s where it really works, on a very local basis.”

Meteor has mailed out sticker packets to 6,000-plus people so far, with many of those requesting more than one set. They’re available for free in Switzerland or Germany, but cost 4 euros ($5.30) elsewhere. Such has been the demand that Ochsenbein is a little worried about fulfilling all the orders. The project is nonprofit and depends on donations.


Like many people who’ve started sharing ventures what most pleases Ochsenbein is that it encourages human contact. “Interactions with your neighbors are quite rare normally,” she says. “We’re so connected with people around the world on Facebook, but our network in the real world, in the city, is really bad. It’s our goal to make more of the potential of the network that is there.”

“Pumpipumpe” is a play on words. In Swiss-German, “Pumpi” means pump, like a bike pump. “Pumpe” means both to pump and to share. It’s an elegant name for a simple, effective project.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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