“The sticker is cheap and helps prevent vandalism, so it had a big impact on how our surroundings look. It is a very cost efficient way to build up Espoo neighbourhoods.” 

Get involved – design your own trashcan!

They are everywhere in the city but you only think about them when you can’t find one—a trashcan. They are an essential part of every city but seldom a pretty sight, as they are often vandalised. 

In Espoo these everyday necessities were recently reinvented, when the city's own environmental designer Niko Riepponen brought up the problem in the city’s sustainable living group. Last year the group came up with the idea of having children tune up Espoo’s trashcans. The idea evolved into collaboration between the city’s traffic sign department, schools and NGOs. 

“We designed a sticker that would cover the surface of the trash can. The sticker consists of two layers: a printed art piece and an outer surface, which protects the art and withstands chemicals—in other words it cleans up easily,” says Riepponen. 

“The sticker is cheap and helps prevent vandalism, so it had a big impact on how our surroundings look. It is a very cost efficient way to build up Espoo neighbourhoods.” 

In only one year, the group created 154 unique trash cans in collaboration with 12 schools, two NGOs and two art schools. About 1 700 individuals were involved in designing the trash cans. The designs vary from art pieces to interactive environmental educational content with QR codes and slogans. The sticker can, for example, turn the trash can into a “Trashcan dude” that says “Fill my belly with delicious trash!” 

One school designed a teaching path for parents that had themes from the history of the residential area, the Scouts, games and the Baltic Sea. Many of the designs were made by the schoolkids in true entrepreneurial spirit. 

“The kids and schools love the project. We have arranged courses for other cities in Finland, so they could adopt this approach that seems to have endless possibilities,” Riepponen says. 

Take Part and Shape your World! 

”Participative Espoo” is a developmental programme included in the city’s strategy for 2013–2017. Espoo wants its inhabitants to have a genuine possibility to have a say in what’s important to them. 

Espoo actively promotes the involvement of its inhabitants in the city’s decision-making. New methods have been taken into use to make the most of the residents’ ideas in developing municipal democracy. As a result of many engaging actions, Espoo now has inhabitants who are more satisfied in their city and their possibilities of participation than the inhabitants of Finland’s largest cities on average. 

One example of Espoo’s initiatives is how Espoo has built interaction between its technical department and school children from 2011. This Shape your world! concept brings together participatory budgeting, curriculum and co-design in a most innovative way. Since the beginning of the project, Espoo has spent over 118 000 euros on seven schoolyards and three assisted living buildings in ten different areas, engaging over 1 300 residents in the development and building of their neighbouring area. 

The results have been amazing: The areas have not suffered from vandalism, and school communities have gained from the project which brings together different age groups to design and make something together. The project also aims to foster active citizenship by offering a feeling of “I can shape my world!”