mini personal libraries

Have you ever seen one of those cute mini libraries? We are often invited to take a book and leave a book, it’s a sweet notion and a friendly gesture, but maybe its because I work in an actual library that something about them just rubs me the wrong way. Strange because I love sharing ideas and this seems like a great way of doing it.

Here’s why I don’t like them:

I Have yet to see one with a good book on offer. Maybe I would like them more if I enjoyed sci-fi series and cheap airport novels. But I don’t. You see, no one puts their favorite books on a dusty shelf for somebody else to take home, because that’s the book they grab when they need comfort, reassurance or a laugh. I am seriously considering giving my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to one of these mini libraries with a hand written review on it. because:

mini library

A mini library in an Ice cream shop (IJssalon Vorst) in Utrecht.

There is never any information on why the books in there are worth reading. I am not going to read a self help book called How to be a creative entrepreneur in a corporate world. if nobody tells me why it’s worth the read. It’s too random.

It feels like attention seeking. Especially in shops and bars. Again the idea is not bad When you buy an ice cream you can take a look and grab a book if one appeals to you, especially if you’re in a queue deciding which flavours you want. But who is going to leave home and think “Hmm let’s go get an ice cream….”Wait! I need to take a book for the mini library”?

In my opinion you are better off getting a library card and using it. But of course I would say that wouldn’t I?

And It also goes the other way: I’m not sure I agree with Libraries which have coffee shops attached. People can take their borrowed books to a coffee place nearby, Or at least they can in Utrecht, where every other shop sells some kind of hot beverage. And If you do want to make your books available to others free of charge there are other options open to you. And now that I’ve ranted on about these mini libraries I’ll have to do a post about that soon.


Giving away things online through Marktplaats

A car pulled up and a husband and wife appeared from within. They were here to pick up the cupboard I had offered on

I had no use for this cupboard any more which was just holding clutter and giving me extra surface area to clean. These people felt they needed it more than I did and I was happy to give it away.

Giving away this cupboard made me feel great. It freed up space in the room and in my mind.

Plus it didn’t go to waste. I could have asked for some money as well, but I felt that I had had my money’s worth from the time I used this cupboard.

If you think about it most things you own, even the big items like kitchens and beds are just as temporary as the small things like clothes. You need to figure out how long you are going to use them and decide how much money you wish to spend for the time that you have them.

Then, once they break or need replacing think of how someone else might use them or how it can be put to another use and give them away.

What the fiets!

Most of us don’t really care for our bicycles.

We take it to the shop to patch a flat and for other basic repairs. And when it breaks down completely we buy a ‘new’ one off a junkie for next to nothing.

Unbelievably lazy.

What the Fiets?, Tucked away in a small corner of the Uithof are a group of brave volunteers who patiently teach people how to repair their own bikes.  Little by little you get to know your steel horse. You save money on bike repairs. You save time because your bike is not in the shop. You learn self sufficiency, application. and sustainability.


My humble membership card

It’s a great way students are sharing knowledge and skill at the University away from the studies themselves.

And the funny thing is it’s mostly foreign students coming in getting to grips with the whole Dutch cycling culture not Dutch people who take cycling for granted, which is such a shame.

Keep up the good work Fietsers, your doing a good job.

Bag and buy: A zero waste alternative around the corner

A shop is opening in the Twijnstraat where everything is sold without packaging. Like Robuust in Antwerp or Original Unverpackt in Berlin. You take your own pots, jars and bags and only pay for the amount you dispense for yourself. I’m very interested to see if I am going to use this shop or not. It could be a hotbed for hippies, a hipster haven or a genuine challenge to the supermarket. Which is important because much of the packaging in supermarkets is plastic unnecessary and wasteful.

It could look something like this. The alternative food co-op in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

I do want to use this shop, but is it going to be easier than just going to the supermarket which is a short walk away? And is it going to cost more or less money than what I normally spend?

I sent the shop’s owners an email in response to their request for male locals to take part in a questionnaire about what the locals want or expect from the shop. But I was politely told too many others had already requested to take part. This suggests to me that us locals are a set of hipsters and hippies.

Or maybe, and I rather hope that this may be the case: Normals actually want to cause less waste and shop more sustainably.

I don’t intend to live a zero waste life like Bea Johnson or Lauren Singer. But these people do show that with a few minor changes producing much less waste is possible and the bag and buy around the corner could go a long way to a greener life in the neighbourhood.

Repair cafe

I go to a repair cafe once a month at the university to help people repair things which may be broken but can be fixed in stead of replaced.

It may sound like a strange waste of time. But its actually a fun way to potter around with other people’s stuff. And let’s face it they are probably going to throw that stuff out anyway.

Repairing say, an electric razor just by cleaning it thoroughly, or sewing a torn piece of clothing is so easy it’s ridiculous and makes you realize how many things aren’t really broken but merely in need of some love.

People come in and they are sceptical at first, but they leave happy and with a little egg on their face for wanting to buy new.

And even if we can’t repair what comes in we can say that hey, we’re no miracle workers and everyone laughs.

Seriously though the fact is that things are being made to break quickly and are quite hard to easily repair if you don’t know how.

At the repair café people come together to explore what can be done. And it gives these people a good feeling and a sense of community. It’s not earth shattering and it won’t shrink the rubbish dumps in a hurry, but every little bit helps.

You can come along too if you want. Every last Friday of the month.

what to do with too much houmus

I had made a big batch of houmus, too much to finish on my own so I froze the rest for a later time. humous

That time was last week when I had friends over for lunch. I thought “Great, they can finish my houmus.”, but they only scratched the surface of the bowl. It wasn’t that much to begin with and most of them were vegetarians.

I don’t know what happened, I can’t explain it. What was I going to do?

I decided to suck it up and offer it to my neighbourhood on Thuisafgehaald. As I was going through the process of uploading the dish I did get warned that as this was my first time the chances were slim that somebody would take the offer. And ‘they’ were right. It was the sound of crickets all day and now I have quite a lot of houmus to get through before it goes off. This has become a race against time. Time and mold. It is now my lunch for three days. to be eaten with vegetables and pita bread.

The rooftop garden is for sharing

I went to the Daktuin this week which has opened again. I went there last year and I was very impressed then. This year it’s bigger and better. with a wider variety of things to do and more visitors, more supporters and more plants. They do a lot for making the university more sustainable and the people who set this up are a very inclusive bunch.

It was a little gloomy when I was up there and not very warm, which may explain the relative quiet for a weekday lunch time. But I did see other people and they were chatting to each other, probably about sustainability or other world issues.


A speaker was due to appear at 13:00 and as I sat there reading a book from 13:00 to 13:15 nobody appeared. I had to leave because I had a meeting to go to later and wondered what went wrong.

The speaker did speak. I saw a picture of him doing it on Instagram later. I guess it’s a laid back kind of place.

The speaker incidentally was a vegan philosopher. I came across an interesting talk he did about why people should all be vegans. Take a look if you have an hour and a half left somewhere. The part about Jeremy Bentham and the capacity to suffer is quite interesting.

I will definitely go up on the roof again while it’s still open. But next time I’ll plan it a little better.