Experience: Renting DIY Tools from Library of Things

experience: library of things

As you know we recently moved house and there’s so much to do, I don’t even know where to begin some days. Well, on this occasion, I will tell you about stripping wall mural in my daughter’s room. It had a large, full wall, dark coloured mural of night-time New York City and we naturally wanted to get rid of it as it’s just not her taste and replace it with some nice wallpaper. So firstly, my MIL painted it over with white base paint for some reason, whilst we were away for a few days. She wanted to be helpful, but for replacing a wall mural – you really can’t just cover it with paint and stick the next layer of wall paper on it – especially not on thick, high-gloss paper. So I bought some wallpaper remover solution in B&Q but it only tackled the top layer of the mural. I realised I will need a wall paper remover. First, I asked around in the local Facebook group if anyone has one, so I can borrow it maybe.  No one did,  but a group member pointed me into the direction of Library of Things

experience: library of things

About Library of Things

I did hear about them vaguely, back in a year or two maybe, when they set up in Twickenham, which is one of my nearest library. The idea was born in 2014 and a 3-months experiment was set up by a group of friends and neighbours in the West Norwood Library to see if the idea works. The idea, that is saving money and the environment by borrowing things when you need them, rather than buying them. It worked, so the founding crew crowdfounded enough money for 2 shipping containers and started testing what items would people need to be stocked in the library. The word started to spread and new borrow libraries started to pop up (initially independently, later brought together under the umbrella of Library of Things).  With 16 locations in London and almost 100 UK-wide, the business model is clearly working. Library of Things is a mission-locked and ‘steward-owned’ business. 

How it works

Affordable, convenient and sustainable – reusing and sharing items instead of buying new. Library of Things kiosks stock a variety of tools and items you might not need every day, but when you need them, you might have to make a bigger purchase for something you may only need once. Instead of buying the tool, you can borrow it for the fraction of the price. Very simple. Like a book from the library: you borrow it and then return it when you said you will. 

experience: library of things

experience: library of things

Why borrow?

I wrote about this on the blog a few times. Similarly to the principles of buying second-hand, borrowing keeps something that has been already manufactured in circulation. Making borrowing just as an important pillar in circular economy as buying used stuff. It saves energy, resources, water – just to mention a few, so it’s more environmentally friendly than anything else, including buying specifically “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” newly manufactured products. For those, wanting to do things the “right way” to live more sustainable – is what I always suggest as step one. Buy second hand, borrow and make use.

What can you borrow?

A lot of things, depending on the location. There are a lot of DIY tools available like drills, sander, jigsaw, wallpaper stripper, staple gun, grinder etc. Also gardening tools and home items such as sewing machine, carpet cleaner, ice cream maker. even a party kit! In Twickenham there was even a travel buggy! Here’s the full list of items per location.

experience: library of things

My experience using the Library of Things

Went online, found out they did have a wallpaper stripper in stock and it only cost £15 for a WEEK to rent it. That’s very cheap. So I paid a joining fee of £1 and set up an account. Needed to verify my identity by submitting photos of my driving license (also can be a passport) then it was all set up. Chose a pick up date and paid for the item. Pretty easy.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, I needed a wall paper stripper, so luckily it was available in Twickenham, so went to collect it next day after dropping kids off to school as it’s quite close then.

I also thought, this should have been my first thought when I decided to strip the wall by myself. I literally knew, that the wallpaper stripper liquid will be money out of the window and it will not work on the mural. £3 wasted but also the liquid is quite toxic and of course it comes in a plastic bottle. Whilst the wall paper stripper machine only needs water and it works with the steam – totally toxin- and chemical free. Duh. Anyway, better later than never.

The Twickenham kiosk is based in a lovely little hub, with co-working space, cafe and meeting space. Even the toilet had Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, eco-friendly cleaning products and plastic free tampons! (Tampons ET AL!!!)

So, the process is simple, walk in, add booking code on a screen, take item out of the locker, walk away. A week later repeat by taking the item back in a cleaned condition, in the same cotton bag. Super simple.

experience: library of things

The impact

Like I mentioned, borrowing is truly one of the most sustainable way of acquiring stuff for short term use. Especially, when it comes to electricals. Electric waste is a huge problem worldwide and compared to the rest of the world – the UK is really prominent in producing electric waste. The UK is the second biggest producer of electrical waste in the world (take a guess which country is the first haha) and people of the UK buy 1.7 million brand new electrical products every single year. I’ve talked about this impact in this post about recycling our electricals. Electrical waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the UK and globally. In the UK we are throwing away 155,000 tonnes of small electricals per year and have 527 million unused or broken items sitting somewhere at home, partly because we don’t know what to do with them. However, also fully functioning, but unwanted tech also often ends up in landfill because it’s not worth the hassle to sell them or gift them away. 

The Library of Things main mission is to prevent this. And also to create a like-minded community. As for the impact let numbers from their 2023 impact report speak about 2022-23:

  • 10.065 things borrowed (up by over 6k from previous year)
  • 6.982 people borrowing (up by over 4k from the year before)
  • 64 tonnes of waste prevented (up by 40 tonnes from last year)
  • 124 tonnes of CO2 saved (also up, by 80 tonnes)
  • £326.000 saved by borrowers (up by £214k from the year before)

I mean, this is just amazing, isn’t it? The numbers are truly phenomenal! 

What would you want to borrow instead of buying?

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