Sunday, 9 August 2015

Interview with Liselotte by Dörte Giebel

Last week I was interviewed by Dörte Giebel. The interview was posted here: (part 1) and here (part 2). Below is the full interview. Thank you Dörte, for these awesome questions!

1) How old are you and where did you grow up?
I am 33 and grew up in Middelburg, the Netherlands. I lived there until I was about 20 years old. Around that time I started to travel more and subsequently I lived in a few different countries. At the moment I am living in Norway and I have no intention of moving back to the Netherlands in the future. The overpopulation, the lack of wildlife, the destruction of nature, the excessive pollution and the fact that only 12% of the country is dedicated to nature, make it a very unappealing place for me. And although these issues are global, the effects seem to be more apparent in the Netherlands than in most other countries I have visited or lived in. Yet that does make the Netherlands a great reminder of the importance of awareness. It helps to keep me motivated to do my part to preserve what is left of our beautiful earth.

Me and my horse Arizona

2) You introduce yourself as "working as a PhD Candidate in Environmental Psychology at NTNU in Trondheim (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). The topic is Climate Change and Art and explores ways in which art can promote pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes." Do you feel like an artist yourself?
I believe that everyone is an artist to some degree. I don’t really believe that art should possess certain elusive qualities to be called art. I think if you have a message and you want to challenge certain concepts, which may encourage people to reflect on what they are doing or on how the world works, then that is what is at the core of ‘art’. The manner in which you choose to convey that message will then be the determinant of whether or not it will be perceived as art by others. But to me, art is mostly about the message; it is about encouraging critical reflection and challenging ‘the way things are’. It is about looking at the world from a new perspective; through a different lens. That is also the main focus of my blog; to challenge or at least question certain ideas that seem to be widely recognized as normal, or even ‘the norm’; if not through our attitudes and beliefs, then at least through our collective actions.
One of my paintings :-)

3) Is blogging about your challenges and adventures a special form of art?
According to my own definition of art, my blog would indeed classify as a special form of art, although I know that many artists (and non-artists) would probably disagree with me. But to me, the purpose of the blog is more important than its definition.
The main purposes of the blog are (in no particular order): 1. To remind myself daily of the things that are important to me; so I use it as a self-motivator. 2. To uncover my truth and find ways to live my truth within society as it is right now. 3. To be a role model to others and (hopefully) inspire others to stand up for what they believe in and to live their truth. 4. To question things that society may consider ‘normal’ and to show alternative ways of living. 5. To create an online network or community of like-minded people where we can exchange ideas about doing things differently, and where we can support and encourage each other along the way.

4) On your About-page you write "However, society as we know it (and as we have created it) provides little time and opportunity for connecting and tuning in with the earth. This is why I feel that many people, including myself until recently, have lost their way." How would you describe this sense of being lost? 
At many times in my life I have felt uneasy about certain things, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was or what I could do about it. For example, the concept of ‘work’ bothers me, but not the idea of contribution. I see contribution as a basic human need, but the way this idea has been translated into society does not always seem helpful. And yet, I didn’t see a way out until recently (although I still have a job now, but I see now that there are other ways). I didn’t know what I could do about it or how I could do things differently. So in that sense, I was lost. And that resulted in that I unwillingly accepted and even contributed to the status quo, simply because I didn’t know another way.
I also always felt that the world was too crowded with too many people and not enough room for nature, other animals and plants. But I did not know what to do about it, other than making the decision not to have any children of my own. I did have a dream to build an ecohome one day with a vegetable garden, where I could live a self-sustainable lifestyle. But I was buying into the belief that I couldn’t do it right away; I felt like I needed a lot of money to be able to do that. I needed money before I could make a real difference. And even though I was doing things like saving water by having shorter showers and eating a mostly plant-based diet, it didn’t feel like I was doing enough. It didn’t feel like I was contributing anything on a larger scale, beyond myself. At least an ecohome would be something more permanent. It could change the structure of society. People could live there after me. Anything else I did seemed fleeting; more like treating the symptoms instead of fixing the structural causes. I felt like I could do so much more, but I didn’t know what it was or where to start.

Three happy stray dogs in Cuba that I wanted to adopt

5) How did this state of being affect your motivation?
That uneasy feeling (knowing I could do more but not knowing what to do) kept me very unmotivated to actually do much for the environment for a long time, even though I was convinced that something should be done! But my thought processes were very constricting most of the time. “There is nothing I can do”. “They make it impossible”. “It is too difficult”. “Why would I make such an effort for only small results if no one else seems to be doing anything anyway? What is the point?” This is how it felt at times. It felt impossible to do anything meaningful and the world seemed to be heading for total destruction and chaos. And it seemed there was nothing I could do about it.

6) Did something special happen in your life to shift your perception?
The turning point for me came when I learned about dumpster diving. It showed me how easy it was to make a big difference in a very short time: Not only did it have immediate positive effects on the environment (preventing good quality food from ending up in landfills) and on my own life (saving a lot of money), but also on the lives of others, because I could share my finds with them. I suddenly felt like the most generous person in the world. Suddenly, my life was no longer just about me: it was about truly caring for others and truly caring for the earth. My life had a clear purpose and I knew what to do to make a big difference that was positive on all levels. My capacity for empathy expanded and I felt more alive than I had felt for a long time.
Caring for the environment no longer felt restricting or pointless; it became meaningful, fun and rewarding. I felt expanded and inspired; which fueled the motivation to keep going but also to share this experience with others, who were perhaps also feeling held back at times by a strong sense of defeat or hopelessness.
One of my biggest finds behind a store in the Netherlands

Of course there are still moments when I feel hopeless and overwhelmed by all the sadness in the world. But I always remind myself at those times that whether or not humans will evolve beyond their current state as a species is not the point. I do not define my success in terms of getting other people to think like me. Success for me is living authentically. I want to do what is right for me, and stand up for what I believe in. This is also the only thing I would like to encourage and inspire in others: To do what matters to you, without letting society (or any person) get in your way! So whatever it is that is important to you, do it. Don’t wait for society’s approval.

7) Did your experiences as a psychologist / therapist over the last ten years influence your view or your decisions?
It certainly gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and about other people. But I could never find a lasting sense of fulfillment from my work as a therapist. I always felt like I was just scratching the surface, treating the symptoms and yet never managing to get to the root cause of problems. At times I even felt like I had to come up with strategies for people just to make their lives ‘more manageable’, while the way we are expected to live our lives is completely unnatural. No wonder that so many people struggle.
We have to work almost every day, often doing jobs we would not necessarily choose or enjoy (but we all have to do ‘something’). We have to earn a lot of money in our lifetime just so that we can have a place to live and get fed (so apparently these are not basic human rights). We are taught to look outside ourselves for security, approval, love and acceptance, for the sake of our survival. In fact, most of us are made into very dependent creatures. After all, have you learned to survive in the wilderness? We never really learn to look after ourselves. Why is that, and why do we accept this as normal?
What if you could learn to survive in the wilderness and find a way to live a fulfilling, meaningful life, without chasing the illusions of modern societies… No job, no unnecessary possessions… Would you be willing to give up the comforts and securities you think you have now, in exchange for lasting freedom? I know I would, in a heartbeat.
This was my office when I was working as a psychologist

8) What does "to claim back my life" mean to you exactly? Can you describe that a little bit more in detail?
It means making my own decisions and not the decisions that are silently expected of me. But it also means becoming more and more independent; finding out how to live as self-sufficiently as possible. This means learning about all areas of life: what to eat to stay healthy, how to catch and filter rainwater, how to build a shelter, how to grow food, which wild plants are edible, and so on.

9) How did you get started with your moneyless lifestyle and how did the food donations come about? Did you start up your own charity group or did they already exist? And do they have a website?
I started my moneyless challenge after I had already been diving fairly regularly in Norway for several months. At the start of the challenge I went dumpster diving almost every night, and often at more than one store (I had about 2-3 favorites). I was only taking food home for myself at the time, and sometimes for a few other people as well. It was compelling and exciting to go every night because I never knew what I was going to find, plus I was a little worried that I would ‘run out’ of certain things, like laundry detergent and cleaning products; these are normally a bit harder to find. But this worry turned out to be unfounded, because after a few months of diving almost daily, I had so much stock of non-food products (such as cleaning products and soaps) and food products with a relatively longer shelf life (such as cooking oils and herbs) that they would probably last me at least a year. Then I felt secure enough to dive less often.
But the vast amounts of food I had found every time also had an impact on me. It was hard to let so much good food go to waste each day, as I knew that it would be there, but I also knew I could never eat it all by myself. So I started to think about ways to redistribute the food to other people. And in the process I learned about Folkekjøkken, an organization that was already doing something similar, but they were picking up food directly from the shops (they have a Facebook page here: They used the food to cook for the community on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and sometimes also for special events. Anyone could join in and eat for free. Any leftover food was donated to the Free Fridge (a fridge accessible to anyone to take as much food as they needed).
So I decided to help out and pick up food three times a week for one of the cookings (on Saturdays). But after a while these cookings got cancelled due to a lack of committed volunteers in the weekends and I had to find other ways to donate the food. So I started giving food away on a local website and before I knew it I had quite a few contacts (mostly single moms and immigrant families) that I could donate the food to. These people were having a very tough time to make ends meet and they told me the free food really helped them get by. It made me feel so grateful to be a part of this and to be able to make such a big difference in these people’s lives.
In addition to donating to families in need directly, we also installed two more Free Fridges around Trondheim, where we can deliver any excess food. One of the free fridges is my responsibility now, so I make sure to fill it up regularly.
The Free Fridge at NTNU Dragvoll after a big delivery

10) How does the idea of the free fridges work? How many people know and use this already? Are there private people donating food as well or “only” your organization?
The free fridges have their own Facebook page and are set up in public buildings across the city. Anyone is allowed to donate food there and anyone is allowed to take what they need. Whenever a big delivery is made, a photo of the content of the fridge is posted on the appropriate Facebook page so that people know when to go and what they can find. People find out about it through word of mouth and through likes and shares of others on Facebook.
Here are their respective websites: (this is the fridge I manage)

11) I am a bit curious about your daily life. Maybe you can describe a "normal" week, your Mondays, your weekends: For example: How many hours (per day / per week / per month) you spend with Dumpster Diving and organizing your moneyless life? In a way it is a kind of "work", isn't it? The time a farmer spends in growing his own food is the time others have to work to gain the money to buy the food - and this time you invest to "save" the food. :-)
My weeks are pretty busy :-) I pick up food at two shops every day now, even on most Sundays. I go by bike, because I don’t have a car. I use a bike trailer to transport all the food. Normally I pick up around 40 kilos of food a day, but sometimes up to 100 kilos. A trip to the shops takes about an hour or up to three hours if they have a lot and I have to do several rounds. Now that it is summer, there is especially a lot to pick up, probably because a lot of people are on holiday. One week I biked 150 kilometers just for food pickups, transporting at least 240 kilos of food (but probably much more)!
The food pickups and the distribution of the food take up most of my evenings, which means that I don’t have much time or energy to go dumpster diving nowadays. Only on Sundays I sometimes get a day off when the shop doesn’t have anything that day. On most weeks, I still manage to dive once or twice a week though.
And of course during the day I work on my PhD, although I do consider the blog and the diving/donating to be a part of this as well, considering the topic of my PhD. I am even hoping to create a research project around this at some stage in the future.
Even though I don’t have much free time, I find that being able to give so much good quality food away to people who really need it and helping the environment in the process, is a very rewarding experience. It always makes me feel incredibly grateful that I can see firsthand how my actions enrich people’s lives. This is definitely the fuel that keeps me going.
Me getting back from a pick-up on a rainy day

12) And what some of my blog readers might ask (not me actually :-) ): How do you spend time with friends or family without spending money? No more cinema, pubs or concerts? And if so, do you miss anything? 
Luckily, I have never been that interested in concerts, pubs or the cinema, so I don’t really miss anything. I prefer an interesting conversation with a friend, going for walks in nature, or just spending time together in any place, no matter where or what the activity is. To me, the connection is more important than the activity. What also helps is that I don’t drink alcohol (or use any other substances), so that makes my moneyless project a lot easier too.
So I can’t think of anything I miss… On the contrary: I have felt richer and life has seemed much more abundant since I went moneyless. The biggest bonus has been living from gratitude. With money out of my life, I have been focusing on much more valuable things. I have become more creative in how I give to others, including to my friends and family. This has also made me more thoughtful and aware of their likes and needs. And when I see free stuff being advertised or find something special in a dumpster that any of my friends would enjoy, I pick it up for them. The smiles and joy it brings are truly heart-warming.
At Lamington National Park

13) I guess that you already found like-minded people in Trondheim, right? Is there a growing community of Dumpster Divers in Trondheim (or in other cities of Norway) or do you always dive alone? 
Yes, there are many divers in Trondheim; more than in The Netherlands, where I first started diving. There is even a diving community for Trondheim on Facebook and there are many people who dive on a regular basis. But this doesn’t mean that all the food necessarily gets rescued. Even when I used to dive daily, I rarely encountered any other divers. I think I only met other divers on 5-10 occasions (in about 3 months of daily diving). So even with many active divers, there was still a lot of food that never got saved.
Because I am diving very often, I prefer to dive alone or with just one other person. This is because I don’t want to draw too much attention to the diving, because people could get upset and complain to the store, and the store managers then may decide to lock the dumpster. That would not be the first time this happens; many of the dumpsters here are locked. I guess another reason is that some people make a mess, they are very noisy when they are diving, or they dive during opening hours. Those are definitely some things to avoid if possible.

14) Do you see or believe in a trend or even in a movement in Norway (in Europe, in the world) concerning minimalism, simple life and sustainability that is growing? 
Yes! I have noticed a growing interest around the world in self-sustainable living and tiny homes. Also, more people seem to want to simplify their lives, even though they may not know where to start. But I think a lot of people are starting to realize that money isn’t the be-all and end-all of life and that there is a lot more to life than just having a job and buying a house. Life has a lot more to offer in terms of meaning and purpose.
Of course these movements have always existed and were even once the norm, but I do believe that many people are starting to get tired of the way society works now. There seems to be a ‘collective burnout’ happening, where people are no longer willing or able to do their job, so that they have to re-prioritize their life goals. And many people are waking up to the fact that having wealth or money as a top priority means selling your life away and ‘saving it for later’, only to discover there is no later. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want to have any regrets when my life is about to end. So my priority is doing what matters now. And what matters to me now is being truly alive; being conscious, being present and being aware of the choices and contributions that I make. I want to contribute to a happy, healthy earth and to living in harmony and balance with other creatures as much as possible, in everything I do. And I know that I am still learning. It is a continuous process of uncovering blind spots. Layer, after layer and step by step. But I have come a long way already and will continue to find new ways of living an even more earth-friendly lifestyle..

15) What is a helpful first step towards a sustainable change in one’s life? Do you have a special tip for someone who wants to make such changes in his / her life but feels captured in his / her circumstances?
If you feel inspired to make changes, start today! Don’t wait until some future date, because the future never comes. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow. The only time to change is now. And it is possible to make some changes today!
Just start small. Write down some things you would like to change and brainstorm ways to make it fun and rewarding for yourself. Make it exciting. Choose something that doesn’t make you feel restricted, but enriches your life in some way (and/or the lives of others). This is why dumpster diving was such a great place for me to start: it did not involve ‘giving something up’. Instead, I gained a lot (lots of good food and discovering the joy of giving!). I felt like the most generous person alive! Giving away expensive cakes, pies, bread and other baked goods. Expensive types of meat, cheese and delicious vegetables. All kinds of stuff. It brought me a lot of joy. So find something that you might enjoy, and take a friend with you at first if it seems scary. That makes it a lot easier and more fun. I wrote a guide on dumpster diving that might help you get started, if you want to try it out (see
Seven cakes / pies and some bread.
This is only a fraction of what was thrown out that day (behind a store in the Netherlands)

And if you decide you also want to donate food, always practice food safety and donate responsibly. That means only taking meat and dairy products when they are still cold, storing them in the fridge as soon as possible and until they get picked up. And always give the person who picks up the food at least the following information:
1.       Where the food came from
2.       In what condition you found it and how you have stored it so far
3.       Tell them to smell and check the food for safety after opening the package
4.       Tell them consumption is at their own risk, because the food may be expired
5.       When in doubt, they should throw it away.
If you don’t know that much about food safety or how to check whether food is still edible, then it definitely helps to know a few people who know more. They can help you get started. And of course, the internet can also provide a lot of information. After experimenting with foods for a while, you get a feel for when foods are still edible and when they are not.
If you don’t really want to start with dumpster diving, but rather with something else, like saving water or eating less meat, just treat it as a challenge first! This really helps to get motivated. First you become aware of your current habits, and then you set yourself a goal. For example: no meat for 6 weeks. It is a fun way to test yourself! If you make it challenging enough, you will see that you will get creative very quickly in finding solutions to things you previously saw as ‘obstacles’.
Swimming in natural water sources is a great way to keep clean without showering

16) What's next? What comes after your PhD?
I have always been drawn to the nomad lifestyle, so I would love to experience life like that for a while, and just travel the world in a very basic way. For example by doing a ‘moneyless’ world tour, perhaps on horseback or walking, where I find places to stay in exchange for doing some work.  Many years ago, I had the plan to travel to Santiago de Compostela on horseback, just for the experience, while enjoying the journey. I would still really like to do that. But I would have to come up with a better plan first; including something I can do along the way to benefit others and benefit the earth. Any ideas are very welcome! :-)
Visiting the beach in the Netherlands with a friend's horse

I also still have the dream of building an off-the-grid ecohome. So after I complete my PhD, I would love to purchase some land in a country with a mild climate, where I am allowed to build my own house and preferably don’t pay any land tax (which I think is a strange concept anyway).
In the future, I would also like to continue to inspire others and be a resource for people who want to simplify their lives and rearrange their priorities in life, perhaps as a coach or trainer. Another exciting plan that I would like to develop further is to lead retreats that guide people back to the core of their being. I would like to start doing that soon if I find the time.
And of course the blog will also continue to exist, even after I get my PhD. I will update it regularly with tips, new ideas or information about what is coming next.

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