Kingston Library’s Climate Smart Pledge

As my 100th post I thought I’d share something that makes me smile every time I think about it.

Planning to change for the better is a wonderful thing for an organization. A thoughtful progression towards a common goal happens only with leadership and planning.

I am very please to present the Kingston Library’s Climate Smart Pledge to you.

While only peripherally involved in its creation as a consultant, I have watched this library strive to be the best it can be for its community for years. The library board took note when their city signed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Community Pledge. They saw an opportunity to pursue their own internal goals while supporting their local government’s adoption of similar goals.

A committee of the board took the DEC’s pledge and used it as a template for their own pledge. Creating a document that became board approved, serving as guidance for the library’s administration and future boards to abide by.

The library’s pledge addresses operations, facility issues and programs and includes an acknowledgement that adaptive change must be a component to allow for flexibility in assessing and implementing cost effective options.

What I love so much about this library is that they are already actively implementing projects that show they are serious. They recently secured a New York State Construction Aid grant to re-do their parking lot to mitigate storm water run-off, a significant community-wide identified issue given the urban landscape the library is located in.

A sustainable library is one that understands community priorities and reflects them throughout their organization – from governance, to collection development and programming to facility priorities. Bravo to the Kingston Library and its board and staff. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

 

Buildings are for People

Earlier this week I was at a library presenting a workshop for trustees (not a Greening Your Library session but a very fun Advocacy Boot Camp) in a beautiful community room overlooking Lake Mahopac. As we wrapped up and started to pack up our flip charts, laptop and data projector the next group who had reserved the space – an outside community group – was trickling in and setting up – what a popular place! As we overlapped in this space I overheard a snippet of a conversation that went a little like this:

“Our building is [stupid]. Can you believe the AC (air conditioning) came on today? It was like 3 degrees outside at lunch time! It’s controlled by a computer so we put gel ice packs on the thermostats to trick it and made the heat come on.”

I stopped in my tracks and thought, “She’s right, that is [stupid].” Everyone is losing out. The staff are unhappy and distracted (how long did it take them to come up with the ice pack trick?) which probably shows in their work and customer service habits. The building is confused and it’s systems are not optimized which probably means it costs more to heat and cool the building and increases the likelihood that the equipment will wear out sooner. The potential for damaging the building (what if that ice pack leaks and shorts out the thermostat?) increases when staff start to jerry-rig its systems. All of this adds up to money. Loss of productivity, building repairs, increase oil/gas use, increase electricity use…

Buildings are for people. Your facility operations should take this into account. From whether or not the environmental controls meet the needs of the people in the space to the cleaning products used – we have to find the balance between human comfort, pricing of products, utility costs and the staff time devoted to maintaining the buildings.

In one of my courses for my Sustainable Building Advisor certification a classmate of mine who previously had been a facility manager for a local college shared that in his tenure there the most frequent complaints from the faculty were temperature complaints, too hot in the classroom or too cold. He also said it was more psychological than related to physiology; which he “scientifically tested” by reporting back to complainants that he had made changes to the settings at their request when he really had not. He said 9 times out of 10 they were satisfied when he had actually not made a change at all.

I’ve found that the best facility operations managers are good listeners. They never discount a persons complaint without fully hearing them out, expressing that they will check into the issue and reporting back on actions (or phantom actions) taken to address the issue. Even if it is a phantom temperature change, if the employee is satisfied… great!

In some cases, hopefully not yours, there seems to be a significant disconnect between building occupants (library staff and patrons), building maintenance, and building management. Just as we all get together to identify priorities for services for the community we should also understand the purpose of our library buildings – they are here to serve just as we are.

This dialogue can help optimize your building, your staff and your budget.

Building management is a science unto itself however library directors do have a responsibility to manage all aspects of the library organization. Your building can impact staff productivity and morale and send an unspoken message to patrons. One of my professors in library school once said, “A building in visible disrepair sends an outward message of neglect – will the service inside be much better?”

I guess my point after these ramblings is: Aligning our service priorities with our facility priorities could be a bigger personnel, budgetary and public relations factor than you may think. Food for thought…

Public Libraries & Local Governments

This publication is a statement on the significant role of public libraries in achieving local sustainability.

Last week the Urban Libraries Council released “Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities“:

“This report demonstrates how public libraries help local governments achieve sustainability goals in each of the three triple bottom line components* and is intended to both celebrate successes to date and provide a roadmap forĀ  partnerships that are built to last.”

This publication is a call to action for public libraries around the country to be talking to their local municipalities about planning for sustainability. It won’t happen without planning. Many municipalities are taking the lead, particularly in urban areas. They may or may not think to include the library in their plans. Make sure your library is “at the table” for these discussions and wholeheartedly buys in, there is nothing to lose and much to gain. This publication gives you the talking points you need to begin to convince municipal leaders that libraries are essential to a sustainability initiative.

Maybe your municipality has not started to plan a sustainable future for your community yet, the library could take the lead or start the discussion!

*

  • Economic Vitality
  • Environmental Quality
  • Social Equity

Green Team Meeting #3

Today’s Green Team meeting at MHLS was a little bittersweet.

I’ll start with the sweet, there was lots of it!
1) We reviewed the content for the new staff web page that will orient staff to what we did with their 300+ ideas they submitted as part of the “MHLS Goes Green” Initiative we launched earlier this year.

  • I noticed a bunch of suggestions were for things we already do so I found a gentle way to convey this and coupled that with a list of short term and long term items we’re acting on that people suggested. These are things that take more research or a bucket load, or even handful, of cash that we just don’t have right now. (Thanks NYS Budget.)
  • Summarized the “Recycling Rules” for the building so there’s one central place to double check if it’s ok to recycle paper with staples (it is).
  • A “Demystification of Myths” Q&A for things we’ve heard that people misunderstand – whether it saves more energy to turn off an office light for an hour or leave it on (turn it off); do we really recycle paper or does it just go in the dumpster (we really recycle it!); why we don’t use vinegar and baking soda to clean; and an explanation of how power is still being used even when things are “turned off” to encourage smart strip usage.
  • Two “personal responsibility” tip lists – the first on paper consumption, what they can do personally to reduce, reuse and recycle paper the second, their top 10 suggestions for conserving energy.

I’ll post the staff page once I finish so you can see what I’m talking about.

2)We agreed on small signs that can go in various spots around the building to reinforce the info on the tip sheets for conserving energy and paper. They will all be branded with the same logo, a green leafy thing with the words “MHLS Goes Green” so they are easily recognizable and to help promote to our members and trustees that we’ve done a coordinated conservation effort. Signs will go on the copy machines to remind people to double side copies, near light switches to remind people to shut off lights as they leave for a meeting or for the day, etc.

3) We planned a staff education event with two parts, classroom time to go over the conservation tip sheets / recycling rules and a walk-thru of the building so everyone can learn how to “use” the building together. We’re planning to integrate opening and shut down procedures for security along with the conservation and recycling rules to help everyone get on the same page. We decided on 4 offerings, max of 6 people in each session to get through it in an hour or less. Our staff is super friendly and likes to chat and joke around when they get together so we figured 6 would be easiest to keep focused!

So the not-so-sweet part? We had a frank discussion about whether or not we could pledge ourselves to the Sustainable Hudson Valley’s 10% Challenge: to reduce our fossil fuel usage and to educate 10% of our constituents about energy efficiency options. While I know for sure we could slam dunk the education challenge the group came to the disappointing conclusion that we could not meet the 10% reduction in fossil fuel usage in the next year.

We’ve probably met the 10% challenge in past years (weatherization, turning down thermostats, water heater, wrapping the water heater) but have plateaued to some degree. At the moment, we are stymied by our budget woes.Since we’ve already implemented the free options and, right now, can’t afford even our next low cost solutions (lamp replacement, water cooler upgrade, etc.) the group felt we’d be setting ourselves up for failure. Next on our list is new windows or at least storm windows and we’ve been unable to come up with a match for the State Construction grant due to our budget situation. Solar panels are on the list, but again, grants cover half and we have no capital budget at this point.

While this may be a short term set back I’m not convinced we can’t do the 10% this year. I’m going to crunch some numbers, call some folks and take a hard look at what 10% looks like and maybe re-pitch this opportunity to the group. Stay tuned!!

“What does it mean to “be green”?

Nice, concise summary from Tufts University’s Office of Sustainability:

Being green is a commitment to:

1. discover best practices
2. innovate when solutions don’t exist
3. reduce waste and inefficiencies
4. adopt and embrace new habits
5. measure and celebrate progress.

You do these things every day; now try doing them with a green lens.



Green Team Meeting #2

Today was our second Green Team meeting and it went really well.

  • We reviewed the benchmark data gathered since our last meeting:
    • electricity usage in both buildings
    • gas consumption for both buildings
    • paper recycling levels
    • solid waste recycling levels
  • Options for providing safe drinking water for staff and guests were reviewed in light of the decision to stop providing serving bottled water – bottleless water cooler option looking very attractive (not to mention a lot cheaper than what we’ve been doing). Decided we needed to think about it more and will revisit this at our next meeting.
  • Reviewed the results of our complimentary lighting audit done for by a consulting firm that works with our utility company. I need to double check the numbers but it looks like we could completely convert our lighting in the office building to T8s, get a 50% rebate from our utility AND payback the remaining cost through energy savings in 1.21 years. Not to mention the on-going savings after that.
  • Then came the fun stuff. Over the past three weeks we challenged our coworkers to come up with “green” ideas. Anything goes – that was the only parameter! I received 130 ideas! I’ll share the best ideas in a later post but just wanted to say that at this stage the act of asking everyone had so much benefit:
    • Staff buy-in for change
    • Revelation that some were unaware of existing recycling and energy saving rules already in place building-wide – really made us think about how we convey the rules and how staff are oriented to the way things should be done
    • Behavior is already starting to change – more people are turning off lights in unoccupied offices and rooms, more people are using ceramic mugs rather than disposable cups for coffee…
    • Excitement that they can help the System save money by changing how we do things – people were so anxious to help, it was wonderful
  • Next steps identified:
    • Codify existing rules related to recycling and energy savings and create a staff web page so people can reference the info – things like what is recyclable, who is responsible for turning off lights, making sure everyone is turning off computers/monitors at the end of the day…
    • Create tip sheet on reducing paper use based on the input from staff gathered over the last month
    • Work with the Computer Operations Department to audit all computers and printers in the building to make sure they have basic energy saving settings in place and to develop how-to info for people that want to adjust the energy saving settings
    • Use input from staff to create a checklist of things they can personally do to reduce energy consumption
    • Develop a staff education event to orient them to the building, how they can play a part in reducing, reusing and recycling

So for those of you in our member libraries – the Business Office won the MHLS Go Green Challenge – they came up with twice as many ideas as the other two floors. Doris, our receptionist, was the champ, I got more ideas from her than anyone in the building! Go Green!

ChargePoint America

ChargePoint America is a program sponsored by Coulomb Technologies to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure to nine selected regions in the United States. The is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy and the objective is to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles to substantially reduce petroleum consumption, reduce greenhouse gas production, and create jobs.”

9 program regions:

  • Bellevue-Redmond, WA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Jose-San Francisco Bay Area
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Detroit, MI
  • New York City, NY
  • Washington D.C.
  • Orlando, FL

MHLS Green Team

So I took the plunge and called a meeting to start a Green Team at work.

Started by having the building manager, financial manager, interim executive director and my assistant meet to talk about the feasibility of moving forward to help our workplace be “greener.”

Luckily they were all on board and willing to play along with me!

We chatted for a bit about things we’ve already done or are doing and realized we needed to benchmark or at least measure where we are now so we can measure success. So the first action item out of the gate was split between the financial manager – Linda and our facilities manager – Chris. They are going to gather info on:

  • how much electricity we use
  • how much we paid for electricity last year
  • how much gas we use
  • how much paper we currently recycle
  • how much solid waste we currently recycle

A few years ago we had a NYSERDA energy audit and since our funding situation has been so bad we couldn’t follow up on many of the suggestions so we decided to stop letting ourselves be limited by that so I’m going to dust that off and revisit the recommendations and start looking for incentives/reimbursements/grants or at least add these things to our facility plan.

Chris had heard about a new energy audit program through our electric company so he’s going to schedule that.

We decided we couldn’t just dictate ways to work and be greener so we decided to pool the collective wisdom of our coworkers. So I volunteered to poll the staff. I turned it into a competition. There are three floors to our building so it’s floor against floor. Prizes have been promised but really it’s the bragging rights that motivates!

I’m encouraging ideas related to energy efficiency, waste reduction/recycling, water efficiency, healthier choices. . . whatever they can think of.

I decided after the first submission I got to not pre-judge the ideas just yet. I’m just popping them all into a spreadsheet to count up which floor is in the lead (first floor is way ahead after the first week!)

The Green Team steering committee will meet again at the end of the month to check out the ideas submitted, review the energy audit info and checkout the data Linda and Chris collected.

I’m glad I finally took the plunge, it has been more well received than I expected and I can’t wait to see what happens next.