Earth Day 2012

I know Earth Day happens every year yet every year I forget to spread the word until it is virtually too late for libraries to plan events and get the word out (in 2010 I posted the day before Earth Day and I’m pretty sure 2011′s post was after Earth day…) Well not this year!

Earth Day is an annual event held to raise awareness and promote action. There are literally thousands of events held world wide to exemplify the commitment communities, cities and countries have to making the earth healthier.

In some communities libraries not only participate in Earth Day events and activities but lead them as well.

Last year I picked up on the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s Green Fair: “get your green on!” Love it.

TSCPL  brought 20 community organizations together, they challenged the community to come up with 150 Green Ideas, the first 200 attendees at the fair received a free lilac bush, there were demonstrations by master gardeners and energy conservationists, a soil tunnel, gigantic wind generator propeller, live music, eo-crafts for the kids, and animals – including the humane society who brought pets for adoption. (I don’t even know what a soil tunnel is! I must learn more!)

The library provided a bit of reader/watcher advisory as well (GREAT list of books and movies to promote at your library as well!)

The library published a “Green Report Card” on itself prior to the event to show they had a serious commitment to the issues: “Does the library practice what we preach – I mean aside from being Topeka’s No. 1 book recycler?”

This wasn’t just an Earth Day celebration. It was an expression of the library’s role in the community as educator, collaborator, partner and leader.

Now while the TSCPL event may sound a bit bigger than you were thinking, no worries. There is a whole spectrum of ideas out there from small to large to choose from, here are just a few.

  • Check around the community to see what other organizations, agencies or government entities are thinking about for an Earth Day celebration. Don’t assume no one else is thinking about this! Joining forces will have a bigger impact and attract an larger audience.
  • Displays in the library could include books and movies on a variety of subjects: gardening, energy conservation, passive design, solar, sustainable food production: caning, pickling, fermentation, enjoying the outdoors, land conservancy, water conservancy, edible flowers, recycling, reusing, reducing…
  • Programs throughout April could carry a “green theme” – at story time, adult book discussions, teen advisory group, etc. in addition to inviting in speakers who specialize in “green” areas.
  • Sponsor a recycling drive for electronics
  • Challenge your staff to find ways to reduce electricity, water and paper goods consumption in the library.
  • Sponsor or participate in a community “clean up” event in a local park, along a highway or waterway.
  • Plant some trees
  • Hungry for more ideas? Check out my post from 2010, 40 Ideas for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Pledge your activities, encourage your patrons to do the same and advertise your commitment to The Earth Day Network’s “billion acts of green” through the library!

Earth Day 2012 is on Sunday, April 22. But feel free to celebrate for the whole month of April or year round!

 

Code Green

Very excited about attending the Code Green Workshops tomorrow and Tuesday. These are the workshops that came out of my work on the “Code Green” Committee for the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Love the idea of professionally melding sustainable features with historic preservation, because really, historic preservation is the original sustainable option!

I’m particularly excited about one of the first lectures, “Slow Food in the Fast Lane,” which promises to introduce the inherent properties older buildings have that make them more energy efficient than new construction.  Also looking forward to hearing about projects where geothermal was installed.

What I liked most about the conversations at the planning committee meeting was the commitment from those around the table – builders, architects, engineers, code enforcers – to treat these buildings as whole systems rather than separate parts. I think it is integral to making sustainable buildings that they are viewed and treated holistically. Each part, feature, system impacts another and until we understand how they interact and influence one another we stand in the way of sustainable buildings.

It’s like assessing library operations – to understand how service point adjacency impacts workflow and supervision is similar to understanding how windows can impact HVAC decisions and vice versa.

Check out the Code Green bibliography to read more sustainable historic preservation.

Think Spring

Here in the Northeast the gardening buzz is starting to pick up. I can actually see daffodil sprouts near one of our basement windows. It looks odd next to the 12 inches of snow and ice still piled up on most of the lawn.

I just caught wind of a library out in Kansas doing a community wide Green Fair and it made me start to think of all the programming libraries can be planning right now to ride the wave of people’s joy over the promise of spring.

Programming is a centerpiece of marketing. At MHLS we’ve developed targeted marketing tools over the years through our Building Your Base projects and programming to reach a specific audience and targeted programming has been one of the most effective. Marketing yourself as the hub of “green” can draw in new audiences and build your support in the community – and that makes good “sustainable sense.”

Here’s a list of spring-ish themed programming ideas:

  • Spring Cleaning
    • Reduce & Reuse @your library: a program to introduce all you have to offer in your collection (books, movies, music and magazines) and through your web site (downloadable content, magazines, newspapers) that can help people buy and store less.
    • Natural Cleaning Products
    • Recycling Showcase: Invite your county’s Solid Waste Department to come in and talk about how to get rid of household “stuff,” e-waste, yard waste and more without dumping it in a landfill.
    • What to do with…. (how to dispose properly of ewaste, household chemicals, batteries…)
  • Gardening
    • Rainwater Catchment
    • Preparing the Garden
    • Edible Flowers
    • Low-Maintenance Gardens
    • Community Garden (@the library?)
    • Landscape Design
    • Hanging Gardens
    • Container Gardens
    • Learn from a Master Gardener
    • Garden Software
    • Youth Garden Grants Program [National Gardening Association]
  • Food
    • Eating Local & In Season
    • Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
    • Growing Your Own
    • Canning
  • Home Maintenance/Improvement
    • Natural Lawn Care (mulching, killing weeds without polluting your local ecosystem, non-gas powered lawnmowers…)
    • Less Toxic Choices for Maintaining Your Home (low-VOC products – paint, sealants, caulk)
    • Is Solar Right for your Home?
    • Wind Power Generation
    • Tool Lending Library
  • Programs for Kids – childrens’ services staff are some of the most creative people around! Challenge them to come up with programs that instill a love and wonder for nature, environmentally friendly crafts, “save the planet” education
  • Movie Night:
    • Blue Vinyl
    • Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
    • Erin Brockovich
    • FernGully: The Last Rainforest
    • Hoot
    • No Impact Man
    • The End of Suburbia
    • The Warriors of Qiugang
    • The Yes Men Fix The World
    • Wall-E
    • Winged Migration

Got more ideas? Send them my way either in the comments below or via email. I’ll create a master list of green programming ideas and share them!

 

Winterize

Here in the northeast it’s time to start thinking about winterizing buildings. Here are my top 10 winterizing tips:

  1. Check doors and windows for air leaks.
  2. Have the furnace (or boiler) serviced so that it is operating a maximum efficiency.
  3. Check to make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  4. Ceiling fans should be set to push air down (clockwise).
  5. Put the storm windows back in if you’ve removed them
  6. Check the state of the insulation in the basement and attic. Replace any that looks worn out or add insulation where there is none.
  7. Insulate your pipes.
  8. Use metal-backed tape to seal up gaps in ductwork.
  9. Insulate outlets on the exterior wall.
  10. Check out the minimum interior temperature for working space in your state and program your thermostat.

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!!

Louise & the Eco Machine

Can’t resist sharing my good luck, this past week I finally had a chance to check out the Omega Institute’s Eco Machine. An Eco Machine is a natural wastewater treatment system. Omega’s plan is to use the resulting graywater to irrigate gardens and flush toilets.

Omega is a pretty fascinating place all around, but their Center for Sustainable Living is pretty remarkable, they are expected to be the first building in the United States to receive the Living Building designation in addition to receiving LEED Platinum certification. Some highlights:

  • wastewater turns to greywater within 36 hours through constructed wetlands
  • 20 geothermal wells
  • concrete that complies with the Living Building Challenge’s Red List*
  • net metering from solar array
  • partial green roof
  • No PVC
  • plywood in mechanical room from Obama’s inauguration stage!

To top it off I got to meet Louise Schaper who traveled to New York (coming all the way from Arkansas) to visit family and added a stop into Omega to check out the Eco Machine with me. Not quite sure which I was more excited about!

*LBC Red List (The project cannot contain any of the following red list materials or chemicals.):

No added formaldehyde
Halogenated Flame Retardants18
PVC19
Mercury20
CFC’s
HCFC’s
Neoprene (chloroprene)
Cadmium
Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene21
Wood treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol
Polyurethane
Lead22
Phthalates

New York’s Solar Thermal Roadmap

Renewable Energy World is reporting on New York’s plan to become a leader in the solar thermal landscape:

“By unveiling a solar heating and cooling programme that could create 25,000 new green jobs, generate US$2.6 billion in revenue and see 2 GW of new solar thermal capacity installed in the state over the next decade, New York has revealed its ambition to become America’s national leader in solar heating and cooling.”

New York Solar Energy Industries Association‘s Roadmap’s proposed implementation would save an estimated 6 million gallons of oil, 9.5 million ft³ of natural gas and displace 320 GWh of electricity production annually by 2020, translating into consumer savings of more than $175 million per year.

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!

“13 Amazing Facts About Green Roofs” [The Daily Green]

13 Amazing Facts About Green Roofs: Green roofs and living walls offer many benefits, including cooling buildings, reducing stormwater runoff, providing wildlife habitat, growing food and creating jobs.