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!

 

Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

As promised, here are the ideas the staff at MHLS came up with for reducing paper waste:

Reduce
o Print only when necessary
o Use narrow margins on Word documents
o Check to see if the printer you use can print double sided
o When making copies use the 1-2-sided/double/duplex option
o Avoid a cover page when faxing, if possible!
o Can you read a journal online rather than having a hard copy sent to you?
o Getting junk mail? Call the company and have your name removed from their mailing list
o Consider online handouts rather than printed packets for workshops and consultations
o Proofread before printing or copying; use the “Print Preview” function before printing
o Develop a page on the web site for frequently requested information
o Use email rather than mail when possible
o When replying to an e-mail, delete previous e-mail correspondence in the body of the e-mail in order to eliminate a large amount to be printed should the recipient choose to print your response.

Reuse
o If you have your own printer, print drafts and reference material out on scrap paper
o If you share a printer with a co-worker, agree on one tray being filled with scrap paper
o Reuse envelopes
o Use cut up scrap paper for note taking/scratch paper

Recycle
o We posted the recycling rules for MHLS by every printer and copier:

o   MHLS recycles all paper and card board

o   There are blue recycling bins on all floors

o   Eligible for recycling:

o    All office paper, including paper with staples

o    File folders

o    Envelopes

o    Newspapers

o    Journals/magazines

Greening Meetings

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I go to a lot of meetings, a lot of workshops and a fair number of conferences. I was struck this year by the obviousness of those facilities and organizations that have made an effort to make more sustainable facility and operational choices in the context of the “meeting experience.”

  • paper handouts vs. online referrals to handouts
  • the quality of the plates, cups, forks/spoons/knives, napkins provided
  • individual plastic water bottles
  • quality or (heavenly absence of) “giveaways” – bags, notepads, pens
  • recycling for cans and bottles
  • snack choices

While it may seem minor in some cases all of these things contribute to a meeting/workshop/conference experience. Here’s how my mind was working this year, I forgot my stainless steel water bottle at an event recently and had to break down and buy a bottle of water. I had to carry it around for hours, literally, until I found a recycling receptacle.  I was actually distracted by this, my mind was constantly on the look out! This was at a conference with hundreds of people attending, how many of them didn’t hold on to their bottles until they found it? That’s probably hundreds of bottles just thrown in the trash.

I actually had a visceral reaction when I realized I’d have to use a Styrofoam plate at one of our own, catered, events. How to rectify this? I’m suggesting that next year this is part of our contract with the caterer, that plates, napkins and utensils contain recycled content.

As consumers we can enact change. Libraries spend a lot of money in communities, if we start demanding specific sustainable aspects we can change how people do business.

Don’t be complacent, fill out that workshop evaluation form and suggest healthier, more sustainable options. Planning an event? Check out:

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

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!