Greening the WOMM Experiment

This month marks the launch of a little experiment at our System. I’m using our Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) Experiment to spread the word about what a good investment the library is in the context of “green.”

Our WOMM Experiment started last year when our Marketing Committee decided to put into practice what we kept hearing is the simplest, most effective (and cheapest) way to get the word out – word of mouth.

So our 66 libraries agreed to all promote one product/service/idea System wide for an entire month with a little centralized help. To help them out we’d do a little 30-second training or 5-question quiz to raise frontline staff awareness. We gave each library a circ desk poster with talking points on the back that staff could use as a cheat sheet if patrons asked questions (feedback on this was that it was simple yet brilliant!) and supplied libraries with sample newsletter blurbs, press releases and web graphics.

This was pretty easy to track when we promote a database but how about with concepts?

So this month is “Save Green by Going Green @your library”:

Our Marketing Committee agreed to this topic after my System-wide Green Your Library Challenge idea got shot down by one of our five counties. (Why yes, I was incredibly bummed about this!) So I sold it as a one-month commitment rather than a full year by demonstrating that this topic not only gives libraries the opportunity to convey to their communities how cost effective/efficient they are, it also gives libraries an opening to focus more internal attention on sustainable building and operations choices. This helps us transition our statewide advocacy message through the timeline for the passage of the NYS budget and allows for a new “tweak” on the messages we’ve been using for the past two months that libraries are a good use of public tax dollars. (If you’re not in NY you may not know but we’re battling a 10% cut that ultimately puts our funding level back to 1994 levels…)

We showed libraries three different ways to approach the sale of our message, “Save Green by Going Green”:

1. Patrons who use libraries “save green” by minimizing the volume of “stuff” they purchase, and “go green” since they reduce what they are having shipped to their home, drive around less to purchase “stuff” and dispose of less “stuff.” Check out these videos for more on this:
o The Story of Stuff
o Collaborative Consumption

2. Patrons can learn how to live a more sustainable (aka green) lifestyle through the library’s collection and programming. We’ve provided a list of display and programming ideas for libraries to use when planning.

3. Libraries that have invested funds into sustainable building features (solar, geothermal, daylighting, etc.) can use this opportunity to spotlight themselves as a model for people to learn from and to tout the cost savings earned through the use of these features, reinforcing how well they’ve used tax payer dollars. If the library is interested in exploring their sustainable facility options, I’m conducting a “10 Ways to Green Your Library” workshop to coincide with the release of the State Construction Aid applications in April. Energy efficient projects are eligible under the construction grant application guidelines.

The circ desk poster is a bit experimental – for the first time ever I incorporated a QR Code. I embedded a link to the New York Library Association’s Library Value Calculator to give patrons a chance to see how smart they are for using the library!

I’m coaching libraries to keep it simple. Pick one of the three themes and go with it but drive home the message that as tax payers and regular library users – whether by personal use or good, sustainable facility choices made by the library – we all save green when we go green through the library.

Building Orientation

Last week we conducted a building orientation for all staff members. This idea came out of the MHLS Green Team. During one of our meetings our facilities guy was commenting on how a few staffers were consistently leaving on the lights at night which was wasting electricity. The conversation that followed revealed that some of us didn’t know where the light switches were for certain lights and others were not sure it was our job to turn them off (thinking there were still others in the building).

We designed an hour long program, limited it to 6 staff people at a time and did a couple of sessions to make sure everyone had a chance to participate. We stated it was mandatory (but that we knew they would come along even if it wasn’t!)

Before the sessions we implemented some signage we had agreed on and labeled all light switches.

We met around a table to begin and
1) Reviewed the “Building Basics”

  • building operating hours
  • alarm
  • opening and closing procedures
  • lighting basics

2) “Safety First” alerted staff to

  • emergency procedures
  • fire safety
  • some basic personal precautions to take to protect themselves when leaving the building after hours

3) MHLS “Goes Green” Challenge Results

  • shared the results of the Challenge in which they all took part (more than 120 ideas were shared!)
  • let everyone know some of the things that were already being done that had been suggested
  • what energy efficiency items have been included in our facility plan (new windows and solar panels)
  • reviewed the building recycling opportunities and guidelines
  • shared tips from Staff gathered through the Challenge:
    • “Top Ten Tips” for Conserving Energy – some ideas were very specific to our building but here are ones that work anywhere:
      • turn off computers and monitors at the end of every day
      • use the Power Options setting on PCs to help machines save energy while idle
      • unplug equipment used infrequently (pencil sharpeners, laminator)
      • use the stairs rather than the elevator
    • Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Then we toured through the building, starting at the door everyone enters and leaves through. On each floor we pointed out:

  • how doors lock, when they should be locked
  • fire extinguishers
  • circuit breaker boxes
  • light switches
  • where lights could be shut off when no one is in the area
  • safety tips (like closing blinds on the first floor at the end of the day)

It went amazingly smoothly. Everyone “played along” and were helpful, coming up with more ideas along the way – motion detectors for the bathroom lights to help make sure lights are off when no one is in there, glow in the dark tape on key light switches, tips for using a fire extinguisher… it was great.

Have I mentioned yet how glad I am we did the MHLS Green Team? ;-)

Green Team Saves Us Money

Very cool thing happened this week as a result of starting the Green Team @MHLS – we’re saving money already.

Our organization is in some dire financial straits after five cuts in two years from New York State and thanks to the fact that NYS has released just 50% of our funds and we’re in the 9th month of our fiscal year. Not fun.

Our interim director and business manager have done a super human job of cutting back, freezing spending and keeping “the ship afloat” so far. I was able to show that a number of the ideas we came up with on the Green Team would save us operating costs (upgrades to the lighting, new windows, etc.) But we’re in such a tough spot that even relatively small investments ($1,500 for the lighting) are out of reach right now.

But the collective mind proved to be stronger than the individual once again as more of my coworkers got thinking about things they are involved with.

  • Our discussion about getting a water cooler that was less of an energy hog has resulted in the negotiation of not only a better water cooler but the company is waiving the lease fee.
  • In talking to the person in our business office about what logos to look for on paper and other office products to make sure they are as environmentally responsible as possible we poured over the office paper catalog and I longingly pointed to the FSC paper which was more expensive than what we were currently purchasing. She said  “I can get better prices than these” and she did. We’re now paying even less than we were before on a more environmentally responsible choice.

I’ve said a number of times what  great experience the Green Team has been but to finally see cost savings, even minor ones, AND good choices being made is really rewarding.

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!!

Justifying Sustainable Choices (part 1?)

Since I started this journey to help libraries green their building and operations to bolster the evidence that they are sustainable it has all seemed so clear to me - if libraries go green it is good. It is good because it demonstrates a commitment to a healthy environment – for the people working and accessing library services in library buildings and for the community (both local and global) at large and it broadens the message that libraries are good stewards of public dollars as greening a building can result in lowering operating costs for the long-term.

However last month I was challenged in this, a director of one of my libraries insinuated I was wasting my time and theirs by pursing this path of helping libraries make more sustainable choices about the facilities. I was a little shocked that it happened to be honest but now that I’ve thought about it more I realize I am less shocked that the person said what they did and more shocked at my inarticulate response.

I realize it is not enough to just believe in this, at any moment I must be ready to justify the brain power, System time and attention spent on helping our libraries in this way. I view this endeavor as an extension of helping our libraries build their base of support in their community which leads to better funded libraries and more good will towards the library.

So I vow to be better spoken about this topic for the sake of my member libraries. I am pursuing a System wide campaign this fall to help libraries make more sustainable choices when it comes to their buildings, operations and programming. I plan do to a better job at helping directors convey to their trustees and staff the value of going green, to help libraries talk to their communities about how going green makes them a better library and their community a better place and the all-around message that sustainable libraries make for a sustainable future – for the library and the local community.

If I take my title at MHLS seriously – Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability – I can do no less.

I guess I should thank the person who challenged the wisdom of pursing these options for my libraries, he just strengthened my resolve that I’m on the right path…

Stay tuned for more info on the “Greening Your Library Challenge,” hoping to launch it in October 2010, can’t wait to see what happens…

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!

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.

Bottled Water Battle

At our April 2010 Greening Your Library workshop we tested supplying tap water instead of bottled water and guess what, no one said a word. We’re not even sure anyone noticed.

@MHLS our new interim director, Merribeth Advocate (a master at reducing costs), just declared we will no longer purchase bottled water to supply at our workshops. Good for the environment and good for our ever shrinking budget!

Facts about bottled water:

  • Bottled water isn’t necessarily purer than tap water. An investigation by the Environmental Working Group, released in October 2008, found chemical contaminants in every brand tested — including disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication. [1]
  • 80 percent of plastic bottles end up in landfills or are burned in incinerators [2] that’s 3 billion pounds of waste annually. [3]
  • 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles annually…enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year. [3]
  • See also, NYTimes article “The Battle Over Bottled Water” from their Green Blog

Welcome to Sustainable Libraries

Welcome to Sustainable Libraries. Libraries + Green/Sustainable Buildings is something I strongly believe in.

Libraries connect communities, provide opportunity for anyone interested and are in just about every community in the country – what better place for people to learn how sustainable building practices can change the world.

My day job involves helping libraries find sustainable support to keep their doors open in the form of funding and people power. So it’s all related for me: Sustainable Libraries are libraries that invest in themselves and their legacy throughout their organization – the facility, community connection, collection, technology and staff.

I hope you’ll join me as we watch and collaborate with libraries around the country who are doing their best for their local and global communities.

-Rebekkah