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

Targeted Marketing

The Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NY has a pathfinder on their web site called “Thinking Green, Working Green” to support “Consumer, Developer, Builder and Other Business Professionals.” The site provides suggested search terms to use in the library catalog and beyond and a concise list of web sites.

This is a good example of targeting those in your community that might not think the library has anything for them. It demonstrates a level of consciousness not only about the topic but about marketing to a definable segment of the community that may already be sharing information amongst themselves. Great example of how to tap into an existing group and make the library relevant to them

Controlling Humidity

Thought I’d share these helpful articles from BuildingGreen.com on controlling humidity by Alex Wilson.

Why do you want to control humidity in your building?

  • high humidity/moisture can result in mold growth (which can cause allergies and other health problems as well as damage the building)
  • it makes you feel uncomfortable

Mr. Wilson proposes the following solutions for

  1. eliminating moisture sources
    1. fix drainage problems
    2. install gutters
    3. fix leaks in the roof/flashing
    4. insulate cold water pipes to prevent condensation
  2. removing moisture from the air
    1. air conditioners
    2. dehumidifiers

Go Green Cheer (includes directive for a “rabid frenzy”!)

As I poked around library web sites in MA to find out what they were doing in conjunction with their Summer Reading Program theme of “Go Green” I came across this gem – the “Go Green @your library Skit” which includes a number of “cheers” that I would pay good money to see done in my libraries!

Favorite line from the script? “(Continue for as long as it takes to whip students into a rabid frenzy of excitement. Teachers will love you for this. Conclude with lots of cheering and jumping around)”

Here’s a teaser:

Encore Bonus Cheer:
Lib 1: Global warming got you down?
Lib 2: Go to the library in your town
Lib 1: Soon there won’t be any school.
Lib 2: But books will always keep you cool.
Lib 1: Recycle a can or plant a flower
Lib 2: Knowledge is a sustainable power!
In Unison: Reduce Reuse Recycle and READ!!!

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!

Green Music Group Challenge

This could be a cool program idea, particularly with teens: http://challenge.greenmusicgroup.org/

Current challenge deadline is coming up fast, July 30, but it looks like there are more challenges to come!

Challenge #8 just asks you to film yourself and your friends outside, not to too tough, particularly for those smart libraries that invested in a Flip Mino.

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