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!


Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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

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.

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

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

Book Donation Policy

Every year I get a lot of books for Christmas and I’m at the point where my shelves are at capacity, I’m trying to stick to a “one in, one out” policy at home now which means I’ll end up with a box of books to donate to my local library. I try to think to myself, “would someone else actually buy this?” Like if it’s a travel book that’s a decade old or a classic that’s a little too classic and is falling apart, those I will not foist on my library I’ll recycle them myself.

But many community members are not as thoughtful as me… maybe that’s because they are not the facilitator of the MHLS Friends Support Group and they haven’t heard how much the volunteer book sorters loathe donors who drop off moldy, musty, damaged books that no one would actually pay money for.

Each time this subject comes up at the Friends Support Group meetings it is news to at least one group that they can recycle books, I follow up with an email to the group about where to recycle the books and wonder how many others are doing the midnight dumpster dumps (because everyone knows we get yelled at for throwing away books!) rather than recycling what they can.

If you haven’t already, create a policy that defines what you take and what you will not, check out this example from the Plymouth Public Library. Here’s what I like about it:

  • Defines when the library accepts donations
  • States the library’s right to dispose of donations that do not meet the needs of the library or their book sale
  • Defines what is accepted, in terms of format, currency and condition
  • Expresses gratitude for thinking of donating to the library

In a perfect world your library would also have written sorting criteria for volunteers that would include what to do with books unworthy of the book sale, it would be great if it defined recycling as part of the procedures and instructions for what to do to prep materials for recycling and what condition an item would have to be in to be unacceptable for recycling in your community. Call your recycling center or transfer station (usually municipal or county based) to understand their rules.

For Disappointed Donors: I like the idea of creating defined times of year for when the library will accept donations. This helps the library manage storage of donations and schedule volunteers in a more streamlined way. But just because you have the policy doesn’t mean everyone in your community will have read it or follow it (I know, scandalous!) So occasionally a well-meaning citizen will arrive at your library with a trunk full of their unwanted treasure for the library when you are emphatically, but politely, not accepting. Help out by having a list of alternate organizations that are open to accepting donations. Check out this “Re-Use Guide” put out by the County of San Mateo.

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:

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 for  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

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

Greening Presentation for Onondaga County Public Library 5.7.10

40 Tips for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

Tomorrow is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, to mark the occasion I am doing a Greening Your Library workshop for my member libraries and have brainstormed the list below:

40 Easy Ways to Go Green @your library for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

1.       Establish a “Green Team” at the library to brainstorm ways the library could be greener

2.       Develop a recycling policy for your staff (paper, plastic, cardboard)

3.       Ask the board to pass a green policy that encourages and validates the exploration and investment in energy saving and resource saving options

4.       Create a routine maintenance plan for major systems (roof, HVAC, etc.)

5.       Create a building plan to predict timelines for long-term goals –  replacement of HVAC, roof, expansion plans – this will give you more time to find green options

6.       Recycle bins for paper next to printers (for staff and the public)

7.       Purchase recycled paper for printers and copiers

8.       File as much as you can electronically rather than in paper files (be sure to have an offsite back-up solution and schedule!)

9.       Add a footer to your email signature that urges people to think twice before printing out an email message: “Please consider the environment before printing this email”

10.   Recycle bin for plastic and glass in the staff break room and meeting rooms

11.   Encourage staff to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles at work

12.   Offer an enewsletter option

13.   Turn off lights in offices and meeting spaces not in use

14.   Only purchase ENERGY STAR computers/appliances

15.   Do not water the grass

16.   Use native plants in your landscaping so you don’t have to water them extra.

17.   Recycle book sale donations that don’t sell

18.   Recycle printer cartridges

19.   Appropriately dispose of e-waste (computers, monitors)

20.   Use Century Gothic font (it uses 30% less ink when printing than Arial)

21.   Turn off all equipment (copies, printers, computer towers and monitors) at the end of the work day

22.   Use “smart” power strips to cut off power completely when equipment is off

23.   Use the energy saving features through your operating system to put computers into standby/hibernation

24.   Turn down the temperature on the hot water heater

25.   Wrap the hot water tank with insulation to reduce heat loss from the tank

26.   Green the cleaning – purchase “Green Seal” cleaning products

27.   Use biodegradable soap in the bathrooms

28.   Only purchase formaldehyde free furniture

29.   Use low-VOC paints in the library

30.   The next time you replace your vacuum, get one with a HEPA filter

31.   Plan story hour crafts that can use recycled paper, cardboard, “found items,” etc.

32.   Invite a local walking or cycling group in to do programs at the library

33.   Partner with local environmental groups in your community to do programs at the library

34.   Offer a program on energy efficiency incentives from the state and federal for homeowners

35.   Highlight books from your collection that help families go green (green cleaning, eating locally, energy efficient home ideas)

36.   Encourage families to “turn off” (the TV and computer) and hang out together at the library

37.   Have the library property assessed for geothermal and solar placement.

38.   Schedule an Energy Audit to get professional recommendations to reduce energy usage in your building ($100) Usually available through your state energy authority

39.   Get your hands on a Kill-a-Watt to discover ways to cut back your electricity bill (we got one to share with our member libraries)

40.  Get your hands on a thermal leak detector to discover air infiltration in your building (we got one to share with our member libraries)

Commitment From the Top: “do good and do well at the same time”

Libraries have a lot of policies to contend with – patron code of conduct, personnel, and oh-so-many more – so it is understandable that not many libraries have adopted green or sustainability policies.

In the grand tradition of learning from others take a look at how other industries are stating their commitment to “be green” – is this part of their marketing ploys? Why yes, of course. But there is a smidge of hope in all of this, someone, somewhere in these companies does actually care about this stuff and is assigned to work on it I’m sure:

  • FujiFilm: “At Fujifilm we are working to shrink our carbon footprint and water footprint, use natural resources and packaging materials more efficiently, and minimize waste generation and environmental risk.”
  • Loews Hotels & Resorts: “committed to being environmentally responsible and will make steady, measured progress in our efforts. We will seek every reasonable opportunity to incorporate “green” standards and practices into all aspects of our business. We will identify and mandate specific brand-wide practices that embrace our responsibility and we will make prudent investments in technologies and programs that will allow us to do good and do well at the same time.”
  • Google’s Green Employee Program – can I just say: “Wow.”

2030 Challenge

Keeping an eye on this as more and more state governments are legislating similar goals:

Here’s the gist of the Challenge:

“Architecture 2030 has issued The 2030 Challenge asking the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:

  • All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 50% of the regional (or country) average for that building type.
  • At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 50% of the regional (or country) average for that building type.
  • The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings and major renovations shall be increased to:
    60% in 2010
    70% in 2015
    80% in 2020
    90% in 2025
    Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).

    These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power and/or purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy and/or certified renewable energy credits.”