Furnaces and Boilers

Developing a survey for my member libraries this week to help me benchmark how much electricity, gas, and/or oil they are using in their libraries. Along the way I found this nice page on the Department of Energy’s web site: Energy Savers: Furnaces and Boilers.

A number of my libraries are facing the realities of having to replace their equipment and making the right choice seems easy as just about anything new is more efficient than what they have now. This site gives some great tips for making that decision be an even more energy efficient one that it might be if you just went with whatever your installer suggests.

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

Thin Clients

Learn about thin clients – they are a great solution for public access computing/networks in libraries as most patrons are not doing intensive computing, just surfing, typing, social networking, etc.

They are “green” because they:

  • use less electricity
  • require less equipment
  • take up less space
  • once set up, they are easier to administer

Just my opinion …

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)

5 Ways to Make Computing Greener in your library

  1. Make it a library policy that all computers and monitors – public and staff – are shut down at the end of the work day. Use a Smart Strip Surge Protector to completely cut off power to peripherals when a computer is turned off.
  2. Make use of the power management settings (standby and hibernate) through your operating system; go a step further and check out EZ Wizard Power Management Tool recommended by the U.S. EPA 
  3. Only purchase ENERGY STAR rated computers and monitors.
  4. Redesign your public access computer network using a thin client model (example: Userful)
  5. Dispose and recycle responsibly. Research options by calling your town/city’s recycling center.

Bonus Round: Keep your eye on cloud computing opportunities – there are an increasing number of options – cost effective options – that could reduce the number of servers needed in your building and your reliance on purchasing software. Examples: Gmail for Organizations (keep your address, drop your physical email server) & Google Docs