Native Plants

Using plants native in the landscaping around your library has many benefits – not the least of which is that you should not have to water the plants after they’ve been established (2 years).

“Native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Native plants, once established, save time and money by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and lawn maintenance equipment. ” –

Here are some great web sites to figure out what plants are native to your area:

Green Roofs… Revisited

At my Greening workshop in Onondaga County last week I was confronted with a challenge to my answer that green roofs were not necessarily a great choice for buildings in the Northeast. When asked to expand on my statement I shared my feeling that while it is true they mitigate rainwater runoff, add insulation and combat the heat island effect in urban settings they are not cost-effective in terms of payback for libraries in NY and that adding them to existing buildings, particularly historic buildings, was not a great idea in terms of weight load and maintenance.

A speaker later in the day, who works for Onondaga County (OC), shared that the county was investing considerable funds  in green roofs. Since everything else the speaker reported on sounded fantastic and smart (really, it was, I’m not being sarcastic!) I started second guessing my assured answer that green roofs were not the way to go.

I did a bit of searching and learned that OC is under court order to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into Onondaga Lake with stormwater. The county is pursing a number of stormwater mitigation solutions, porous pavers, rainbarrels for residents… and testing out a green roof on a correctional facility. So to start off with I feel better that the case isn’t that they’ve invested millions of dollars into green roofs but that they are testing it out to see if it works for their situation.

This is a take-away folks: different green solutions work for different reasons. This county is faced with a specific problem – pollution caused by stomwater run-off – and is seeking solutions to rectify that. This does not mean that is the best solution for everyone but it may turn out that it can put a dent in a serious problem they are faced with.

Almost every green solution has a pro and con list to contend with. In New York City a study was done in 2007 to assess cool roof options:

So, as a general policy, DDC does not encourage the use of green roofs as a sustainability strategy on City
projects, and recommends more cost-effective, environmentally-beneficial strategies such as street trees, light-colored surfaces, and permeable paving–and building-related energy improvements. However, it is important to note that green roofs have numerous other benefits, primarily those in human terms. A green roof might be the right solution in a particular situation, and would be supported by DDC. Examples are:

  • As a public or staff amenity. Intensive green roofs can provide protected, usable outdoor space forlibraries, residential facilities and 24-hour agencies, such as Police and Fire. An extensive green roof might provide a welcome visual amenity for cultural institutions or a situation with a bleak view.
  • As a mission-related or educational tool. An example is the new building at the Queens Botanical Garden, where the green roof supports the Garden’s mission and is usable by visitors.

Although green roofs offer many benefits, they are not the environmental panacea sometimes put forth.
Design teams should review the project-specifi c goals, alternate methods of providing green open space
and controlling stormwater and craft an effective environmental approach.

  • From the report, “DDC Cool and Green Roofing Manual” Prepared for the NYC Department of Design & Construction Office of Sustainable Design by Gruzen Samton Architects LLP with Amis Inc., Flack + Kurtz Inc., Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects P.C., and SHADE Consulting, LLC

So I guess the real answer here is what is your goal? What is the priority? And what is the right solution to address the goal? Simple payback formulas would show that it is not a cost effective option for energy efficiency but calculations may indicate it is a viable solution for stormwater management in a particular case.

As is the case with many green solutions this is not a clear cut answer but I find solace in my finding that it is a “right tool for the job” answer.

Greening Presentation for Onondaga County Public Library 5.7.10

Library Journal 2010 Design Institute @Atlanta

Just returned from the Library Journal’s 2010 Design Institute in Atlanta, GA where I moderated a panel: Sustainable Libraries with or without LEED. On the panel with me:

We tackled whether or not LEED is “worth it” (yes); will it cost more (upfront, yes; long term – probably not); “must-have” green features (best answer: building owners willing to make the commitment to green the project); and “green” features to skip (showers in libraries to get the LEED point for bike racks and preferred parking spots for hybrid vehicles).

During the “green must-haves” portion of the discussion David Moore took me by surprise when he focused on water conservation. I was expecting everyone to focus on renewable energy (geothermal, solar) or energy efficient  options as that is what has been most important here in New York, however, given that the overwhelming majority of the audience was from the South East (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina) they were acutely attuned to the recent drought. Stories were told of people trying to capture the condensation off the air conditioning tubes for a little extra water and using buckets to capture the water coming out of the shower as it warmed up to a reasonable temperature. David expressed that he would be hard pressed not to incorporate water conservation (rain catchment, gray water recycling for toilets, landscaping etc.) features into future projects.

I’ll share more thoughts from this event this week but just wanted to share a bit about the experience as it is so fresh in my mind this morning!

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)