How Can Libraries Go Green?

How Can Libraries Go Green

Concern about the environment is gaining more mainstream attention as people begin to realize the effects pollution and waste have on not only wildlife, but also the health of humans. For example, we now know that much plastic is considered unrecyclable and that it is estimated only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled. We also learning about how plastics can break down into microplastics that enter the water, earth, and air–and are then consumed or breathed in by humans. But, now knowing what we know, have we changed any of our habits?

Libraries are seen as community leaders, and I believe they play an integral role in providing the public with reliable and relevant information. Therefore, I believe libraries should be leading by example and attempting to go green. Of course, large-scale efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the building as a whole might need to be approved by administration, and may not be a realistic goal for the staff on the floor. Still, I think everyone at the library can do something to help the environment, and to encourage the public to do the same.

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments! Of, if you work at a library, you can share how your workplace has been prioritizing the environment!

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Potential Strategies

  1. Instead of relying on recycling, reduce purchasing and consumption of unnecessary and one-use products.
  2. Try to print less.
  3. Rethink craft programs and other programs that create waste. Run more programs with reusable materials (ex. blocks, electronics, board games, etc.) or use upcycled materials. Or create an outdoors program like a scavenger hunt.
  4. Rethink the summer reading program and all the small plastic toys that get handed out as prizes. Some libraries do “Read and Bead” and hand out beads for bracelets or key chains. You could also hand out more environmentally-friendly options, though the cost per item will likely go up.
  5. Use paper bags instead of plastic.
  6. Install bike racks outside.
  7. Start a seed library.
  8. Start a community garden or community composting program.
  9. Run programs educating the public on how to go green by reducing their carbon footprint, learning about the zero-waste lifestyle, starting a garden, and more. This is a great chance to create community partnerships!
  10. If possible, provide resources that help patrons go green, since environmentally-friendly options often cost more and are therefore not as accessible to people with less spending money.
  11. Consider starting a “library of things”–an unconventional collection of items such as tolls, cake pans, toys, etc. that give patrons access to things they might need on occasion but do not want to buy. You can start by asking for donations from the community to promote “reuse.”
  12. Loan out electricity usage monitors so patrons can assess their energy usage at home and take steps to reduce it.
  13. Run programs that encourage patrons to walk or bike more. Maybe they can track their miles for a chance to win a prize!
  14. Encourage library patrons to bring their own reusable bag from home.
  15. Stop selling plastic water bottles in vending machines.
  16. Rethink programs that hand out snacks individually wrapped or bottled in plastic.
  17. Educate the public about what steps the library is taking to go green, and ask for community input and feedback.

What ideas would you add to the list?

7 thoughts on “How Can Libraries Go Green?

  1. spines in a line says:

    I love the “library of things”, and libraries are such important places for information that developing programming around ways of going green would be so natural and such a great way to educate the community


    • Krysta says:

      I love libraries of things! I don’t often want to buy a tool or a cake pan or whatever that I plan to use maybe one or two times. It makes so much more sense to borrow!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jawahirthebookworm says:

    Such an important post, these are all great tips! Some libraries have canteens or eating areas nearby so encouraging visitors to bring their own cutlery and straws hopefully would help. I love the idea of a community garden, libraries can start one now and hopefully when this pandemic is all over they can set up a proper welcome back gathering! If space and circumstance allows it of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I always wished my library would add a cafe! I love the idea of encouraging reusables instead of all that throwaway plastic!

      And, yeah, I also want a community garden at my library, but they’re stuck with the land they already have (not much), so that’s definitely an idea for libraries lucky to have plenty of space!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael J. Miller says:

    I love the community garden idea! I mean, I love the whole list but I think that one’s brilliant. I just love the way it expands the communal nature of the library and it potentially could even bring people to the library who didn’t frequent it before and now that they’re hanging out and participating there they may start to check out other services before and vice versa.


    • Krysta says:

      I love the community garden idea, too! I think it would, like you say, get people to the library who don’t realize its resources could be helpful. And, if my library had a community garden, I think it would be so helpful to have a place where I might be able to bring stuff for composting since not everyone has space for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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