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!
- Instead of relying on recycling, reduce purchasing and consumption of unnecessary and one-use products.
- Try to print less.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use paper bags instead of plastic.
- Install bike racks outside.
- Start a seed library.
- Start a community garden or community composting program.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.”
- Loan out electricity usage monitors so patrons can assess their energy usage at home and take steps to reduce it.
- Run programs that encourage patrons to walk or bike more. Maybe they can track their miles for a chance to win a prize!
- Encourage library patrons to bring their own reusable bag from home.
- Stop selling plastic water bottles in vending machines.
- Rethink programs that hand out snacks individually wrapped or bottled in plastic.
- 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?