Not every library or school can rebuild from the ground up to become a standard bearer in the green revolution but there are simple things you can do to diminish your impact on the planet. Here are just a few suggestions gleaned from greenlibraries.org, success stories of green libraries and a conversation with the mastermind of greenlibraries.org, Monika Antonell.
- Clean green. What one thing can you change to have the biggest impact on the environment? Monika’s answer may surprise you. Change your cleaning supplies and “get rid of the toxic cleaners.” There are more alternatives all the time and the impact is immediate and lasting. Does the slightly higher cost present a problem? See if your friends’ group can help or work with a local retailer to see if they will donate the supplies in return for a visible thank you in your website, newsletter and building.
- Take technology to a green home. Libraries have usually been very good at recycling but take it the next step further by becoming a recycling center for your community if you have the space. Many areas do not have appropriate recycling programs for electronics. Equate your library in your patrons’ minds with new technology while at the same time providing a venue for responsible use by creating regular days (annual, quarterly, monthly) where patrons can drop off an old computer. Research businesses or government entities that specialize in this field that can partner with you in the collection and promotion of the event.
- Take green beyond your walls. Sometimes the most simple and important thing you can do is be a place of dialog. Establish monthly meetings for community members to offer up green challenges and solutions. Invite the local news outlets to participate and devote a page of your website to the activities of the group. At each meeting, be sure to display recent acquisitions that could help the conversation.
- Enlighten your lighting policy. You have probably transitioned all of your bulbs to the new energy efficient type, but do you turn out your lights at night? It’s a simple question but not everyone does it. Do you take full advantage of natural light when available? Are your outside lights energy efficient, only coming on when needed and geared to minimizing the impact on your community’s light pollution? If not, this might be another opportunity for your friends’ group to light the path to a greener future!
- Install bicycle racks. Even if you don’t think your community will take advantage of the racks, it might just be a case of “If you build it, they will come.” If you are in an area that is accessible by a greenway, you probably already have them. Monitor their use and ask users to spread the word. If no greenway is available, talk to local bike groups about routes that make sense to your library and ask them to promote those with your members. If there is a local bike race in the area, ask if you can promote your bike accessibility at the event with an informational table, perhaps even featuring some of your collection on the sport.
- Buy for the future. Whether purchasing books for your collection or seating for your users, it’s wise to plan ahead and buy durable products that last rather than goods that may look fine, but fall apart. Bound to Stay Bound books are manufactured to the most stringent standards in the industry so when you are purchasing a Bound to Stay Bound book, you are purchasing for the library of the future as well as today.
- Use wood from sustainable forests. Whether you are buying paper, shelves, or a building, be sure to put into the requisition or request for proposal that you are looking for a partner who is thinking about tomorrow as well as today when it comes to materials.
These are just seven simple ways but there are so many more. If you want to get certified as a green library, you can learn more at greenlibraries.org and find out about the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and LEED certification. If you are blessed with the opportunity to build a library or school from the ground up, you will certainly want to check out the green libraries page to see how libraries across the country are using natural light, making vegetated green roofs, assisting with storm water management and positioning for best use of natural light as well as scores of other ways to allow their libraries to have a lesser impact on the environment and a greater impact on the communities they serve.