Risk it! 5 things every librarian can do to live a more sustainable life

Living more sustainably might mean risking looking like an idiot. Who wants to be carrying a metal straw or carting tins of compost to the worm farm across the road? But helping the environment isn’t about being cool. It’s about doing our best to lessen the harm we cause to this planet.

So here’s five little changes you can make to lead a more eco-friendly life, one that is informed by the principles of sustainability:

  1. Get a bamboo toothbrush. They cost $5 and stop thousands of plastic toothbrushes ending up in our oceans. A New York Times article estimates that some 414 million pieces of plastic end up in the Cocos Keeling Islands just off Australia’s west coast. Your plastic toothbrushes are contributing to this so go bamboo.
  2. Convert to beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap. According to Sustainability Victoria, cling wrap stays in land fill for years. So stop using it! Al foil if scrunched into a ball can be recycled instead but it’s not reusable like beeswax wraps (although it it is cheaper).

3. Carry a metal straw: If you’ve seen The War on Waste you know that plastic straws can be swallowed by and trapped inside marine turtles. You might feel self conscious carrying a metal straw in a bar but think about how that turtle feels with your plastic straw inside its belly.

4. Use a dishcloth instead of paper towels: An article in The Atlantic estimates that in 2015 Americans sent 7.4 billion pounds of paper towels to land fill. 7.4 billion pounds! We may not be that bad but dishcloths can be reused and washed whereas paper towels are disposable and mostly can’t be recycled so you choose.

5. Start composting! You might not have the luxury of living in a house with a backyard where you can start your own compost heap. But even if you live in a tiny one bedroom apartment (like me) there are options. Check out your local council website. You can find shared community compost sites and worm farms everywhere. It might feel a bit awkward carrying your rubbish through the neighbourhood but it’s worth it to become a less wasteful, more sustainable human being.

And of course, bonus tip 6 is to actually use your local library. Do you really need to buy more books and cut down more trees? When you want the latest title join the reservation queue or make a suggestion for purchase if they don’t have it. It will teach you patience and save the planet!

By Anne Reddacliff, ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group committee member

3 thoughts on “Risk it! 5 things every librarian can do to live a more sustainable life

  1. Instead of a metal straw, how about a bamboo straw? no pollution to make it, If lost breaks down naturally (it is grass) doesn’t corrode, like metal. If used in hot drinks does not heat up and burn you. Easily cleaned. Better for the environment!


    1. Great point, and stainless steel straws do have limitations, but although they’re easily cleaned a bamboo straw cannot always be cleaned to a high enough level of hygiene in certain circumstances. Stainless steel straws last forever and shouldn’t corrode.


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