12 environmentally friendly New Year’s resolutions for libraries.

Are you planning to make 2022 a better and more sustainable year.

Here are 12 ideas to help you make a start. Some are simple and easy to achieve, while others will need careful planning, collaboration with your community, or even investment of funds via a grant, or from your parent organisation.

The important thing is to start raising awareness and to encourage a willingness to make a change. This can take time, and achieving culture change can be much more challenging than making physical infrastructure changes.

  1. Embed a “greening up” agenda item into staff meetings. This will make it easier to generate ideas, give everyone a voice, and to help set priorities as well as track actions. Check out the University of Illinois Library, Green Libraries libguide as a starting point.
  2. Explore the PlanetArk website and create a list of things you could be recycling but aren’t, eg. batteries, toner/ink cartridges, plastics, electronics, weeded books, CD/DVDs, milk bottle caps. For hard to recycle (eg. used pens and markers) and non-recyclable items check out the options from TerraCycle.
  3. Initiate a staffroom compost bin to keep food scraps and coffee grinds out of landfill.
    • Bunnings have cheap benchtop compost bins. There may be a garden compost bin or worm farm in the grounds of your building that you could use, if not perhaps there is room to install one. Alternatively someone may even be delighted to take the bin home to boost their own compost. 
    • Or check out the Compost Connect website or Facebook
    • Whatever works for you, make sure you include a small poster of what can and can’t go into your particular bin, so it’s easy for people to do the right thing.
  4. Explore energy saving options such as and swapping over to energy saving LED lights and turning off unnecessary equipment and lights in unused rooms each night to reduce your environmental handprint.
  5. Find out what your parent organisation is doing to reduce their environmental impact and increase their sustainability, and try to partner with them on a joint project. If they don’t seem to be doing enough, offer to work together on a greening-up project.
  6. Investigate applying for a grant from your council or an environmental agency to help fund a green project. Maybe check out Green Initiative Grants.
  7. Organise a Waste audit. You’ll not only gain an understanding of whether your waste and recycling is actually being separated properly, but also get information and strategies on how to improve your game. This blog post from the Keysborough Waste Transfer station (Vic)  is just one place you can go for ideas. 
  8. Audit your purchases and engage in responsible procurement
    • are you buying local where-ever possible?
    • are you cleaning products environmentally friendly?
    • is the paper you buy recycled and sourced from sustainable suppliers – look for the FSC or PEFC logo?
  9. Encourage your suppliers or vendors to use less plastic – e.g. journals don’t need to be wrapped in plastic, paper envelopes will do just as well.  
  10. Planning to refurbish spaces and furnishings?
    • explore furniture that doesn’t contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that may expel harmful gases
    • look for non-toxic options and consider reupholstering rather than discarding,
    • install surfaces that are easy to clean and don’t require harsh chemicals
    • choose planners and architects with proven green credentials.  
  11. Go to the http://www.ecospecifier.com.au/ website and search their Green Knowledge bank or consult with their experts on design and product sustainability. 
  12. Planning functions or events? Invest in real crockery and find sustainable catering options available in your area, or at the very least ask staff other participants to bring their own cups to meetings or seminars.
Levinski Garden Library (Itzuvit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Your takeways:

  1. Be the Champion
  2. Make a pledge to do more 
  3. Involve your team and community (however big or small it might be)
  4. Make it fun
  5. Share your projects, successes or ideas with the @ALIAGreen Facebook or Twitter.

By Katalin Mindum, ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group committee member.

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