Sustainability and Library Programming

This post originally appeared on the ILA Connector.

Two things on my radar this week were the ILA Annual Conference (a hearty thank you to the ILA staff and conference planning committee for another terrific event) and an article in American Libraries about library programming related to climate change and sustainability. Thus, this post about library programming and sustainability.

The American Libraries article looks at how libraries are designing programs to address issues related to climate change in their communities. Some of the highlights include:

  • Santa Monica Public Library’s (SMPL) Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, which they offer in partnership with the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. The prize recognizes authors, illustrators, and publishers whose books “make significant contributions to, support the ideas of, and broaden public awareness of sustainability.” SMPL also does a great deal of additional sustainability programming, as well as public education about the environmental features of their building.
  • The Greenwich (Conn.) Library (GPL) and La Crosse (Wisc.) Public Library (LCPL) partnered with local universities to identify speakers to discuss how climate change impacts their respective communities. GPL brought in speakers from Columbia University and Yale University. LCPL partnered with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to host screenings of two TedX talks, followed by a public discussion of the issues.
  • The Massachusetts Library System’s partnership with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) on a four-program series held during Climate Preparedness Week. The series opened with an academic overview and narrowed to specific actions that people can take to be more sustainable.

The article also discusses how the libraries handled disruptions from audience members who disagreed with the speakers. An incident at the first presentation in the Massachusetts Library System series led to a new policy that speakers must finish their remarks before audience members, restricted to three minutes each, are allowed to comment.

If your library is interested scheduling programs with an environmental focus, this year’s iREAD theme, “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover!”, which I dug into at the annual conference, gives you a perfect hook for all ages. Use the theme to dig deeper into community climate resiliency by inviting speakers to discuss current environmental issues and solutions.

The Prairie Research Institute, of which my organization is a part, has scientists who can speak about these issues. Researchers from the Illinois State Water Survey study climate, weather, and their impact on Illinois communities and can present on topics ranging from weather, drought, and flooding, to making communities more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) study Illinois’ biological resources. They can speak about specific plants and animals, as well as topics like biodiversity and invasive species. INHS also hosts the Traveling Science Center (TSC), a 320 foot mobile classroom that features informative, engaging exhibits on biodiversity and natural resources. Visitors learn about the types of habitats and species diversity of their region, as well as ways to protect against threats to that diversity. Visit their web site to schedule a visit to your library.

The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) protects, preserves, and interprets Illinois’ archaeological heritage. ISAS can provide speakers on Illinois’ cultural resources, as well as topics like environmental archaeology and how archaeologists use technology to identify sites and preserve the past.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researchers conduct basic and applied research in geology, compile geological maps, and gather and manage the state’s geological data. Their researchers can speak on topics ranging from earthquake possibilities in Illinois to fossils and dinosaurs.

Finally, my organization, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), integrates applied research, technical assistance, and information services to advance efforts in the areas of pollution prevention, water and energy conservation, beneficial reuse, carbon capture and utilization, and pollutant research. Our researchers can discuss topics ranging from everyday sustainability in the home, to making your office greener, to the environmental and human health impacts of emerging contaminants like microplastics and PFAS, the so-called “forever chemicals” that have been in the news recently.

For more programming ideas, visit the Green Libraries LibGuide’s Programming page.

When planning your programs, remember to model good environmental practices by using reusable tableware, rethinking your giveaway items, and encouraging people to bring reusable water bottles. For more on greener purchasing, take a look at my last blog post.

Composting food waste is localized strategy for landfill diversion

Read the full story from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Encouraging homeowners to compost their food waste locally yields numerous economic and environmental benefits for communities. University of Illinois researchers have developed a framework to help city planners and community organizations estimate potential cost savings if they can get residents on board.

Almost all food waste generated in the United States ends up in landfills. Until now, most food waste recovery efforts have been focused on business and industry. In a recent case study, Shantanu Pai at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and co-authors calculated household-generated food waste for each of the 77 community areas in the city of Chicago.

MIT engineers develop a new way to remove carbon dioxide from air

Read the full story from MIT.

A new way of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of air could provide a significant tool in the battle against climate change. The new system can work on the gas at virtually any concentration level, even down to the roughly 400 parts per million currently found in the atmosphere.

Most methods of removing carbon dioxide from a stream of gas require higher concentrations, such as those found in the flue emissions from fossil fuel-based power plants. A few variations have been developed that can work with the low concentrations found in air, but the new method is significantly less energy-intensive and expensive, the researchers say.

The technique, based on passing air through a stack of charged electrochemical plates, is described in a new paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, by MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian, who developed the work during his PhD, and T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Are you packaging sustainably?

Read the full story in Beer & Brewer.

It’s estimated that Australians consume around 1.7 billion litres of beer annually – enough to fill nearly 670 Olympic-sized swimming pools. That’s a lot of beer, but also a lot of packaging.

Sustainability is a priority for many Australian breweries, and craft brewers Stone & Wood Brewing Co and Two Birds Brewing are walking the walk when it comes to sustainable packaging and recycling, allowing them to support local industry, provide jobs and, most importantly, reduce their carbon footprint.

Opting for more sustainable packaging and product stewardship is making the brews more palatable to an increasingly environmentally savvy customer group.

Increasingly popular single-use bans pose hurdle for plastics industry

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

Growing awareness about the potential environmental effects of plastics is powering state and local bans, to the consternation of companies who argue the trend is short-sighted.

US company asks residents from developing countries to collect plastic waste in return for healthcare

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

Global cleaning product manufacturer, SC Johnson, has announced a controversial plastic waste plan where residents of developing countries can litter pick plastic in return for healthcare or education.   

The company said on Tuesday the collected plastic would then be recycled into a “Social Plastic” bottle, which will be used for its Windex products from February 2020.   

Environmental groups have criticised the scheme as passing the corporation’s responsibility onto others.  

Carlsberg unveils world’s first paper beer bottle

Read the full story at The Drinks Business.

Danish beer giant Carlsberg has unveiled designs for what it claims is the world’s first paper beer bottle made with sustainable and recyclable wood fibres.

Brewers warn Supreme Court: Back the Clean Water Act, or beer will taste like medicine

Read the full story from CNBC.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments early next month in a major environment case concerning the Clean Water Act. Sixty craft breweries tell the justices in a brief that weakening the federal regulation could damage their businesses.

“What simplifies things for an industrial producer to put sludge in the ground and our waterways and not get a permit affects everyone else who deals with the water,” says a craft brewer from North Carolina.

95% of tested baby foods in the US contain toxic metals, report says

Read the full story from CNN.

Toxic heavy metals damaging to your baby’s brain development are likely in the baby food you are feeding your infant, according to a new investigation published Thursday.

‘I’ve never gotten sick’: Employees from Medline stage protest in Waukegan against ethylene oxide regulations

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Approximately 300 workers at Medline’s Waukegan facility were allowed to walk out from their job Friday to head downtown to protest an ethylene oxide regulation bill they say threatens their livelihood.