|By Alan Minarik, North Suburban Library System
“Going green” is increasingly popular these days. From An Inconvenient Truth to Earth Hour, people are raising their awareness of how their actions impact the environment. Companies from Disney and S.C. Johnson to Honda and BP Amoco are going green; so maybe you're thinking about it, too.
At NSLS, we've recently formed a Green Team to keep up with environmental concerns and see how our system can respond to those issues. We've already implemented several up-front changes—increased recycling efforts, enacting more energy-conscious electricity usage, buying more Earth-friendly supplies—and have seen positive benefits around the workplace, both fiscally and in employee response.
The trick to going green is in the frame of mind: it doesn't require installing solar panels, growing a garden on your roof, and converting all your vehicles to bio-diesel. It's about knowing what resources your library has, and what impact those resources have. It's about looking at what you're doing and asking, "Is there a way I can do that in a more sustainable manner?" To help you reach that mindset, here are three simple tips.
Tip 1: Ask yourself what you can practically change right now . The simplest, most effective way to go green is to change some of your library's everyday practices. It would probably be impractical—not to mention unpleasant—to start composting the garbage in your staff break room, but maybe you can get your staff to sort out the recyclables. And maybe you can't replace all the lights in your building with energy-efficient bulbs, but encouraging staff to turn off the lights when they're not needed, or activating the energy-saving features on your computer, are easy ways to help make an impact.
Once you've become accustomed to the small things, it might be easier to transition into bigger projects. But before you do that, remember…
Tip 2: Do the research. There are a lot of ideas out there about what you can do to help the environment. A LOT . From the afore-mentioned solar panels and bio-diesel to carbon offset credits, pursuing green initiatives can be an overwhelming prospect. So before you embrace a project, take a step back and really look at it. Consider what the proponents and the opponents say. There's not necessarily going to be one right answer to whether it will be worth it to your library to start a particular green project, but knowing the full impact and gauging it against your library's resources and needs make all the difference between something that will have a lasting impact, and something that can fall out of practice in a month.
Once you're sure that your green project is practical and effective, it's time to implement it. And when you do:
Tip 3: View it as an opportunity, not a burden. It's easy to see changes like these as challenges: How are we going to implement them? How will staff adapt to all this? Is it worth the pain of altering the way we do things? Of course there could be difficulties in starting up something new: that will always be true. But pursuing green practices can be an influence on your community; it can give you greater outreach opportunities by allowing you to team up with other green-friendly area businesses; it can have an immediate impact on the look and attitudes around your library; and it might even wind up saving you money. With such positive consequences, it almost seems like more of a burden to not go green!
Ultimately, there's no one right way to go green at your library. So look around your library, consider your options, and find the best way for you to make an impact. And who knows? Maybe someday you'll be able to look up to your building's roof and see those solar panels sticking out of your own rooftop garden.
About the Author
Alan Minarik is an NSLS staff member who is also a member of the NSLS Green Team.