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University Libraries

Plans for the Planet

By Melanie Fields, Patty Meinking, Maureen Schlangen

On April 22, library staff in the University’s Green Ambassadors group hosted the event “Small Changes, Big Differences,” an Earth Day celebration inviting library colleagues to “drop in, drop off and ‘leaf.’” With the goal of “planting seeds” about sustainability and stewardship, the event — which would be easy to replicate in other departments and libraries — attracted about 30 colleagues.

Drop in

Visitors could drop in to share small things they do to reduce waste; share sustainability ideas for the libraries; learn creative alternatives to single-use plastic; practice wrapping sandwiches securely in waxed paper; and learn about Dining Services’ “Go Green” program, which features reusable containers for take-out orders.

Drop off

They could also drop off recyclable materials in a collection barrel for clean plastic film — a project of the Student Government Association’s sustainability committee — and a receptacle for used batteries.

‘Leaf’ …

All visitors could leave the event with fabulous prizes: 

  • Propagated cuttings from staff members’ Tradescantia variety houseplants.
  • Homemade cookies with no packaging.
  • Packets of seeds.
  • New ideas for conservation and stewardship of resources.
  • A positive outlook on the Earth.

Reducing waste

Staff used sticky notes to share dozens of ideas for reducing waste; here’s a sampling.

At home:

  • Return flower shop vases to the store after use
  • Replace fabric softener and dryer sheets with wool balls in the dryer.
  • Join a local group of the Buy Nothing Project.
  • Use reusable bags at the grocery. If you leave them in the car, go back out and get them.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers.

At work:

  • Collect plastic film for recycling (get more containers in the building).
  • Stop serving or selling water and other beverages in plastic bottles.
  • Add more bins for compostable containers.
  • Verify that the recyclable material actually gets recycled (paper); add more recycling containers for sorting materials in offices.
  • Bring your own utensils, cups and plates to library events.

— Melanie Fields in a library specialist in the Marian Library. Patty Meinking is an acquisitions specialist in the University Libraries. Maureen Schlangen is the e-scholarship and communications manager in the University Libraries. 

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