A letter from the SustainRT Board

Dear Library Community,

Now more than ever, the American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table stands firmly in our profession’s core values, many of which serve to protect our planet. The Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) was established for the exchange of sustainability ideas and opportunities in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society.

Considering the climate change denial of the key members of the new administration, we will double down on our commitment to shape the library profession’s sustainable practices, policies and programming to strengthen democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, and social responsibility. Libraries provide vital places, brave spaces, services and resources to build community resilience as we all face an uncertain future together.

The 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries reminds us of “the important and unique role libraries play in wider community conversations about resiliency, climate change, and a sustainable future.” To that end, we welcome Bill McKibben, a world renowned climate change leader, as a keynote speaker at the ALA Annual 2017 Conference. McKibben’s address is made possible through our co-sponsorship with ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, the American Indian Library Association and the Asian Pacific American Library Association.

We are deeply concerned about climate change and its drastic impact on people, wildlife, coastlines, weather patterns, ocean currents, and food production. While our list is long, it is not all inclusive and some of the most severe impacts could be ones we have not yet thought to measure or predict. There are pressing actions you can take now.

Please call and write your representatives to protest the nomination of cabinet members who threaten to harm our nation’s public lands, people and environment. To find your representative visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

The coming years provide an opportunity to mobilize and work together for social equity, proper stewardship of the earth, and sustainable economic growth. Come what may, SustainRT stands resolved on the importance of sustainable libraries and will uphold these values.

Add the Sustainability Round Table to your ALA membership and join us as we clear a path toward climate justice!

The SustainRT Board:

Rene M. Tanner, Coordinator
Jodi Shaw, Coordinator-Elect
Madeleine Charney, Immediate Past Coordinator
Kate Foster Hutchens, Secretary
Lindsay L. Marlow, Treasurer
Mary Beth Lock, Member-at-Large
Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Member-at-Large

Cup-by-Cup Redux

The old ALA Task Force on the Environment (TFOE) promoted “Cup-by-Cup” event at the 2008 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. Monika Antonelli, Elaine Harger, Al Kagan, and I (others may have been present) lamented that far too many empty hot and cold beverage cups and plastic water bottles were scattered all over the floors, shelves, and tables at the 2007 Annual Meeting. Someone got the brilliant idea that TFOE should actively support an informal event making a statement that would draw attention to the task force’s mission and encourage ALA Members a means to reduce their carbon footprints while attending an ALA Conference, and “Cup-by-Cup” was launched.

It is time not only to bring “Cup-by-Cup” back to ALA Meetings (including division and chapter meetings), but make it a permanent fixture at these events, and perhaps contemplate ways to expand the concept. In essence, this campaign provides one (or more) ways showing ALA Members how to make simple lifestyle changes that provide more sustainable conferences, protect the health of Earth, and provide examples for solving an upcoming climate crisis.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Bring a reusable cup, mug, and/or water bottle to the Midwinter Meeting;
  2. Fill it with a favorite beverage(s) at the ALA event (You CANNOT bring a full water bottle on to an airplane);
  3. Raise your cups, mugs, and bottles with pride that you are taking small steps in combating a variety of environmental issues, including climate change while overtly promoting the concept of sustainability, that helps our planet;
  4. Drink happily, repeat throughout the entire event and support the efforts of SustainRT in making a more sustainable ALA event; and
  5. Do and promote this at other library association meetings you attend, including other ALA Chapter and Division National and Regional Meetings.

International Paper estimated that in 2005 Americans used more than 14 BILLION disposable paper cups just for hot beverages. TFOE estimated in 2008 if only 50 Starbucks quaffers brought their own mugs, more than 150,000 paper cups (equaling 1.7 million pounds of paper and 3.7 million pounds of solid waste in production of these cups) would be spared.

Going One More Step

Americans throw out enough plastic dinner-ware to circle the equator 300 times! Instead of throwing those knives, spoons, and forks into the garbage consider bringing or carrying your own. Here is what To-Go Ware has to say about RePEatT Utensils: “How about a bamboo utensil set to round out the perfect toolkit for life on the go? A handy carabineer on the back lets you clip and carry a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks wherever they may roam. Perfect for a busy lifestyle and our precious planet.” Their line of bamboo flatware & chopsticks provide utensils that are heat and stain resistant, won’t impart or absorb flavors, are lightweight and strong (durability is one of the keys to green products), and they are hand-finished with top grade natural and food-safe wood oil. For more information, visit their website, www.to-goware.com. To-Go Ware is a company with a rock-solid commitment to social responsibilities (environment, labor, human rights, justice, and more), which are impressive and described in great detail in their mission statement. To-Go Ware is approved by Green America and shown on The Oprah Winfrey Show and is Big Tree Carbon Committed.

Other Bamboo & Eco-Friendly Dinnerware and Other Products

  • Bamboo Studio – we are using the strength, beauty, renewability, and versatility of bamboo to offer an ever widening array of products.
  • BambooWare – “Our reusable BambooWare product line is a revolutionary dishware that is eco-friendly, biodegradable, beautiful and durable.”
  • Paperless Kitchen was founded to help individuals, households, businesses and organizations adopt greener lifestyles and philosophies by offering alternatives to disposable kitchen products.”
  • Smarty Had a Party – “Serve it up with attitude! Then send it back – to be renewed.”

Submitted by Frederick Stoss

Disclaimer: SustainRT has not vetted the products or companies mentioned in this post.

Sowing Seeds of Innovation in Opelika

I absolutely cannot grow anything.  My list of casualties include hostas (I blame the deer), red shamrock (it froze outside, but in a beautiful planter), rosemary (never even had a green shoot), tulips (I dug the bulbs up accidentally), African violets (who knows what I did wrong), and a cactus (over-watering). When I said I wanted to start a seed library, my coworkers were justifiably skeptical.

The idea was planted like most are: a patron had asked if our library, Lewis Cooper, Jr. Memorial Library in Opelika, Alabama, had a seed library and in the same week I had seen a flier for the local community garden, O Grows Community Garden. Initially, my only goals were to provide a risk-free way for our community to participate and a new avenue for adult programming. I did some digging to find the person behind the community garden and found Dr. Sean Forbes. Dr. Forbes was gracious enough to meet with me and Laurie Hackney, our Reference Librarian. He told us about his exciting work with Opelika Grows through Auburn University. He had already partnered with several area elementary schools and Opelika Middle School to get kids outside and in the dirt. There was an existing seed library through Auburn University and Dr. Forbes scheduled a meeting to get all the key players together.

Through that meeting, I was fortunate to meet Patricia Hartman, a Librarian at Auburn University. We talked about the Auburn University Seed Library and discussed how I could get started in Opelika. Ideally, I would have seeds saved from locally grown plants with a focus on heirloom edible and flowering plants and native plants. That is what we are continuing to work towards, but we started with a seed donation from Seed Savers Exchange. For the cost of shipping, we were able to get a large quantity of seeds to kick start the seed library in Opelika.

My goals for the seed library are still simple: provide a low-cost way for people to try growing something, provide a mechanism to sustain the rich vegetation heritage of our local plants, provide a resource for the community to get involved with the agricultural community that surrounds us, and open up a new avenue for adult programming.

As part of my 2017 program planning, I reached out to Pat Giordano, a member of the Lee County Master Gardeners whom I met through the initial meeting with Dr. Forbes and Ms. Hartman. Because my gardening knowledge is slim, I invited her to come to Cooper Library and help me evaluate our item selection on gardening. She was delighted to help and I was delighted to learn that we had almost everything on her essential reading list. We also discussed a program series to introduce people to gardening and once we get closer to preparation and planting time, we will begin to offer a range of introductory-level gardening classes in partnership with the Master Gardeners.

Other types of outreach and partnerships in our first year included:

  • Visiting area nurseries to let them know who we are, what we are doing, and to let them know we want to increase the amount of people interested in planting and growing who will eventually need to use their services. We absolutely are not trying to steal business from anyone and we want to make sure any fears to that end are eased.
  • Having a table at the weekly farmers market to educate the community about our existence and to increase participation on our mailing list.
  • Attending area agricultural events. My favorite was the Waverly Tomato Showdown. They have live music, an all you can eat BLT bar, and a contest for the best tomatoes. We were able to save seeds from the award winning tomatoes that are proven to grow in our area. It was also a fantastic way to get the word out about our seed library and educate the community about seed saving.
  • Using the resources available through Auburn University Extension Services (http://www.aces.edu/main/) to offer things like planting calendars and other info about gardening. It is also a way for our library to help the community know about their services.

Our seed library is in an old, small, four-drawer card catalog cabinet. We have the seeds sorted into three of the drawers: flowering plants, herbs, and fruits/vegetables. The fourth drawer contains empty envelopes and instructions for leaving donations. At this time, none of our seeds are in the digital catalog, but I plan on adding them before Spring of this year. Our set up is not fancy, and we were able to use existing materials and equipment to keep the investment to a minimum. So far, I’ve spent $5 to make this happen. We have had a lot of interest from the community and I anticipate 2017 is going to be a great year!

If you are interested in starting a seed library, I would recommend:

  • See if anyone else in your area is already doing it and try to work out a partnership. My connection with Patricia Hartman at Auburn University has been invaluable and given me access to educational resources I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.  
  • Don’t worry about making it perfect! It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good and to serve your community.
  • If you are like me and have a black thumb, find someone to be your guru. Your local Master Gardeners will be an excellent resource and I’m sure they want to help you get more people involved with gardening.
  • Look around your library for places you can grow things. We have two planters out front that are currently empty, but we will be planting easy herbs in them come Spring.
  • If it is slow to start, don’t worry! New things take time to catch hold.

Submitted by Rosanna McGinnis

Rosanna McGinnis received her MLIS in 2010 from the University of Alabama. Her professional career started with the United States Marine Corps Libraries as the Acquisitions Librarian in Okinawa, Japan. She then transferred to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California as the Library Director. In January 2016 she made the jump to public libraries as the Director for the Lewis Cooper, Jr. Memorial Library in Opelika, Alabama. She is hopeful that 2017 will be the year she manages to successfully grow something. You can follow her on Twitter @RosannaMcGinnis or email her at rmcginnis at opelika-al.gov.