2020 SustainRT Carbon Offsets Grant

The ALA Sustainability Round Table is excited to announce that this year it will be donating its Carbon Offset Travel Grant to help reduce the carbon footprint of the technology necessary to conduct the ALA Annual Conference remotely. In the past, SustainRT offered a $500 travel grant to offset travel costs for a SustainRT member to attend the ALA Annual Conference. However, with the ALA Annual Conference canceled and its necessary travel suspended, this year SustainRT has decided to instead contribute a $500 carbon offsets donation to Native Energy, ALA’s carbon offsets provider. This money will help to offset the carbon emissions caused by ALA members’ increased use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Native Energy is an organization dedicated to helping build Native American farmer-owned, and community-based projects. You are welcome to join ALA in supporting the important work of Native Energy by purchasing carbon offsets.

Thank you for supporting SustainRT’s work and be well!

Sustainability during Stay-at-Home Survey: Results

Some of us may now be back to working in our library branches or buildings. Others may still be working from home, or dealing with challenges from furlough to job loss to providing full-time child care while working to pivoting to all-virtual programming. No matter our current circumstances, it feels important to reflect on the experiences, lessons, and changes wrought by our times under Stay-at-Home order, especially when it comes to sustainability in our day-to-day lives! 

To this end, we’re so excited to share the responses to our SustainRT Outreach Committee “Sustainability During Stay-at-Home” Survey. More than 100 people responded, and it was a pleasure to receive these small glimpses into each other’s lives in a time when we can all feel really spread apart. 

Below, find visual representations of responses to the surveys questions, as well as some selections from all the wonderful, individualized responses we received (some are excerpted from longer passages). Thanks to everybody who participated!


Question 1: Have you been more conscious of/practiced any of the following sustainable behaviors during your stay-at-home time? Select all that apply.


Question 2: Share some more about a sustainable practice that became part of your life during Stay-at-Home, whether big or small! Tell us how you got started, what inspired you, how easy or difficult this practice is, how you feel now that you’re doing it– whatever you’d like to share.

About foraging…something I’d be wanting to learn more about. Listening to a lot of podcasts (esp. Susus Weed) and re-reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Eulle Gibbons. I got permission to pick stinging nettle from a university garden. Now I’m making uber nutritious soups, quiches, etc. Also violet leaves, garlic mustard, redbud flowers and soon linden leaves and flowers. Free, highly nutritive food all over the place! I feel grateful for the abundance of the Earth. I want to teach people about how to forage.”

“I started walking and then biking longer and longer distances. It honestly never occurred to me before. I always felt like I didn’t have enough time. In reality, biking takes about the same time as driving in many instances. But I didn’t have the mental space required to try it out until the lockdown.”

“Using a timer to limit shower time”

“I have been more conscious about providing amenities around my home to encourage biodiversity and support wildlife. I’ve created a “bird hotel” which is a series of bird feeders and hummingbird stations. I often make my own bird suet from leftover bacon grease and homemade sugar water for the hummingbirds. I also have planted many pollinator plants as part of my landscaping routine. Being at home allows me to observe the patterns of the birds more as well as provide better care for my plants….The care for the birds led to a desire to care for other species and the decision to focus on planting pollinator plants. It has been very easy to do this.”


Question 3: Are there any ways you’ve noticed Stay-at-Home/Covid-19 negatively affecting your ability to practice sustainable behaviors? 

Further Comments:

“I feel badly about all the plastic bags from shopping, since reusable totes aren’t allowed in our state now. We’ll save and reuse, but it still seems counter to our efforts in the last few years.”

“I’m trying to work from home which is good, except that transit ridership is way down and I’m afraid this will lead to far more car driving once the stay at home order lifts.”

“Using more toilet paper!”

“Lots and lots of wipes”

“Increased emphasis on single-use materials to prevent contamination”

“I regularly get supplies at a bulk store. COVID-19 has meant that I can’t bring my own clean containers from home, so I’m ending up buying a lot more packaging.”

Every meal at home meant running the dishwasher daily.  It broke!  The part can’t be replaced so the whole machine needs to be (and we’re washing less efficiently in the meantime.)”

“Increased packaging waste from take out for two reasons: 1) you can no longer bring your own containers to restaurants when ordered food to go, 2) I have ordered take out more often in order to support independent restaurants in the hopes they will make it through (previously I rarely ordered take out unless the restaurant allowed me to bring my own container).  Another example: with the elimination of bulk bins and reusable bags, I cannot buy nuts, lentils, dried fruit, etc. from bulk bins using my own reusable produce bags. I am forced to buy pre-packaged items…I can still practice my sustainable behavior but with more effort and time (it is worth it).”

Please Participate in our Survey: Sustainability during Stay-at-Home!

The SustainRT Outreach Committee has put together this super short survey about your thoughts and experiences around sustainability during Stay-at-Home/quarantine. We hope you’ll participate, and we’ll share some responses on the SustainRT Blog to keep us connected and hopefully inspire each other to adopt or continue sustainable practices in this time of great potential for change.

Click here to participate, and thank you!


Sustainable Connections during Covid-19: An Interview

Interview with Queens Public Library Manager Ronglin Wan

By Kacper Jarecki

One of the interesting things about working from home is that during online meetings and video conferencing, you get to peek into people’s homes. It was during one of these meetings that I learned that one of my fellow library managers, Ronglin Wan, raises chickens from home. I thought this was really cool, and also a sustainable way to make eggs.

KJ: How many chickens do you have? Do they have names?

RW: I currently keep six hens in five breeds: 2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Barred Rock, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Brahma, 1 Black Australorp. I have not given a name to each of them yet.

KJ: What inspired you to keep chickens at home? How long have you had them?

RW: It was primarily our intention to have chickens as pets and as egg layers. Both my wife and I used to keep chicks in our childhood and loved them immensely. Chickens can be lovely creatures to observe as they forage in the backyard. But our objective is now more on the side of keeping hens for fresh, organic eggs, which provide essential nutrients our body needs. 

We bought 3-day-old chicks last April so we have had them for thirteen months now.

KJ: Where do you keep your chickens? Is it hard to care for them?

RW: We keep them in the backyard. When they were small, we let them roam in the entire yard. As they grow older, they become quite “destructive”, meaning they will eat up all the grass. Now we keep them within the back half. It is not too hard to care for them. We feed them with organic chicken feed, non GMO rice and other grains, kitchen scraps, fresh vegetables or grass from the front yard. We spend about one hour on them each day. The work includes feeding and cleaning the coop. They are easy to keep: can be kept in a coop all day, or free range. 

KJ: How often do they lay eggs? Do their eggs taste better than the ones at the store?

RW: Currently a hen lays an egg in about 30 hours. In summer when the daylight is longer, each will give us an egg a day. One interesting thing about the hens is that they tend to lay their eggs in one nest, even though I have four nests in the coop. When a laying hen is occupying the nest, another hen, ready to lay as well, waits outside, if she is a patient one, or cackles loudly and repeatedly, if she is a noisy one, or squeezes in as well, if she is a bully.

The eggs do taste better than the ones we buy in stores, as we feed the chickens with organic feed supplemented with fresh vegetables and meat. 

 KJ: How does having chickens make you feel? Do you enjoy caring for them? 

RW: Keeping chickens is fun. Some hens are very friendly; they will follow you around thinking you might toss some goodies to them. The fluffy creatures are often a pleasant sight to watch as they are colorful and lovely. 

 My wife enjoys keeping the chickens. She cooks the feed even though chickens can eat feed raw. But the hot food makes the hens happy especially in winter. 

 It is very satisfying to collect eggs in the evening. For me, the eggs are the reward for a day’s work. 

KJ: How do you like to prepare your eggs? Do you have any good recipes? 

RW: We prepare eggs in several ways, scrambled (fried or baked), poached, boiled, dropped in soup, used in making omelet, quiches, bread, cakes. 

My wife also uses eggs to make egg dumplings. She scrambles eggs in a bow, drops a tablespoonful of the egg mixture into a round scoop, heats and swirls it over flames. When the egg mixture nearly hardens over the inner surface of the scoop, she adds minced meat onto the egg sheet, and folds half of it over to envelope the meat. When the two sides sticks together with meat inside, the dumpling is done. She makes many of them and uses them in a soup. They are delicious. 

KJ: Thanks, Ron! See you at our next Managers Meeting 😉

On Hope, Civilization, and Walking Blind

If like me, you are hovering in the dark spaces between Kubler Ross’s bargaining, depression and acceptance, there is some comfort to be had in the words of Elizabeth West, in Abandon All Hope!. West boldly implores us to “abandon all hope that we can make things ‘right’ and give up the fear of what happens next.” I think I have the former part down; it’s the latter I am having trouble with.

There is not one single bolt, nut, knob or straw comprising the foundation of my day-to-day existence that does not depend upon the (collective) assumption that the future will resemble –for the most part– the present.

Many of us in the industrialized world take for granted that we will continue to enjoy all the current “conveniences” civilization offers us. Things like education, health care, prescription drugs, supermarkets, paved roads, phones, cars, buses, email, houses, etc. We assume a continuous, shared belief and agreement in such concepts as law, justice and order, amongst others. At the very least, we assume the basics: food, water, air. Each other. And we march onward, as if.

This assumption is in direct conflict with a dark undercurrent of fear that doggedly gnaws at me daily; I know very well the future does not look like the present.

But because I don’t know what the future will look like, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to prepare, how to get ready, how to survive. I don’t even know if survival is possible. And this not knowing– this is makes me most afraid.

If only we knew what it was to be. Will it be the guillotine or will it be prolonged suffering in a torture chamber of disease and unspeakable violence? Will we starve? Will there be animals? Will there be water? Will there be radiation sickness? Will we be alone? Will we have tribes? Will our children die in front of us? Will we die in front of our children?

All I know is all roads lead to a hard geography, a reality of scope and dimension we cannot fathom. We are truly the walking blind.

Lack of hope is an ugly thing. Surely denial would be better, “a form of fearing and avoiding the truth [that] keeps us from cracking up, giving up. It stands between us and the unbearable.” But once the curtain has been pulled back, once a sightline to the “little man behind the curtain, pulling strings” has been established, returning to the false safety of denial is impossible. It is no stretch to say that the current state of xenophobia racking our world, one in which those seeking refuge from domiciles which do not enjoy the same benefits of civilization that we do are denied entry into ours, whether by walls or by ideology, is an obvious effort to maintain the false safety of denial.

The knowledge that immigration policy means nothing in a world that depends upon civilization for the word “policy” to have meaning, the knowledge that no matter what we do, we will not achieve “long-term security and comfort… economic or racial justice or equality, [we] will not stop the ice sheets from melting or the radioactive Fukushima-spiked water flowing into the sea” is a hard one.

If you feel this way, know that I am with you. Know that like you, I go on pretending. I get up in the morning. I go to work. I put money into my retirement account. I fix up my house. I send and receive emails. I march against injustice. I go to conferences. I write. I worry. And slowly, with the help of a few others, whose bravery and kindness I cannot even begin to convey in words, I grieve. I turn, and I gaze full into the unknown face of the future – I feel, quite palpably, the knowledge that human extinction is a very real and probable outcome. And I hope, as I grieve, I can let go of a “desired end” and “the fear which accompanies any threat to it.”

By releasing all “attempts to control something which is no longer in our hands” I hope to feel the “liberating boldness, permission to live without attachment to outcomes.”

In other words: acceptance.

I am not quite there yet. I am guessing few of us are. In the meantime, we still have each other.

If you are interested in possibly joining me (and others) in an unrecorded, virtual discussion about the existential threats we face, get in touch. My email is jodishaw at mac dot com

And don’t forget you can respond publicly to this post in the comments field.


Jodi Shaw is a librarian and writer living in Massachusetts. She is the Coordinator of the ALA Sustainability Round Table. 

Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda

Video: ALA Sustainability Round Table and UN 2030 (7:31, 2017)

Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda (IFLA)

IFLA 2015Libraries have been recognized as key institutions for achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Access to Information: Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

Culture, Information & Communication Technology:
Half of the world’s population lacks access to information online. In our knowledge society, libraries provide access and opportunity for all.” (Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development)

Development and Access to Information

Universal Literacy: We envision…a world with universal literacy.” (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

Toolkit: Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda (Revised version – August 2017)

IFLA Statement on Libraries and Development (August 2013)













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.

Sustainability in Action

Even the smallest actions make a huge difference in fostering a culture that embraces sustainability. The High Plains Library District (HPLD), serving most of Weld County CO, understands how libraries can be leaders in sustainability by setting a good example for other business to embrace ideas and opportunities that help reduce consumption of resources and move our community to be more equitable, healthy and economically viable.

The High Plains Library District minimizes its impact on the environment by making efforts to reduce consumption of resources, use resources more wisely, and provide the community with information and opportunities to do the same. Here’s how the HPLD is leading by example:

Solar Panels

Solar Panels have been installed on the roofs of 2 libraries in the District, Centennial Park and Farr Libraries. The solar panels will provide almost 20% of each building’s electrical consumption yet did not require the HPLD to invest any capital in the project. Instead, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) was utilized which is possible with Xcel Energy’s rebate program for renewable energy and a 20-year contract with SolarCity, a leading solar power and energy efficiency service provider with operations centers in Denver and Parker. SolarCity installs, owns, and maintains the panels while HPLD buys the electricity for the same or lower cost than traditional power plant generated electricity.

View each library’s energy consumption and solar production:

Electric Vehicle Charging Station

The Farr Regional Library (1939 61st Ave. in Greeley) features an Eaton Level 1/Level 2 charging station that is enabled with a Chargepoint interface. The Riverside Library and Cultural Center (3700 Golden Street in Evans) features a Level II charger.  Chargepoint will allow users to charge their credit cards ($1 per hour) for payment, and provide technical support for end users. Set up an account at www.chargepoint.com for easy access to the EV charging stations.

Green Buildings

Our facilities are environmentally responsible and resource efficient in design, construction, operation, maintenance, and renovation. A multi-branch project to reduce energy consumption and improve occupant comfort resulted in a reduction of more than 1.2 million pounds of CO2 emissions which is the equivalent of removing 115 cars from our roads or powering 50 homes for a year.

Green Team

Employees with an interest in environmental sustainability are encouraged to be part of the HPLD’s Green Team. The Green Team meets regularly to discuss and implement ideas that support the District’s Sustainability Statement. Because the Green Team is internally driven, we are able to realize green initiatives that matter to our employees.

Sometimes it’s the small things that have a big impact on our environment. We understand that even small initiatives can make a big difference, so we also provide the public with a way to recycle household batteries and unwanted books. Our libraries also feature bicycle repair stations to encourage using an alternative mode of transportation to our locations.

Contributor Eric Ewing is the Director of Human Resources & Facilities at High Plains Library District.

Green Library Resources

Raising patrons’ awareness of green issues goes further than setting an example. Sometimes patrons come to us specifically seeking information about green living, but many patrons who come across a life-changing piece of information in a library foyer or at a service desk might not have previously been looking to have their minds changed. Luckily, there are many resources available out there for libraries who want to get environmental issues into their patrons’ hands and heads. The printable brochures and fact sheets on these sites may use paper and power now, but by raising awareness, they’ll save ten times what they expend in the future!

If everyone on Earth lived like you, how many Earths would humanity need to sustain itself? This is where to find out! Less famously, the Footprint Network has some great brochures available to print and pass out to patrons. But if you need a good way to bring home the impact of individual choices on the environment, especially for an Earth Day or awareness program, this is a great way to do that.

Among the most polished purveyors of printable material on the web, 350.org has some beautiful and well-engineered fact sheets that will catch your patrons’ eyes and lead to enlightening discussions. The rest of the site is useful, too, and includes several ways to volunteer with the activist organization.

Light pollution constitutes a double-whammy: not only do bright lights burn fuel, but light pollution destroys the darkness that is so vital to the life and daily cycles of wild animals. The printables on DarkSky.org both raise awareness and offer strategies for saving the skies, and by extension, burning fewer fossil fuels.

As any children’s librarian will tell you, don’t mess with the moms! This clean air group offers an extensive library of printable fact sheets and online resources. Specific topics range from indoor air quality and asthma in the Latino community to ocean acidification. Be aware that many of the graphics on this site are large and take a long time to load!

Dr. Pop is a website committed to online education. In 2010, several UCLA scholars created and contributed some lovely fact sheets and a very snazzy printable brochure dedicated to constructing a greener economy. While much of the information they produced is specific to Los Angeles, the brochure could be used as is by almost any library.

As you might expect, the USDE’s website is a goldmine of online information. But what about printables? Though there are no brochures, the department’s Energy Saver Guide is available for free here in both English and Spanish. Download, print and catalog to use less paper, or loan it as a Kindle-ready ebook! Either way, it’s a handy guide and one of the most useful resources of its kind on the Web.

-Submitted by Anna Call