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, 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 ( 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

Missed our last webinar? The recording is now online!

David Selden, National Indian Law Library, spoke about the founding of the Committee on Environmental Sustainability under the American Association of Law Libraries. Their activities include a Conference Travel Offset Project and a Resolution on Sustainability in Law Libraries.

View the RECORDINGslidedeck & resources:

For more information about SustainRT activities and events, click here.

ALA Annual 2017 Speaker!

We are excited to announce that Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker at ALA Annual 2017!

Bill McKibben is co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international, grass roots climate movement that leverages people power to develop people-centric solutions to the climate crisis. McKibben is a prolific writer and opened the general public’s eyes to the urgency of climate change back in 1989 with his book The End of Nature, which has been published worldwide in over 24 languages. Among his many related books are Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age; Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet; Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families; and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth.

McKibben suggests that we conceptualize climate change as a threat on the order of World War III and respond accordingly. With this mindset we can make societal shifts similar to those experienced in the 1940’s wartime era and move to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage. There is urgency to his message as climate change is happening more quickly than scientists anticipated. McKibben argues that the status quo is a luxury we cannot afford. The nonviolent war that McKibben proposes will save lives and has the potential to produce millions of jobs.

His address is made possible through the partnership of SustainRT, ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and the American Indian Library Association. We are honored and fortunate to have Mr. McKibben join us at ALA Annual to bring us his insights into the role of libraries during a time of climate change.

Date, time, and location of McKibben’s featured address at ALA annual in Chicago are forthcoming.

To help us bring this important program to ALA and support our ongoing work, please consider making a donation to ALA’s Sustainability Roundtable (SustainRT). The instructions to ensure it gets to SustainRT are below. Thank you for anything you can contribute!

To Make a Donation

Online donations are accepted at the Donate to ALA website. Select ALA Roundtables and choose SustainRT for your donation.

If you prefer to mail your donation, please fill out the online form, print it out, and send a check, payable to ALA at:

American Library Association
Development Office
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611

The American Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Our federal tax identification number is 36-2166947.

National Indian Law Library (Webinar)

View a recording of this presentation on the
SustainRT YouTube Channel

Thursday December 1, 2016, 12:15-12:45pm EST:  David Selden, National Indian Law Library, will talk about the founding of the Committee on Environmental Sustainability under the American Association of Law Libraries. Their activities include a Conference Travel Offset Project and a Resolution on Sustainability in Law Libraries. Free and open to all! REGISTER NOW: (

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 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.

Re-Localizing the Academic Library: Comments on an essay by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich’s recent essay,  “Local Supports Local Sustainability,” (Library Journal, July 11, 2016 ) offers an idea that I believe is essential not only for the future of libraries, but more generally for a systemic transition to sustainable, resilient communities.  Aldrich writes,

“As we strategize about our unique value position for the future, nothing is more unique than our “local.” Each town, campus, and school that has a library has a culture and physical environment of its own that needs to be nurtured, preserved, and celebrated.”

It strikes me, though, that library re-localization is not going to happen without a fight. In academic libraries, at least, the responsibility for “local” is almost entirely confined to Special Collections, and discussion about the Future of Libraries is dominated by a kind of technological futurism that is distinctly anti-local.

Academic librarians, accustomed to thinking of libraries mainly as repositories of global scholarship and research, have been slow to grasp the importance of re-localization.  The hot trends are all towards better access to conventionally published academic books and journals,  e.g. bundled journal subscriptions, approval plans, eBook collections, patron-driven purchasing, and digitization. As H. Thomas Hickerson sums it up,  “Most of our collections funding is devoted to licensing electronic publications, and most of those publications are academic journals.  And most of what we buy is being bought by everyone.”  

This de-valuing of unique local knowledge stems from an academic culture that generally treats scholars and scholarship as placeless. But in his classic “Becoming Native to this Place,” Wes Jackson argues that this placelessness does a disservice to students.

To a large extent, this book is a challenge to the universities to stop and think what they are doing with the young men and women they are supposed to be preparing for the future. The universities now offer only one serious major; upward mobility. Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a “homecoming” major.

The problem, of course, is not that globalized, online information is bad (In Orion Magazines “Thirty-Year Plan” at least one author mentions global access to information as essential for sustainability).  The problem is that a steady diet of  globalized information without  local and hyper-local information is dangerously incomplete. The Internet is great at spreading globalized information, but Robert Michael Pyle calls the current moment in history a “Dark Age of place-centered knowledge,” and Bill McKibben describes the local information gap in “The Age of Missing Information,” where he addresses the question:  In a globalized world, how do we learn about the places where we actually live?  

The LibQual+ Survey used by many academic libraries measures three dimensions: Affect of Service, Information Control and Library as Place. However, in the survey, questions about “place” are limited to physical facilities, lighting, cleanliness and such. It seems to me that the LibQual+  understanding of place is far too reductive. What if Academic Librarians stopped thinking of libraries as  information access points in glorified study halls and started from a premise that  the academic library is integral to the place-based identity of the whole campus?  What would it take for academic libraries to truly foster resilient community within the constantly shifting flow of scholars and students?  In any case, I believe that if we academic librarians understood the true relation between library and place, we would be using an evaluation metric that incuded local information as part of the equation.

Aldrich leaves us with this challenge:

Libraries need to be part of the localism movement in bigger and more obvious ways.

Yes we do.  Let’s get to work.


Hickerson, H. Thomas. “Rebalancing the Investment in Collections.” Research Library Issues: A Bimonthly Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC, no. 277 (December 2011): 1–8.

Jackson, Wes. Becoming Native to this Place. University Press of Kentucky, 1993, p.3.

Lyons, Charles. “The library: A distinct local voice?.” First Monday 12, no. 3 (2007).

McKibben, Bill. The age of missing information.  Random House, 1992.

Pyle, Robert Michael. “No child left inside: nature study as a radical act” in Place-based education in the global age.   Gruenewald, David A. and Smith, Gegory A. eds. New York, Londaon: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p.155-172.  

Thirty Year Plan: An Orion Reader.  Orion Magazine. 2012.

Submitted by Amy Brunvard

Amy Brunvand

Upcoming SustainRT Webinar – Libraries and the Sacredness of Community

Rachael_SheaDon’t miss the next SustainRT webinar, Libraries and the Sacredness of Communityon May 19th, 2016, from 12:15-12:45 P.M. (EST).  Rachael Shea, Head of Public Services at Clark University will be our presenter.  The webinar will explore the importance of relationship and the many ways libraries can contribute to creating sustainable communities. Rachael will describe how the “interconnectedness of things” and the interplay of exchange – give and take – is what underlies true sustainability.


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, 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 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

SustainRT Election Results!

The election results are in, and we’d like to congratulate the following:

  • Jodi Shaw – Coordinator-Elect (three year term)
  • Rebekkah Smith Aldrich – Member-at-Large (one year term)
  • Mary Beth Lock – Member-at-Large (two year term)
  • Lindsay L. Marlow – Treasurer (two year term)
  • Kate Hutchens – Secretary (two year term)

To all of our candidates, thank you for your interest and your dedication to the Sustainability Round Table!.  To our elected officials, thank you in advance for the time and energy that you will devote to our Round Table during your terms. To our SustainRT members, thank you for voting!