Saturday, April 26, 2008

#58 Being Green

Being green was quite an appropriate Thing for me this week. I spent most of the week in bed with the worst sinusitis/throat infection that I have had for years. And the cause of it? Melbourne was covered by a smoky haze emanating from scheduled forestry burnoffs in other parts of the state. There's nothing wrong with burnoffs - we don't want bush fires - but presumably some meteorological idiosyncrasy led to the smoke being stuck over Melbourne. Yuk!

I was amused when I got back to my PC today after days away from it (I was really, really sick) to receive a link to this video which has a section about cats and greenhouse gas ;>). It's not a very serious approach to take to Being Green I know, but my laughing was detrimental to my recovering cough though not my spirits and my cats came from the other end of the house to discover what was happening to the cats I had hidden here.

On a more serious and relevant note, I was also interested to learn about Earth Day on 22 April as it isn't something that we celebrate here, at least not in my circle. I was feeling quite confused as I thought I had just celebrated Earth Day on 29 March when we all turned our lights off for an hour. But I'd seen stuff on Facebook about 22 April (in Li'l Green Garden) and then Sandy's Thing mentioned it. I hit Google and an article in Wikipedia soon told me why. There are two Earth Days: the UN celebrates Earth Day annually around the March equinox and there is a second one mainly in the US on 22 April.

I had a browse at all the sites mentioned including the Going Green Matters blog where there were a couple of posts on tips for being green. These included sensible things like insulating houses, not heating and cooling places when you aren't there, and scraping not rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. There were also quite a few tips around reducing your "gas" consumption in cars. That was well and good but I would have had using public transport or walking or cycling up there in the tips well above these.

The strongest message I got from these tips was one about turning off things when you are not using them. This really reinforced the message I got on 29 March when I went to turn the lights off for an hour. I couldn't believe how many lights there were turned on all around the house! I really only focused on lights that night but I know others looked at everything they had on standby and not turned off at the wall. I still need to get better at both of these.

And what is the learning from this for libraries? We need to build (and renovate to) more energy-efficient buildings. We have a very energy conscious Council and are in the forefront of initiatives in this area. For example, we have waterless urinals in some libraries; we trialled motion and photo-sensitive lights in parts of one of our libraries but it wasn't very satisfactory; we are installing tanks linked to the downpipes at Camberwell and Balwyn Libraries this year; we are very conscious of recycling; we encourage people to travel to meetings and between branches on public transport by giving people free Metcards for this. As I am lucky enough to have a large external window in my office, I rarely turn the lights on: this does lead to useful discussion when people ask me why I am sitting in the dark when dusk is coming on and I haven't noticed how dark it is ;>).

These are only the physical things we can do in library buildings, but there are many other things we can do in terms of user education, of providing access to sites and databases etc. I like the cry: "Save a tree, borrow a book!" But wonder if an even better one mightn't be "Save a tree, read an ebook!"? Both of these are services that our public libraries offer and between them they do save trees.

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