Why should a library be green? Because it saves energy and resources. Because it’s the right thing to do. We should inspire our patrons with every visit to their library. The experience should be motivational, if possible!
Our library feels so strongly about this that we have a Green Initiatives Committee. They meet regularly and discuss ideas that will enable us to make better use of our resources. Their formal charge is to look for ways to encourage stewardship and reduce energy consumption. They meet at least quarterly.
Figure 1. The Paul Meek Library Green Initiatives Committee. Front row: Lana Kipling, Julie Cooper, Patrick Reavis. Back row: John Bell and Derek Ivy.
As Chair of the Green Initiatives Committee, Patrick Reavis took on the project of constructing a heart from recycled milk jugs for Valentine’s Day, 2011 (see fig. 2). Over 1,000 students visit the Meek Library daily and many were impressed with this example of stewardship. The project was featured in the UT Martin weekly newsletter, The Addenda, bringing additional attention to the library. The signage by the heart reads “The Paul Meek Library Loves the Earth”.
Figure 2. Patrick Reavis constructed a heart from used milk jugs for Valentine's Day in 2011.
Last year, the Paul Meek Library was delighted to support a week long celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on the UTM campus last year by hosting the Earth Fest Art Contest held from April 19-24, 2010. The Earth Fest Art Contest was sponsored by the University of Tennessee at Martin organization, UTM Recycles, to increase interest in the group and awareness of Earth Day. Participants were asked to create a work of art such as a painting, collage, sculpture, textile art, fashion, or functional art that incorporated recycled materials. Works of art were displayed in the front lobby of the Paul Meek Library from Monday through Saturday of Earth Week.
Prizes were awarded in the following categories: grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-12, student organization, college student, and community. Winners were photographed and the pictures published in the local newspaper.
Figure 3. Entries in the UTM Earth Fest Art Contest, displayed in the library lobby.
Figure 4. An entry from the Earth Fest Art Contest at UTM in 2010.
We are fortunate at UT Martin to have an organized recycling effort, with both a volunteer base and support from the university physical plant. All faculty and staff at the Meek Library have recycling bins under their desks and they are also liberally distributed throughout the library facility, and the campus recently sponsored a clean energy survey to increase awareness. One of the new ideas our Green Initiatives Committee came up with is to have a FREE STUFF box in our break room where library staff members can donate personal items they no longer need for the use of others. As you know “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Items that remain in the box will be delivered to WeCARE, a local organization which helps the needy, for sale in their thrift store.
Figure 5. The UTM Recycling Barn and an example of recycling bins which are located in numerous locations on campus.
Figure 6. Simple is sometimes best. Here is an example of a recycling effort from the staff break room in the Meek Library.
Figure 7. Technology is also recycled at UT Martin. Here is a shot of outdated computers waiting to be picked up for surplus and then recycling.
Figure 8. "Free stuff" box in the staff breakroom.
The result of another campus partnership is the Paul Meek Library herb garden. The herb garden was created in 2010 as a part of the UT Martin Growing Gardens Project sponsored by UTM Recycles. The group was awarded an $8500 grant from the Alliance of Women Philanthropic Giving Circle Grant Program. Their intention was to create several small gardens on campus. They visualized these gardens as a means of providing hands-on experience for students majoring in Agriculture and for students attending the UTM Governor’s School for Agriculture.
Figure 9. The beginning stages of the library herb garden.
In April 2010 Heidi Huse and Angie MacKewn, the UTM faculty members who serve as project coordinators, approached library director Mary Carpenter about the possibility of replacing the shrubs in the planter in front of the library with a small herb garden. Several staff members are enthusiastic gardeners so we were definitely interested in learning more. Library staff representatives attended planning meetings at which Angie and Heidi answered our questions before we even had a chance to ask them. Who would plant the garden? Project volunteers would plant the garden. Who would provide the compost? The university would provide the compost. The university composts waste from the cafeteria and agriculture pavilion under the supervision of soil science professor Paula Gale. Paula assured us that the UTM compost is rich and dark and doesn’t smell – and she is right. Who would buy the plants? Angie and Heidi would use grant money to purchase herbs. Who would care for the plants? Growing Gardens volunteers under Angie and Heidi’s supervision would care for the plants.
Figure 10. The herb garden, post-planting.
We agreed to participate. The group proceeded to hold a formal groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the event. They planted many types of mint as well as parsley, basil, and thyme. Several library staff members volunteered to help. There was some weeding to do; however mulch kept that to a minimum. For the most part, our labors were limited to watering. Volunteers were invited to help themselves to the herbs. A section of the planter is in front of Mary Carpenter’s office so she was able to enjoy the reaction of library patrons to the garden. Planting day for this year is March 26, 2011. We’re looking forward to enjoying the herb garden again this summer.
In order for a campus recycling effort to be successful, students and faculty must be kept aware of it. Making it easy to maintain is also important.
Figure 11. Easy access to recycling bins.
Here are some startling facts:
- To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, over a half million trees must be cut down.
- Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper is cut down every year in the United States. UT Martin and the Meek Library hope to make a dent in this astronomical number.
- An aluminum can which is thrown away will still be around 500 years from now, but there is no limit to the number of times it can be recycled.
But on the plus side, there has been a huge increase in paper recycling at UT Martin since our organized effort began in 1991. Back then we recycled 52 tons of paper, and today that number is 550 tons.
Dennis Kosta (fig. 12) is the Manager of Custodial Services and Recycling Coordinator at UT Martin. He was raised in northern Wisconsin and has lived in Wisconsin and Michigan where recycling is a way of life. Dennis came to UTM in 1986. The UTM recycling program, Project Recycle, began in 1991 and has grown steadily under Dennis’ supervision. To increase his knowledge of what other universities are doing he has visited recycling programs on the campuses of Murray State University, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. He has also attended a seminar on recycling and how it affects universities at Lipscomb University in Knoxville.
Figure 12. Dennis Kosta, Manager of Custodial Services at UT Martin.
All of the staff at the Paul Meek Library have contributed to this presentation through their support of our recycling effort. We would especially like to thank Meek Library staff members Dana Breland and Derek Ivy for their assistance with this presentation.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead