The Weinberg Memorial Library has been working hard lately to make sure that our building is as sustainable as possible. We set up a green team, we’ve upgraded our lights with more energy-efficient bulbs, and we’re really pushing recycling.
But the Library faculty and staff have also been chatting lately about the best ways that we can go green in our personal lives. Many of us have started carrying reusable water bottles and coffee mugs instead of using disposable cups. Some of us have switched to buying recycled paper towels and napkins for our homes. The more you think about going green, though, the more confusing it can get. A lot of products these days advertise themselves as green, but which ones are really best for the environment?
Enter GoodGuide, a website created by a University of California-Berkeley professor of environmental policy that rates commonly used products on how environmentally friendly and healthy they are. GoodGuide uses a pretty intense methodology to examine each product, from its contents to the impact of its manufacturing processes. But they also translate that information into scores that are easy for consumers to understand, and their website makes it easy to compare product types across brands. (For example, I compared brands of contact solution – only to find out that the product I’ve been using for years got one of the worst rankings!)
GoodGuide is a “B Corporation,” which means that it’s a for-profit company that has made a public commitment to environmentalism and social justice. The company makes money by selling its analysis results back to manufacturers or retailers who want to use it for market research or to improve their products (see this recent Newsweek article on GoodGuide’s business strategy). So their business depends on the accuracy of their information, which makes me feel a little more comfortable trusting their website. I also like that if you want more information about a product, you can drill down to see how GoodGuide assigned its score and get details on how the ingredients and life cycle assessment were judged. And of course I’m excited to try GoodGuide’s free iPhone app – you can scan barcodes of products to get environmental ratings on the go, while you’re shopping.
So take a second to search for some of your favorite brands – you might find that a greener option is just another step down the grocery aisle!
So the week of April 19th was our first celebration of Earth Week here at the library. For those of you that haven’t been keeping up, we created some displays to try to become more environmentally conscious, and hopefully inspire some of the students to waste less. Our green tactics included stickers on printers, scanners and paper towel dispensers reminding you that the paper “comes from trees.”
But everything that we did was covered in a post from the beginning of Earth Week. What I’m here to focus on is the suggestions that we got from students, which we are going to be taking into consideration as we focus more on sustainability.
There were some especially good suggestions that we’d like to mention.
Install automatic sensors in the ProDeo room after the library closes, so that we don’t waste energy if no one is in the room at night.
Turn off the automatic doors at night. According to the suggestion, that alone will save enough energy to light New York city for 500,000 years. I’d personally like to check the math on that one.
Get double sided printers.
Some of these suggestions may not come into immediate effect, but we are going to try for some. Keep and eye out for recycling bins though, we have those on every floor.
And remember, please only print what you need. We go through a lot of paper every week.