100 Ways to Make Your Library a Little Greener

Librarians need to be on the constant cutting edge in terms of technology, researching, web tools and even architecture and design. But libraries are also a great place to educate the public and your students about the environment, from eco-friendly lifestyle choices to organizations that promote green causes. Here are 100 ways to make your library a little greener.

Please find below the First Three (3) listed in each category

Maintenance and Green Building : Keep your library clean and eco-friendly with these tips.

  1. Turn down the heat one or two degrees: Care2 writes that “each 1-degree drop for an eight-hour period reduces your fuel bill percent,” saving you money and cutting down on electricity usage
  2. Use fans: If you can, install ceiling fans to cool down the library without overusing the A/C.
  3. Take advantage of windows: Strategically placed windows will provide natural light and may help with heating or cooling costs.

Hardware: Learn how to choose the right computers and resources by reading this list.

  1. Purchase eco-friendly computers: When you need new computers, search for eco-friendly versions.
  2. Use laptops: Laptops use less electricity than desktop versions.
  3. Know how to clean your computers: Eco-friendly, safe computer cleaning tips include using biodegradable dust cloths and old t-shirts.

Special Events and Projects: Host special events like contests, and go after environmental grants to raise awareness and become a greener library.

  1. Apply for grants: Certain grants awarded by environmental agencies or the government will help your library with funding for green projects and renovations.
  2. Start a paper drive: Ask the public and your students to bring in old newspapers and other papers to recycle: they may even be turned into books one day!
  3. Hold recycling contests: Hold recycling contests between grades, individuals, or against other libraries.

Awareness: Spread awareness about your green policies through these projects.

  1. Sell Fair Trade coffee in your snack area: Fair Trade coffee is used in many academic libraries and is made in humane, eco-friendly conditions.
  2. Go all out for Earth Month: It’s not just about Earth Day anymore. Use the whole month of April to showcase your library’s green progress.
  3. Sell eco-friendly snacks and drinks: Sell drinks and snacks that are bottled and packaged in eco-friendly materials.

Using the Web: Take advantage of all the web tools and sites you can use to cut down on paper.

  1. SecondLife: Hold meetings and organize training workshops online through the virtual world SecondLife instead of requiring employees to drive to retreats.
  2. Move accounts online: Cut down on paper notices and make it easier for patrons to keep up with their accounts by making them accessible online
  3. Create an online catalog: Cut down on paper by moving your catalog onto your website.

Outdoors: Don’t forget to turn your outdoor environment into a greener, more sustainable spot.

  1. Start an organic garden: Grow a garden to spread awareness on sustainability and provide a healthy eating option for participating library patrons and workers.
  2. Plant flowers: Show pride in your environment by planting in-season, local flowers and shrubs.
  3. Use safe pesticides: Safe and/or natural pesticides will help keep your plants healthy without damaging your health or the environment.

Networks: Make sure your library is tuned in to the latest environmental news and trends by networking with these organizations and through these platforms. You’ll find materials for educating and engaging your patrons, too.

  1. Care2: Care2 is a social network that organizes people who want to make a difference by living green.
  2. TreeHugger: Learn about the latest trends in green design, food, fashion, building, travel and technology.
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Learn about environmental contaminants, pollutants that hurt animals and natural ecosystems, and how you can help.

Must-Read Resources: Librarians conscious about green projects will need to keep up with these blogs and resources.

  1. The Green Library Blog: Read this blog to learn about green library news and to get tips on how you can improve your library.
  2. How to Green a Library Conference: Learn how to make your next library conference or library meeting more eco-friendly.
  3. Reducing Your Carbon Footprint: Get tips on being more energy efficient and conscious of your lifestyle here.

Everyday Tips: Switch to compostable library cards, set up a bike rack and encourage the use of reusable bags to continue your green campaign

  1. Stop giving out bags: Encourage patrons to bring their own bags and stop using plastic ones.
  2. No more paper receipts: Ask patrons to access their account online to discover when a book is due, or just stamp it the old-fashioned way.
  3. Sell or distribute eco-friendly bags: Encourage patrons to carry their library books in reusable bags, not plastic ones.

Links To The Full List Of The 100 As Well As Embedded Links Are Available At


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Gerry McKiernan
Associate Professor
Science and Technology Librarian
Iowa State University Library
Ames IA 50011