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Library's green team conserves resources

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Turned-off but plugged-in appliances suck up more energy than you might think.

Now, along with books and other items, patrons can borrow from the Mesa County Public Library power-check meters — instruments that monitors watt usage of home appliances.

“Toasters are terrible. You should always unplug your toaster,” said Nancy MacDonald, library executive assistant.

The availability of power-check meters is part of an overall library strategy to be good stewards of not only taxpayer dollars, but also the earth's natural resources.

“Every public library is about recycling things. We buy one book; 10 people get to read it,” said library director Eve Tallman.

Two years ago Tallman formed a library green team to implement “green” measures that reflected the library's values statement pledging efficiency and thoughtful use of resources throughout the library.

Good stewardship became the underlying theme of everything we do, MacDonald said.

“We are a large business with lots of employees. If we don't do it, who does?” Tallman asked.

“There are great creative minds on the library staff constantly looking for ways to save.”

For example, downstairs in the public computers area, printers have changed to two-sided printing by default. And while printing used to be free, patrons are now asked to pay 10 cents per page, which cuts down on excessive, unnecessary printing.

Both public and staff computers are powered down at night to eliminate “phantom loads” (electricity consumed when a device is turned off), MacDonald said.

In the break room, paper plates and cups have given way to dishes from home. Cloth napkins are used at board meetings.

“One thing that we've aced is recycling,” MacDonald said. “Curbside Recycling comes every other week.

“For me, our next big push is just reducing the amount of paper we use, reducing the amount of everything.” Library

Although the library recycles its junk mail, MacDonald and a volunteer are working on reducing what's delivered in the first place by writing back to senders and requesting to be taken off lists. Some of the unwanted mail is addressed to former staff members.

Recycling bins for staff and public have been placed inside the library.

Floor mats are made from recycled materials.

Rooftop solar tubes lets in natural lighting at Fruita's new library.

Used books are recycled at the Friends of the Library in-house bookstore.

To elicit staff ideas for making the workplace greener, a “Going Green at our Library” contest was held this summer. There were 20 submissions.

“Eve won, that rascal,” MacDonald laughed.

Tallman's idea was to switch to “green,” nontoxic cleaning supplies.

“We contacted our suppliers and said ‘this is what we want,'” MacDonald said.

“It helps with people's allergies. We don't need all those toxic things in the environment, for the public and the staff.”

Mentors also shared tips with the library green team — Kathy Portner who leads Grand Junction's green team, and David Miller of Alpine Bank — another entity with a strong green initiative.

Changes have extended to the outdoors as well. Low-water use landscaping was planted in front of the library.

A once barren lot west of the library is now a vegetable-laden community garden — a joint project between the library (who owns the land), the city, and the Colorado State University extension office. The $50 per plot fee covered irrigation water, roto-tilling, and some Mesa Magic compost.

Earlier this year MacDonald and a coworker shared with other Western Slope librarians a Powerpoint presentation, “Going Green at your Library.”

Handouts with recipes of homemade cleaners sparked some interesting conversations, like: “Oh, my mom used to do these things,” MacDonald said.

“It was a lot of fun to share what we're doing.”

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