50 Ways the Library is Sustainable

To celebrate the Geisel Library building’s 50th anniversary, the Library Sustainability Committee (LSC) put together this list of ways in which we have been sustainable over the years.

  1. Biking to Work: The Library maintains a secure “bike bunker” for library staff who bike to work.
  2. Solar Energy: The roof of the Biomedical Library building hosts an array of solar panels.
  3. Reducing Commutes: Library staff in some units work a compressed 4-day schedule that allows them to cut out one day of commuting to campus.
  4. Toss Disposable Cups for Good: The Library Sustainability Committee maintains a “loaner cup cart” for use at staff events, allowing the Library to minimize the use of disposable cups.
  5. Refills Not Landfill: The Geisel Library and Biomedical Library Building house a number of water bottle refill stations; this information is shared on a campus map.
  6. Hands-on Sustainable Creations: The Library’s annual Maker’s Day, which is open to the entire community, offers opportunities to create sustainable crafts, cleaning and self-care products, and more as part of the campus’s Earth Month celebration.
  7. Reusing Office Supplies: The LSC maintains a “rehoming closet” of office supplies and equipment and holds periodic “rehoming events,” saving the Library money and keeping items out of landfills; this effort was written up in “Leading the Green Revolution,” an article in the ALA Magazine.
  8. Sharing Statewide: LSC members organized and presented “Sustainability Is All Around Us,” a panel at the California Academic & Research Libraries 2020 conference.
  9. Spreading the Word: Members of the LSC authored five chapters in the 2019 publication The Sustainable Library’s Cookbook (It Takes A Village”Sustainability Starter, See How Our Garden Grows, Absolutely Free Market, DIY Makers’ Day, I Believe You Have My Stapler).
  10. Conserving Energy: In 2001, the Library formed an in-house team dedicated to saving electricity; the group got permission to shut down one Tower elevator during two summers in the early 2000s, saving 4% of the library’s energy total.
  11. Dedicated Sustainability Group: In 2009, the Library established its Environmental Sustainability Group, the name was changed to the Library Sustainability Committee to incorporate a more holistic approach to sustainability including not only environmental, but social and economic sustainability.
  12. Community Recognition: The LSC received a San Diego EarthWorks E.A.R.T.H. Award in 2016.
  13. Green Office Certification: The ESG/LSC received Green Office Certification for the Geisel Library in 2013.
  14. Promoting Global Green Initiatives: The LSC provides exhibits and online activities each year to celebrate Plastic Free July.
  15. Sharing the Fruits of Our Labor: The Library holds an annual Fruit and Veggie Exchange for staff members.
  16. Staying Connected and Learning Together: The LSC maintains a Slack channel (instant messaging) and a website ( blog retired in 2020) to keep Library staff updated on sustainability issues.
  17. Upcycling Initiatives: Since 2011, the Library has participated in the campus-wide Writing Instrument Brigade, which collects hundreds of pens and markers to be upcycled by TerraCycle.
  18. Responsible Waste Disposal: Library Facilities provides a venue for staff members to safely dispose of used batteries (from home as well as from the office) and they are disposed of responsibly by campus EHS.
  19. Greening Supplies: The Library’s Interlibrary Loan unit has used reusable book straps, rather than paper ones, since 2012.
  20. Offering a Sustainable Gift Guide: Since 2012, the ESG/LSC has provided an annually-updated list of suggestions for sustainable gift-giving that is shared with the campus.
  21. Recycling Collaboration: The Library collaborates with the campus Sustainability Resource Center to collect Library waste such as plastic wrap and other packing materials that can’t be readily recycled. Plastic materials are transported to a facility that accepts them; boxes and packing material are shared with other programs when requested.
  22. Community Sharing: The LSC hosts an annual no-cost “Summertime Swap” in which all staff in the Library bring household items and clothing from home and exchange them with one another.
  23. Campus Education: LSC provides sustainability information to students at the annual “Geisel After Dark” event.
  24. Saving Energy: The Library has worked with the campus to install and test motion-sensitive lighting on two upper floors of the Geisel Library.
  25. Traveling Light: The LSC compiled and maintains a list of sustainable travel tips for staff.
  26. Alternative Transportation: The LSC has collaborated with the Teaching + Learning Commons to promote the Bus Buddies program and sustainabilty information.
  27. Green Buying: In 2010, the ESG/LSC compiled a set of sustainable purchasing/waste reduction guidelines for the Library’s administrative assistants.
  28. Green Open House: Library employees staffed booths and helped lead Sustainability Walking Tours at UCSD’s 2011 Green Open House.
  29. Plogging: In 2012, the ESG/LSC provided grabbers supplied by campus facilities for those wanting to pick up trash during their breaks.
  30. Promoting Green Living: In 2013, the ESG/LSC created a Sustainable Living Guide, which was emailed to all Library staff.
  31. Exhibits: In 2013, the Library partnered with Coast Keepers and Roger’s Community Garden to sponsor a “Living Sustainably” exhibit.
  32. Sharing the Library Green Practices Nationally: In 2014, ESG/LSC members presented a poster session entitled “From the Ground Up” at the American Library Association conference.
  33. Student Collaborations: In 2014, Library staff worked with the Sustain2Student group on their recycle bin redesign contest.
  34. Greening the Mothership: In 2014, ESG/LSC and staff members authored the chapter “Greening the Mothership” published in Focus on Educating for Sustainability.
  35. Banning the Butt: The Library worked with campus to promote a Smoke and Tobacco-Free Campus (2014).
  36. Cleaning Green: In 2016, Library Facilities worked with Campus FM to ensure that cleaning products used in the Library were as green as possible and used sustainably.
  37. Sharing Library Green Practices Statewide: In 2016, ESG/LSC members presented a poster session entitled “Going Green Together: Promoting Sustainability & Campus Collaborations” at California Academic & Research Libraries conference.
  38. Dynamic Staff Engagement: As part of the annual staff training, in 2019, the LSC sponsored a “Green Escape Room” event for Library staff to learn about water conservation, recycling, and other sustainable ideas.
  39. Zeroing in on Zero Waste: In 2019, the Library’s summer picnic featured compostable plates and utensils.
  40. From Kitchen to Garden: In 2019, the LSC piloted collecting compostable materials in a staff kitchenette, which were composted in a nearby student community garden.
  41. Checking Out Reusable Book Bags: In 2020, the Library ordered 50 canvas bags to be checked out to library users in place of the plastic ones traditionally handed out on rainy days.
  42. Composting Plans: In 2020, the LSC received permission to install a worm composting unit just north of the Geisel Library; installation will take place when staff return to work from telecommuting.
  43. Making Recycling Easy: In 2018 the LSC created and distributed signage for all break areas showing which items can (and cannot) be recycled.
  44. Saving Trees: The Library worked with the campus printing service to test and then implement the use of 100% post-consumer recycled paper at all of the public copiers and printers in the library.
  45. Green Books: A library staff member organized and set up a circulation model for books in the campus Sustainability Resource Center’s in-house library.
  46. Tracking Recycling: At the request of Campus Procurement, the Library tracks printer cartridges recycled so that the number can be included in campus recycling statistics.
  47. Sustaining Collaborations: The LSC partners with the campus on various initiatives, including the Sustainability Resource Center and the Staff Sustainability Network.
  48. Leading by Example: The LSC was featured in a 2018 article on the campus Sustainability webpage.
  49. Making a Difference: The Chairperson of LSC, received the 2013 Campus Staff Sustainability Award.
  50. Going Virtual: In February 2020, LSC members presented “Growing Green Together: Fostering Community and Sustainability in an Academic Library,” as a part of the Association of College & Research Libraries webcast, “Applying Sustainable Thinking and Development in Academic Libraries.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Geisel Library, we encourage you to visit our microsite and follow us on social media. We have shared a lot of informative content since we initially launched the golden anniversary celebration back in September 2020 using #Geisel50.

If you have questions about the Library’s sustainability efforts, please reach out to Kim Kane at kmkane@ucsd.edu.