Lighting the Way to Greener Libraries

Indian Trails Public Library District, located in Wheeling, Ill., reopened its doors on April 10, 2017 after renovating the building and rebuilding in the space — making the way for a more contemporary, bright, open, and energy-efficient space for all uses and ages.

Racetrack Lighting YS

Photo Courtesy McShane Fleming Studios

Patrons now conduct research amid low wattage LED lighting, which is easier on their eyes and does not cast a shadow. The children’s department is the home to the longest LED racetrack lighting in North America. At 815 feet, this racetrack lighting adds a fun, lively and seamless feel to the department and the rest of the library. The space also has a skylight, which offers patrons natural light, especially during the long winter season. And, visitors can also snuggle up with a captivating book next to the gas fireplace.

 

But, the most relevant upgrade of the new building is the conversion of the pricey electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to a more cost-efficient and cleaner system which features geothermal wells and natural gas boilers. The library currently houses 28 geothermal wells. Since the library reopened in April, it is still too early to report any energy savings since switching from electric to geothermal energy, although early indicators suggest significant cost savings on energy bills.

In September 2017, Indian Trails added green roofs to the west and south sides of the library on the second floor. The plant material is composed of sedum, which is a perennial plant that is native to the area and requires little or no maintenance. In the springtime the plant blooms star-shaped purple flowers.

In June 2017 the library learned that it had become the recipient of a $100,000 grant from EBSCO Information Services, a library resource provider for academic, public library, and government, and school customers. This grant is for the installation of a solar array at the library. The other $100,000.00 grant recipient was the Athens-Clarke County Library located in Athens, Ga.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant and be given the opportunity to further enhance our new building, stated Brian Shepard, the library executive director. “Through our expanded STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] programming and makerspace initiatives, we hope to educate and inspire residents to explore the lasting benefits that sustainability practices contribute to an informed community.”

Since its doors reopened in April 2017, the response to the new facility has been overwhelmingly positive. In August, the library hosted the solar house exhibit from  the Illinois Solar Energy Association. When the solar panels are installed next year, the library will include programs for all ages about how  families can reduce their carbon footprint, and the benefits of solar energy.

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Sustainable Chicago 2015

Chicago has set the ambitious goal of being the first sustainable city in the US and the Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan, is already underway with 24 goals and 100 key actions. Named the 2014 National Earth Hour Capitol, Chicago is the first city with a climate smart policy.

According to a September 18, 2015 article on its Web site, the World Wildlife Foundation noted, chicagoflag“Sustainable Chicago is a broad action plan that covers seven themes: economic development and job creation; energy efficiency and clean energy; transportation options; water and wastewater and waste and recycling; parks, open space and healthy food; and climate change.”

The seven categories of Sustainable Chicago 2015 “…are related and reinforce each other…”:

  1. Economic development and job creation
  2. Energy efficiency and clean energy
  3. Transportation options
  4. Water and wastewater
  5. Parks, open space and healthy food
  6. Waste and recycling
  7. Climate change

Some of the 2014 achievements touched all seven categories and include:

  • Greencorps Chicago Youth Program provides high school students summer learning and workforce training in horticulture and bicycling.
  • Chicago became the first city to include online energy disclosure in residential home sale listings.
  • Launched Drive Electric Chicago, a one-stop shop Web site for residents to gather information about electric vehicles, including charge station installation guidelines for multiunit buildings.
  • The Space to Grow partnership built green infrastructure projects on the Chicago Public School campuses.
  • The Large Lots Program offered city-owned vacant lots to local residents, block clubs and community organizations for $1.
  • The city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District agreed to partner in reusing tree waste in water treatment, and compost wastewater treatment byproduct to fertilize Chicago Park District open spaces.
  • City council passed a plastic bag ban in large retail stores (goes into effect August 2015)
  • Coal-free power acquired for all municipal facilities

According to the report, “In the third and final year of Sustainable Chicago 2015 we, [the City of Chicago] look forward to continue our progress and lay the groundwork for Chicago’s leadership in sustainability in 2016 and beyond.”

For more detailed information on Sustainable Chicago 2015 including goals visit http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/env/SCYear2Report.pdf.

 

 

Say Goodbye to Plastic Bags

With the recent crisis in the Gulf, people are finally paying attention to the evils of oil and realizing we need to reduce our dependence upon the substance. According to Wikipedia, “Plastic bags are often made from polyethylene, which consists of long chains of ethylene monomers. Ethylene is derived from natural gas and petroleum.” So basically those bags you grab for just one item — those bags are made of oil. But, you can reuse those plastic bags. Many grocery stores have bins where you can deposit these bags.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each ton of plastic bags saves an energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil. Heavy duty bags can be reused many times for transporting items. Lighter weight bags can be reused as bin bags or to pick up pet feces.

Littering is also a problem.How many times have we driven down the highway and have seen bags tossed at the side of the road? This is unsightly.

The best alternative to plastic bags is reusable bags, or, if you are making a small purchase, no bag. Do you really need a bag for that paperback book or bottle of aspirin? Cut down on plastic and packaging. Reusable bags are the “in” thing nowadays — just about every store sells their own “be green” bags — go into a Walgreens or Target and there will be bags at the checkout line for you to purchase. Many of these bags are constructed of a durable canvas or other heavy material and are much sturdier than plastic anyway. Some reusable bags are made of recycled plastic or other materials. For those of you who aren’t too keen on toting around a bag with the Target logo, there are plenty of “designer” bags out there to choose from.

Additionally, we need to cut down on anything plastic — those plastic water bottles, turn to aluminum instead. Water is meant to be free! Just fill up your reusable water bottle from the drinking fountain. Trust me, I’m sure the water will taste just as good or better. Plastic sandwich bags — wash them out and reuse them, or there are recycled plastic bags you can purchase. Or better yet, use a sandwich container or wax paper to wrap your sandwich.

Every little step counts toward reducing our plastic impact.