Friday, June 22, 2007

Public libraries contribute to "freegan" way of life

Yesterday's NYT (June 21) has an article ("Not Buying It") about "freegans"--people who try to avoid purchasing anything from food to furniture. Instead they live off items that other people have discarded. Maybe it's more feasible to pursue that kind of way of life in a place where there are large concentrations of the wealthy, like New York City, than in less populated or less affluent areas. Anyway, one woman interviewed for the article has stopped buying books, but instead says she "logs onto, where readers share used books, or goes to the public library."

I hadn't thought of public library use as a way of reducing our collective carbon footprint, but clearly it is!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Google goes green?

From the Environmental News Network today: Google announced this week that it would attempt to go "carbon neutral" through a series of investments, purchased carbon offsets, and equipment installations:

Google Inc. aims to voluntarily cut or offset all of its greenhouse emissions by the end of the year, the Web search leader said Tuesday. Google is one of a number of companies, including News Corp., and Yahoo Inc. that are attempting to cut emissions of gases scientists link to global warming. To make the cuts, Google is investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy like solar, and will purchase carbon offsets for emissions it cannot reduce directly, the company said.

Apparently Google is under scrutiny because one of its most recent expansion plans will rely on a rather dirty power source:

Separately, Google is planning to spend $600 million to build a data center in western Iowa that will receive power from a MidAmerican Energy Co. plant fired by coal, the fuel that emits the most carbon dioxide. A Google spokesman told Reuters all emissions from its Iowa project were accounted for in its carbon neutral plan.

Hmmm ... wouldn't it be interesting to know more about the carbon, energy, water and waste footprints of the various industries -- computer hardware manufacturers, computer software developers, network service providers, book and serial publishers, equipment supply firms -- upon which library service depends?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The energy costs of personal computing

Today's New York Tmes (June 14) has an article about the amount of energy used by electronic devices, even when they're on stand-by mode:

The article is called "Putting Energy Hogs in the Home on a Strict Low-Power Diet," but it could apply just as well to people's offices, and to the many computers in libraries. There are ways to cut these energy costs, though, and maybe many libraries have got this figured out though--does anyone know?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Information resources for sustainability in WI

It might be an interesting project to ask WI librarians what kinds of sustainability information resources they provide to their publics (and what resources their publics actually use). Or perhaps we in SLIS could take the lead in suggesting/compiling a list of such resources. For example, one that I'd promote would be the new map of public transportation options for statewide travel in Wisconsin, Getting Around Wisconsin Without a Car: A Public Transportation Guide, put together by the activist group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. What others have people found -- and used?

Universities pledge to go carbon neutral

Inside Higher Ed reports on a new pledge signed by over 280 college presidents (but not, to date, our own):

By adopting the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, campus leaders are agreeing to immediately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Since it’s unrealistic for colleges now to promise ceasing all harmful gas production in the future without knowing what technologies will exist in 10 or 20 years, the short-term goal of the initiative is climate neutrality, which means having no net emissions. In other words, colleges could choose to offset any carbon production by purchasing renewable energy sources or credits.

To decrease energy consumption and work toward carbon neutrality, the commitment says colleges should take at least two of five listed actions:

Adopt green standards for buildings.
Require Energy Star certification for products produced by the university.
Reduce air travel or offset emissions by investing in renewable energy sources (wind power, for example.)
Encourage public transportation.
Purchase energy from renewable sources and support climate shareholder proposals through their endowment.

While the current roster of signatures lists Madison Area Technical College and six of the UW system campuses UW-Madison is still absent.


American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sustainable knowledge creation

Web 2.0

A challenge for academics and professionals in all fields is how to reduce the carbon footprint of their scholarly and practitioner activities. With ALA annual conference coming up, and 20K-30K librarians descending on Washington, many of them flying, most of them staying in downtown hotels where the energy costs per person (on HVAC, laundry, lighting, elevators, etc) are much higher than they are in their own homes, some librarians are raising the question of how to create a more sustainable form of communication. For the short run some are suggesting that ALA facilitate the buying of carbon offsets, for instance.

In the longer run, however, Web 2.0 technologies could provide at least part of the answer; using a mix of new technologies, LIS could substitute alternative patterns of interaction, thus not only reducing the physical movement of participants, but also opening up “conference” participation to a much wider group of people. If successful, this could be a model for other fields.

Will this happen any time soon? I’m doubtful. Too many people have entrenched interests in maintaining current patterns, even though we know that in the long run, they cannot. A start, though, would be to encourage students in many different classes—not just “technology-oriented” ones--to become comfortable with these forms of communication. They should also become accustomed to communicating on a more open stage, contributing to the blurring, if not the dissolving, of the user-producer dichotomy in knowledge creation and sharing.