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NPL, Going Green

April 22, 2022

In celebration of Earth Day (and Earth Month!), we wanted to share some of the work our staff members undertake towards the goal of a greener Nashville.

Nashville Public Library’s (NPL) Sustainability Committee was formed in 2021. Its goal: educating and engaging staff and patrons on issues relating to environmental sustainability and climate change. The committee also improves and innovates NPL's facilities and operations by monitoring and reducing waste, sharing and reusing materials, and incorporating environmentally-friendly practices and policies. ​​​​​​

​TEC Tree Day at Hermitage

By Emily Talbot, Hermitage Branch Library

In coordination with the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC) and the NPL Sustainability Committee, NPL’s Hermitage Branch served as a tree pickup location for this year’s Tennessee Tree Day.

On Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19, members of the public who reserved native tree species online through TEC were able to pick up their reserved trees on the back porch of the Hermitage Branch. On hand to assist were Hermitage Regional Manager Emily Talbot, Friends of the Hermitage Branch Library President Linda Freeman, Metro Nashville Beautification and Environment Commissioner Pam Swoner, and staff volunteer Elizabeth Giacobbi of the Main Library.

Sixty individuals — including several NPL staff — reserved approximately 250 bareroot tree saplings online through TEC, plus 100 extra trees were provided for random giveaway during pickup. It was a great experience connecting customers with trees they could plant on their property to help enhance Davidson County’s native tree canopy. Plus, many passersby stopped to check out the goings-on, several of whom took free trees home themselves. The event also featured information on NPL’s Seed Exchange plus take-and-make seed bombs. Many thanks to all NPL staff who helped plan, promote, and execute a successful Tennessee Tree Day pickup!

A Little Less Litter

By Emily Krieble, Main Library

NPL’s Bordeaux Branch Library is a busy regional branch that has more than its share of litter. It tends to gather at the property lines. Custodial staff try their hardest to keep the grounds clean, but there is just too much to keep up with. In order to help combat the problem, we did two things:

  1. The grounds crew removed bushes at the property line where litter tended to collect.
  2. The Sustainability Committee organized a staff litter pick-up to help get rid of the bulk of the trash.

On April 7, a team of 13 NPL staff members met at the Bordeaux Branch to help pick up litter from the grounds. Staff from various branches and departments worked together to pick up roughly 20 bags of trash in two hours. Along with plastic bags and paper receipts, staff found everything from an old phone to building materials to a plastic shark toy scattered throughout the property. It was a beautiful day outside, and the staff really enjoyed getting to meet one another and help at another branch.

If you are interested in hosting your own neighborhood pickup, Metro Beautification makes the process very simple. All you need to do is register your event on their website, and they will provide your group with gloves, vests, trash bags, and trash grabbers. This was the first litter pickup organized by the Sustainability Committee, but hopefully there will be more! Many thanks to all the staff members who participated.

Implementing a Recycling Program

By Selva Ibrahim, Edmondson Pike Branch Library

After transferring to the Edmondson Pike Branch Library (EP), one of the first things I noticed was the daily, staggering accumulation of receipt paper waste. Disheartened by the sight, I began asking about the branch’s recycling practices, only to learn that EP — like most of the other NPL branch libraries — wasn’t currently recycling.

This broke my heart. I knew I had to take an active role in turning things around, even if that meant starting a recycling system myself. I knew NPL had recently formed a Sustainability Committee, and after some research, I reached out to the committee’s chair and was able to join last December. I decided to set up a recycling system for EP’s staff areas and transport the materials to a recycling center myself on a regular basis.

By January, I had everything ready to go. I placed signs above each collection bin explaining what could go in them. Our system comprises three collection bins.

  • A bin in our workroom that houses mixed paper and food/drink cartons
  • A large box in our loading dock holds cardboard/boxes
  • A small bin for plastics, glass, and food/drink cans in our breakroom

After sending an educational email to staff, we started recycling!

April 19 marks three months of EP recycling. From the beginning, participation has been high with the bulk of our waste being paper and cardboard. Drop-offs from start to finish (including removing non-recyclables), take an hour each and occur at a convenience center on a weekly or biweekly basis. I have made 11 separate drop-offs so far. Following refresher emails to EP staff, contamination from non-recyclables has significantly dropped (receipt paper being the most common contaminant).

I want to thank my awesome team at EP for their waste reduction efforts, and for caring! It hasn’t been my doing alone but all of us doing our part. It’s been a wonderful learning experience.

Urban Green Lab Partnership

By Kate Wingate, Richland Park Branch Library

Once the NPL Sustainability Committee formed in 2021, we were fortunate to connect with Urban Green Lab (UGL). Urban Green Lab is a Nashville nonprofit whose mission is to teach communities how to live sustainably. Through their Lab Certification program, UGL “officially recognizes community institutions — like schools, businesses, and nonprofits — as Nashville-approved “Urban Green Labs.” A lab is any workplace that proves its commitment to the practice and training of sustainable behaviors and explores new ways for making decisions that better protect our people, profit, and planet” — otherwise known as the “Triple Bottom Line.”

Through a series of initial Zoom meetings with the Sustainability Committee, Jackie Goodwin, UGL’s Sustainable Workplaces Manager, oriented our new team to the sustainability landscape here in Nashville and led us through an initial assessment so we could see what areas we needed to focus on. She then helped us develop a targeted strategic plan to take to NPL’s administrative team. The committee’s strategic plan has both inward/staff-facing initiatives, such as working toward restarting recycling at NPL branch locations and educating NPL staff about how to live more sustainably at work and at home, and outward/public-facing initiatives, such as creating sustainability programming for adults, teens, and children, and adding sustainability and environmental education materials to our collection.

In addition, NPL is in the process of joining UGL’s Nashville Sustainability Roundtable, which is “dedicated to guiding workplaces to be more sustainable. Members of the Roundtable attend bimonthly meetings at rotating workplaces to exchange best practices, troubleshoot obstacles, and share their own journey to sustainability.”

At the end of the year, we will meet with Jackie to assess what we’ve accomplished, and to celebrate our certification as Nashville’s newest certified Urban Green Lab!

Sustainability Craft Books for Kids

By Nikki Glassley, Main Library

Make craft time with your little ones more sustainable with eco-friendly crafts! You can upcycle materials like old clothing, plastics, cardboard, and more, into fun and easy crafts, giving them new life — and it’s easier on your budget!

These new titles have information about sustainability in addition to creative craft instructions, making them the perfect tool to help you outline an entire program. Run a series search for “Eco Crafts” in the catalog — or just use the scroller below! — and learn how to transform just about everything in your recycling bin!

Sustainability Tips and Tricks

  1. Reuse glass containers. Salsa jars make great beverage containers.
  2. Set your air conditioning to 78 degrees in warm weather.
  3. Reduce your meat consumption.
  4. Turn off lights when not in a room.
  5. Donate clothes you no longer wear.
  6. Open blinds for natural light.

For more ideas, check out this blog post and infographic from Urban Green Lab!

Metro Wants Your Input on Sustainability Issues!






Kate is on the Shared Systems team at NPL, supporting Limitless Libraries and MNPS school librarians. She is passionate about all things sustainability, and in her spare time, she enjoys reading, caring for her backyard chickens, hiking, and spending as much time as possible outside.


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