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Volume 9 Issue 2 Fall 2008(2)

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L&ET's New Green Initiatives

by Reba Leiding

JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies are evaluating new initiatives to save energy, use less paper, and increase recycling efforts.  In response to a university-wide call for grass roots action to support environment stewardship and sustainability, units within JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies suggested a range of ideas, some small in scale, some with larger impact.

Recycling bins in Carrier
Recyling bins in Carrier, provided by JMU Recycling.

JMU Libraries has long been in the forefront of university recycling efforts. Beginning in the 1970s, the library recycled its old newspapers, and encouraged re-use of paper handouts.  In cooperation with the university recycling center, the libraries sort and recycle paper, cardboard, and plastic.  Books that are withdrawn from the collection are used either for the annual book sale or recycled.

Recycling bins in ECL
Spiffy recycling bins in East Campus Library.

In cooperation with the campus group EARTH, the libraries implemented fee-based public printing beginning in fall semester 2001, an move that dramatically reduced the amount of waste paper. At the same time, the libraries made a commitment to use chlorine-free 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Following a request from EARTH and campus recycling, the university’s procurement office made recycled paper available through state-wide contracts.  As a result, any state agency now can order recycled paper if it chooses. 

New Green Actions: Several suggestions supported further recycling efforts, such as recycling packaging materials, and limiting the number of paper handouts in library instruction classes and meetings. Some librarians are finding that their online subject guides reduce the need for paper handouts for their instruction classes. Staff are encouraged to use double sided printing and copying when possible; staff networked printers are being reconfigured with double-sided printing as the default setting. Double-sided printing and copying are not available to the public, however, due to problems with paper jams.

Some initiatives involve other units on campus, underscoring the interdependence needed to make environmental efforts successful:  for example, requesting Aramark’s catering services to provide reusable containers, and Facilities Management to use bio-degradable trash bags.

Other green actions promote conservation through technology. L&ET’s Digital Services is employing “server virtualization” by purchasing software “that will allow multiple server ‘instances’ to run on the same physical machine,” according to Bill Hartman, systems administrator.    “Instead of having one server per function, we can have one server performing up to six or eight independent functions, reducing the amount of hardware we need to purchase and maintain and ultimately reducing the amount of power we consume.”  This virtualization would be used for numerous back-end functions like developmental web applications, inventory management, or web statistics, but not core functions like the web page, databases, or backup. The Center for Instructional Technology also is planning to use the same software to reduce their overall hardware requirements.

Technology Classrooms has already implemented auto power-down in its tech classroom data projectors to save on electricity and lamp replacements.  Media Resources is reducing battery waste in its portable equipment inventory by purchasing rechargeable batteries and a battery charger, and by migrating to secure digital memory videocamcorders, which will eliminate videotape waste.

Green books: As part of its collection development policy, JMU Libraries is purchasing online reference books whenever possible, eliminating the need for two print copies in both Carrier and the new East Campus Library.  Online reference books can be an especially user-friendly format, since they can be searchable, and people tend to look up brief chunks of information rather than read lengthy passages.

Many people assume that e-books are more environmentally friendly than print books, but the answer isn’t clear. E-books can save trees: according to Eco-Libris, more than 30 million trees are cut down each year to produce paper for the books in the U.S. alone.  Yet many readers prefer reading text on paper rather than on a screen, especially for longer narratives, so until reading habits change, significant numbers will print journal articles and e-book chapters.

Studies measuring the carbon footprint of e-books have yet to be done. As some environmental bloggers have pointed out, a complete study would require a lifecycle analysis of an e-reader—either a computer or a dedicated reader—including production methods, material components, energy required for reading, and recyclability.  Eco-Libris reports that several major publishers are moving to recycled paper, which will further reduce a book’s carbon footprint. 

Libraries, by definition, are based on a reuse strategy: one book is purchased and stored for use by many people.  This means a library book has a smaller carbon footprint than a book purchased by an individual for single use.  And if we walk or ride a bike to the library to get the book, we are reducing the book’s environmental impact even further.


Reba Leiding and Johlene Hess, Editors

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