Through re-use and recycling, an independent effort from ASU’s library department makes a difference
ASU library staff members are peeking through book-filled shelves and independently filling cracks in ASU’s sustainability goals to reduce waste in their department.
Interlibrary Loan is a department within ASU that students can use to request items from libraries not from the University. Thanks to independent initiatives by ASU staff, the department produces almost entirely zero waste, multiple department members said.
Though ASU has made several efforts outside the University to make positive environmental changes, individual departments at the University often have to take matters into their own hands. This is exactly what the Interlibrary Loan team did.
ASU and the city of Phoenix partnered to meet solar sustainability goals. Other ASU efforts include studying and preventing coral bleaching in Hawaii and planning to conserve water with the city of Phoenix.
The department found a way to be environmentally proactive by launching a system in which library staff members reduce waste by recycling all packing equipment used in the shipping process.
“Sometimes we get more than 50 boxes in a day,” said Alvaro Medina, lead library information specialist for Interlibrary Loan. “Hundreds of boxes a week … we were completely unsure about what we could recycle and what to throw away.”
Medina said that he and a group of co-workers saw the amount of waste within their department and independently sought to make a change.
Once-discarded boxes are now used and re-used until they can no longer hold the books they were made to contain. Once the re-use system became a well-established practice for the department, they started to wonder how else to reduce their waste.
Jon Moneyhon, a library information specialist, said department members took some time to go through shipping supplies. From FedEx labels to packing tape, Moneyhon said he realized every step of the shipping process offered more opportunities to be sustainable.
“We just knew that when it comes down to it, we can always do better,” Moneyhon said. “We wanted to see what was out there and what was both sustainable and cost-efficient.”
Although the efforts of the staff are independent, Moneyhon said the University has shown its support, and boxes that could not be re-used are picked up once a week or at the request of the department staff.
According to ASU’s 2011 Strategic Plan for Sustainability Practices and Operations, ASU once planned to eliminate 90% of campus solid waste from landfills by 2015. The boxes piled high at the Interlibrary Loan department represent the department’s independent and self-driven commitment to sustainability.
Senior library information specialist Tamara Reed said they contacted Zero Waste at ASU to clarify and enhance their zero waste efforts.
“We realized that we don’t have control over what other libraries send us, but as a department, we can control what we’re purchasing,” Reed said. “All it took was a little extra thought, and all of a sudden we saw our department turn into something that was making a difference.”
Although the Interlibrary Loan department is just one part of ASU’s library system, Reed said the initiative they took could make a world of difference if other departments followed in their footsteps.
“It’s a collection of small efforts, and when you put them together it could make a huge effort,” Reed said. “We’re just one department, but imagine if everyone at ASU did this.”
Katie Schumacher, program manager for Zero Waste, said the Zero Waste department is always open to requests from other ASU departments like the Interlibrary Loan team for assistance in reducing waste.
However, without communication from other ASU departments, Zero Waste is left in the dark on specific changes that could be made.
“We can provide resources and help departments come up with a game plan, but we aren’t familiar with how each department works on a day-to-day level,” Schumacher said. “That’s why it’s so helpful when departments reach out to us.”
She said that although Zero Waste has been working hard to reduce University waste, outside participation from ASU departments is invaluable.
“There is so much work that is being done, and the more people who are involved and working together, the more we can do,” Schumacher said. “What the Interlibrary Loan department is doing is really incredible, and we’re happy to be here to facilitate that work.”