Saturday, September 28, 2013

Do you have "Recycling Bias?"

I heard an interesting story on NPR this past Friday morning about something they referred to as "recycling bias." Apparently, there was a study that indicated people are more likely to recycle entire sheets of paper than scrap paper bits. The scrap pieces generally wind up in the garbage can. And this isn't only true of paper; other objects, such as smashed soda cans (as opposed to in-tact cans) were also more likely to be thrown in the bin destined for the landfill, rather than in the one meant for recycling.

Marketing Professor Remi Truedel from Boston University conducted the research, and according to the NPR story noted:

"When a product is sufficiently distorted or changed in size or form, consumers perceive it as less useful, and when they perceive it as less useful, they're more likely to throw it in the garbage, as opposed to recycle it."

According to this same story, the EPA estimates that paper and paperboard made up 28% of the waste in 2011, while plastic and metal equaled another 22 %. Truedel asserts that we can change our habits by becoming more aware of our own biases, and by reconsidering what we think garbage is. It's an intriguing idea--if you are interested, you can check out the original story here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting Around in Bellingham

Welcome back, or welcome the first time, to all WWU students.  Here at the Green Shelf we try to show you connections between Western Libraries and the University's sustainability goals.  Sometimes all we have to do to make that happen is read the newspaper. 

Take, for instance, today's Seattle Times.  Danny Westneat reports some surprising figures.  Turns out 10% of people in Seattle walk to work.  It is also one of five major cities in the U.S. where fewer than one half of the working population drives to their jobs alone.  Since the year 2000 bicycling to work has gone up 150%, and working at home has shot up 75%.

The comments are interesting, mostly from people who see no sign of such a trend.  One suggested the figures come from the bicycle clubs.

But apparently they are from the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Now it happens that I am the librarian who helps people find Census information, so this seemed like a great chance to practice my skills.  I went to American Factfinder, which is the Census's webpage for this kind of data, and pulled together some time comparisons for the City of Subdued Excitement. 
The bad news is that we Bellingham commuters are much more dependent on cars than are friends in the Emerald City. IN the most recent sample almost 69% were driving alone.  Only 2% biked and 6% took public transportation.  Our walking percentage was almost as high as Seattle's though.

Important: these figures are samples.  The orange column in the middle represents three years of samples (2009-2011) which makes it probably closer to reality than the one-shot sample in 2012.  Notice that the figures are a little more cheerful in orange.  But I guess we have our work cut out for us.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Greening the Ivory Tower of Higher Education

Photo by Matthew Anderson, University Communications, WWU
The final piece of a seven-part series published on the Huffington Post  in partnership with the University of Washington tackled the subject of what it takes for universities to become more "sustainable."

The very first piece in the series, published back in March, was actually written by the president of UW himself, Michael K. Young. He writes about the sustainability challenges facing the University of Washington in particular, and how important it is that they engage with the community.  Some interesting stuff in this series to ponder that we here at Western can definitely relate to as well.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

OneSearch, Partnerships, and Sustainability

When pondering the question of how can we create a “sustainable” future, it is helpful to note that relationships, partnerships, and opportunities to collaborate are an integral part of the answer. A fundamental  aspect of “systems thinking” is understanding how we all fit together, and recognizing that what we do affects not only the world we belong to, but also impacts each other.

This is of course, also true of libraries. In today’s environment of increased information, expanding research needs, and shrinking budgets, libraries have begun to actively turn towards cultivating partnerships to help them leverage their resources in order to share more access to more information with more people. 

As you may know, Western Libraries is a member of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, which is a consortium of 37 academic libraries in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Alliance is also a living example of how principles of sustainability can be incorporated into a dynamic, innovative,  and unique partnership that demonstrates how a collaborative effort can create a new model for resource sharing. It is a model that emphasizes access over ownership, and it is working successfully to expand this access in new and creative ways.

If you are just returning to Western from summer break, one thing you may not yet know is that on June 18, 2013, Western Libraries began the process of replacing our previous catalog and database interfaces with a new integrated discovery layer known as “OneSearch.” Western Washington University, along with the University of Washington and several other institutions, was in the first group of Orbis Cascade Alliance members to launch the new system. Additional member institutions will also make the transition during the next 16 months.

Western Libraries are proud to be on the cutting edge of this transition, recognizing the tremendous opportunity we have to impact the development of what will become a very powerful search tool. This migration of course involves significant changes and will include some bumps along the way.  But we here at Western Libraries are very excited about the improved experience OneSearch will ultimately provide. And we encourage you, the campus community, to share your feedback about the new system with us so you can help us make it better. 

Also, we want to remind everyone that we are here to help people get to know the new system, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. There are a number of helpful resources online, and you can also schedule a personalized instruction session at the Research Services desk, (like Hans himself did with Gabe just a few weeks ago). Likewise, dates for drop-in training sessions will be announced soon, and you can also "chat" with a librarian online from the comfort of your own home or office.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Whatcom Water Weeks: Sept 7th - 22nd, 2013

Here is a picture of our beloved Hans sitting at the site of what will someday be Western Libraries' Green Energy Fee Grant Program sponsored water bottle refilling station / "Sustainability" wall. This old porcelain water fountain, while somewhat of a classic in terms of design, is still functional, so Hans sometimes swings by for a swig of water, although he finds it difficult to fill his water bottle here and is looking forward to the hydration station installation.

 One of the many great things about this project is that it will draw attention to our local source of drinking water, Lake Whatcom. To quote the City of Bellingham's website:

 "The Lake Whatcom Reservoir is the source of drinking water to over 96,000 people in Whatcom County, including the 87,700 served by the City of Bellingham. The health of this tremendously important resource is declining, and at a pace that is faster than expected." 

 Yesterday marked the beginning of Whatcom Water Weeks. This annual event, coordinated by the Whatcom Watersheds Information Network (WWIN) and partially sponsored by the City of Bellingham, celebrates and highlights the importance of our water resources through a variety of informative community activities. Held each September, Whatcom Water Weeks are a great time to get involved with local water issues and to learn more about the water here in our very own community. For more information, check out the Whatcom Water Weeks website here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Green Pages: Canada

The Green Pages is a very big environmental website on our northern border.  Good stuff here...