MmIT joins @uklibchat to discuss ‘Green Tech’ and the environmental footprint of technology

We’re joining up with the tweeps at #uklibchat on Monday 2nd September for a Twitter chat on ‘Green Tech’ and the environmental footprint of technology.

Join us on Monday 2 September 2019 from 7.00-8.30pm BST. The chat sessions start with general introductions and then we move on to the discussion topics.  Never participated in #uklibchat before? Here’s an introduction to the concept.

Please add the questions that you would like to discuss to the agenda here in under 280 characters. Please remember to use the hashtag #uklibchat so that everyone can see your replies.  Please also remember to include the question number to which you are replying in all your tweets.

MmIT Committee member Antony Groves has provided a thought-provoking blog post to set the scene for our discussions:

What can libraries and librarians do to tackle the climate emergency?

Earlier this week Goldsmiths announced that they will soon stop selling beef on campus in a step towards becoming carbon neutral. At the more technological end of the spectrum, the University of Sussex has undertaken the largest solar panel project in UK HE, positioning it as one of the most energy-efficient universities in England. Over 7000 HE and FE institutions around the world have declared a climate emergency, along with half of local councils in the UK, meaning that many of us will now be working for employers who have rightly made a commitment to practices that reduce global warming (or attempt to hold it beneath a catastrophic rise of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels). However, as service provision within many of our organisations moves towards a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year model, what else can we do to minimise our environmental footprint? 

To begin with, we can do what we do best: find and share information. As UNESCO have stated, education will be key to addressing climate change. For us, there is much that we can learn from other libraries and librarians in the pursuit of making our profession carbon neutral – a form of library neutrality that we’d all like to see. 

In the UK, according to government statistics, the energy supply and transport sectors are responsible for over half of greenhouse gas emissions through their burning of fossil fuels. So what can libraries do to move away from their reliance on these sectors and save on energy consumption? At the University of Sussex Library our recently created Green Group highlight and undertake ways to reduce our environmental impact by encouraging staff and students to use best practice in limiting wastage of power, water and other consumables. For example, we run digital note-making workshops for our students showing them how to digitally annotate and highlight PDFs instead of having to print them. 

Like many other libraries we also have motion sensor lighting in our stacks and, inspired by a presentation from Dr Jon Knight at a previous MmIT event, now use more energy efficient Raspberry Pi’s to run some of our displays. Whilst it is possible to use low energy computers to replace PCs and OPAC machines, researchers from the University of Bath have also discovered a way of saving electrical power by running their library’s computers on a direct current. When these computers can easily be used to host webinars, we should also ask ourselves whether we really need to be travelling for meetings and non-essential training that contribute toward transport emissions.

As individuals, every time we use a computer we create carbon, even through the simple act of checking emails (although this could be mitigated by cloud computing). Not only should we avoid printing unnecessary emails, we should avoid sending them. When we do need to share information, we should think about how it is packaged and design our digital resources to avoid electronic waste. For example, is video always the best format for support materials? Researchers estimate that a design intervention stopping images being sent to people only using YouTube to listen to audio could reduce the platform’s carbon footprint annually by roughly that of 30,000 UK homes!

We can also look at ways to offset the CO2 that our online activities generate. The search engine Ecosia is used widely at the University of Sussex and the company behind this spent 80% of their profits in June 2019 planting trees in an effort to tackle the climate crisis. Creators of the Forest app take a similar approach and work with the organisation Trees for the Future to achieve this. The Forest app has the added bonus of encouraging you to stay off your device (and is one we recommend to students who want to focus) so it’s both reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint. 

If opting out isn’t feasible we can always turn to activism. Perhaps, as suggested in a fictitious Nature review, it’s time to form the “Librarians against Climate Change pressure group”?  Although organisations such as the International Federation of Library Associations are already recognising our efforts through their Green Library Awards, there is much more that we can do. 

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg; one that together we can work to preserve.

Photo credit: A. Groves

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s