The Library Sustainability Committee

about-header.jpgBackground of the Library Sustainability Committee (LSC):

In 2009, a few Library staff members who were deeply involved in the sustainability movement both on campus and beyond proposed that the UC San Diego Library have a green group of its own. Library administration agreed, and the Library Sustainability Committee (LSC) was born. We currently have 7 staff members dedicated to greening the workplace and lives of the library’s 435 staff and student workers, as well as promoting sustainability for all of our library users.

What are the advantages of having an officially sponsored group?

While many of us work to promote sustainability as individuals, collective action with institutional support is an ideal model for ensuring that sustainability initiatives are kept on everyone’s radar. Over the years, the membership of our group has changed, but our work has continued uninterrupted.

From the beginning, the library’s administration has supported the work of our group. They haven’t always been able to give us what we want (that first year, during a time of drastic financial cutbacks, a proposal that LSC developed with a student group for LEED-EB certification for the Geisel building was tabled), but they have always given us what we need–dedicated time to work on sustainability issues, support for key projects and events, and an unwavering commitment to making sustainability a priority in the library. Sustainability is even written into the library’s mission statement.

What kinds of projects have been most successful for you?

LSC has always been a little group with big ideas.  Over the years, we’ve gotten better and better at pursuing projects on a scale that our group can sustain and also developing collaborations that allow us to leverage our efforts.

Since that first LEED-EB proposal, LSC has collaborated with student groups to implement a lighting and energy use study in Geisel, as well as to obtain Green Office Certification. Geisel’s first water refill stations resulted from a collaborative project with funding provided by a student organization. The stations were such a success that the library installed one in a staff area and will add more as renovations of Geisel continue.

As the sustainability goals of the campus and the library have aligned, the campus and library are taking on some of the larger projects that our staff group envisioned. UC San Diego has committed itself wholeheartedly to sustainability. Because of campus mandates, planned renovations to Geisel’s bathrooms and the eighth floor will meet LEED-EB standards.

LSC’s primary focus is fostering green practices within the library. Our group worked with Imprints, the library’s printing vendor to test and then implement the use of 100% post-consumer recycled paper at all of the public copiers and printers in the library.  We collaborate with our administrative assistants to ensure that the library orders the greenest available cleaning and office supplies whenever possible. Last year we inventoried cleaning supplies used in our staff kitchens, researched green products, then removed and safely disposed of our old supplies which have been permanently replaced by greener options.

Each year we take on a larger project (this year it is improving recycling practices within the library) and continue successful initiatives from previous years. We continually work to eliminate waste, facilitate recycling, and promote green buying practices.  Each year, we create and update educational materials and sponsor a variety of events and that have become popular library traditions. Some staff favorites include a free Summertime Swap, fruit & veggie exchange, green office training that includes treats and trends, and earth week celebrations with lots of hands-on opportunities for creating green items from cleaning products to cosmetics.

Over the years, we’ve built on earlier efforts, retaining the best of what has been done, while seeking out new opportunities to green library practices and adding fresh materials and events to our green offerings.

Your group has been around for almost a decade now. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the years?

  • Dream big and plan big, but know that if you can’t do it all right away, keep taking smaller steps toward your larger goals. Institutional support, campus collaboration, patience, and persistence will keep you on the right path and are essential for making your own efforts sustainable as you strive to create a greener world.
  • Be flexible and persistent. If something isn’t feasible or isn’t working, don’t be afraid to let it go for the time and devote your energy toward areas where you can make a difference.  Understand that you will be revisiting projects and possibilities and building on your successes for a long time to come.
  • We need one another.  Reach out for help and inspiration. Other people in the sustainability world can offer you guidance and also benefit from what you have to offer. Share your knowledge and experiences freely.
  • Share your accomplishments. Let your supporters know what you’re doing. The library takes pride in LSC’s work and accomplishments and LSC is fueled by the support of our administration and staff. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without one another.

Presentations & Publications

To learn more about our beginnings and to get some important tips on starting a sustainability group of your own, check out this article written by some of our first members:

“Using the University of California (UC) San Diego Library’s Environmental Sustainability Group as a case study, this chapter walks readers through establishing a need for sustainability efforts within an academic library, communicating that need to the library’s administration and other stakeholders, and launching an official library group to work on those issues. It also describes sustainability activities an academic library can undertake, and the resources needed—or not—to accomplish them and measure their success. This chapter is aimed at libraries just starting to plan environmental sustainability activities, or those who want to formalize their current endeavors into their library organization.”

  • From the Ground Up: Promoting Sustainability in Academic Libraries. Poster presentation. American Libraries Conference, 2014.
  • Going Green Together: Promoting Sustainability & Campus Collaborations. Poster Presentation. California Association of Research Librarians, 2016.

Want to connect with us?

The easiest way to reach us is via email at:

We are also working on a webpage and will have various resources posted there soon!

Profiles In Sustainability – Kol Chaiken

calpirg2.jpgKol Chaiken | Class of 2018 | Environmental Systems – Policy

Could you explain the problem with the way we currently get our energy, and how renewable energy can solve these problems?

The majority of our current energy use comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere which are the primary cause of climate change. Climate change is a huge threat that will continue to get worse in the coming years, and we’re already starting to see some of the impacts including the fires and mudslides in Santa Barbara as well as the hurricanes that devastated the East Coast and Puerto Rico. In addition to climate change, carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification which kills ecologically important marine species like coral. Other impacts of fossil fuels include air and water pollution.The impact of the pollution usually falls on poor communities of color who experience higher rates of pollution-related diseases like asthma.

Switching to Renewable Energy like solar and wind means that fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants will be emitted, helping to curb the impact of climate change and improve overall health.

What is the 100% renewable energy campaign?

The 100% Renewable Energy Campaign is a national campaign run by the Student PIRGs in partnership with Environment California to get campuses to commit to procuring 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030 and all energy (including vehicles and heating) by the year 2050. We believe that college campuses as progressive and innovative institutions should lead the way to a renewable energy future. It’s completely doable and it will create a better future for all of us, so why not?

CALPIRG’s Renewable Energy campaign is in a unique position because we have the opportunity right now to advocate for the state of California to commit to 100% renewable electricity by 2045. Last March a bill called SB 100 that would commit California to 100% renewable electricity was introduced in the state senate. I went with 12 other students from UCSD and 60 others from other UCs to Sacramento to advocate for this bill and it passed through the Senate in July! Right now the bill is making it’s way through California Assembly. This bill would be a HUGE step for renewable energy because California is a very influential state and when we make changes the world pays attention. Unfortunately, there are dirty energy lobbyist working to kill this bill so we need all the support we can get.

Our strategy to pass this bill is to convince our CA Assemblymembers that by voting yes on this bill they are helping to create a greener, healthier more meaningful future for young people across California. UCSD students can help out by doing things as simple as stopping to sign a petition with a CALPIRG volunteer, or making a phone call to their Assemblymember. And, if they’re interested in helping even further they can join CALPIRG and come with us to Sacramento to deliver petitions to our representative.

In your opinion, why is sustainability important?

To me sustainability means helping to create a better world than the one you were given by preserving natural resources and creating a healthier environment. As an Environmental Policy major and campaign coordinator for CALPIRG, my role in sustainability is to help implement laws and regulations that break unsustainable norms. CALPIRG’s last big win was passing Prop 67 the plastic bag ban which makes California grocery stores more sustainable by providing incentives for people to bring their own reusable bags. This is important because often times based on the ways our laws, culture and infrastructure is now it’s hard to make sustainable choices, but it’s our job to make sustainability easier for everyone. I like to do little sustainable things each day like separating my compost and bringing it to Roger’s garden at the end of each week.

What other sustainability initiatives are you involved in? 

I’m working on a project with Dr. Jane Teranes from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the head of the Environmental Systems department to assess UCSD students’ understanding of climate change.

Friends Resale Shop

The Friends Resale Shop, located at UC Building 214 on Library Walk, is an on-campus thrift store. They offer a wide range of gently used clothes (contemporary, designer and vintage), household items, books, and a wonderful music selection (tapes, CDs, and LPs). Proceeds from the sales help fund scholarships and activities related to international education. Volunteers and donation of gently used items are welcome.

The Friends shop has existed for over 40 years. They recently moved to a new location across from Center Hall and are continuing to expand. All of the items in the shop are donated by on campus faculty, staff, and students, or local residents in La Jolla. The resale shop offers a wide variety of items including professional attire, designer clothes, and one-of-a-kind treasures. All of the proceeds go towards Friends of the International Center scholarships and the shop is run entirely by volunteers. There are currently 18 volunteers consisting of students, staff, and others from our local community. Each volunteer brings different talents to help run the shop. The name “Friends” came about because they support and encourage friendship. The volunteers at the resale shop come from many different backgrounds. Some days, you can walk into the shop and hear conversations in Spanish, French, or German!

The resale shop is working towards becoming Zero Waste. They recycle and reuse the boxes and bags that donations come in. When there are items that are difficult to sell, like toys for children, they are donated to the Monarch School for Homeless Youth, the Mommy Daddy & Me group on campus, Goodwill, or Father Joe’s Villages, a charity in San Diego that provides programs and housing for the homeless.

Stop by the Friends Resale Shop from 10AM – 3:30 PM Tuesday through Friday, or drop by to make a donation between 11am-3pm. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and Instagram to hear about sales and new items! Interested in volunteering?  Contact Marion Spors ( by email, or by telephone at the Resale Shop (858) 534-1124 during regular Resale Shop hours.

Profile in Sustainability – Matt Ellis

Matt Ellis_1MB.jpegMatt Ellis | Measurabl | Class of 2003 | B.A. Economics, Religion

How did you first become interested in sustainability?

I was working in the commercial real estate business at CBRE and the concept of “green building” started coming up routinely. This is in 2008, the start of the recession. I was curious: what made a green building? What was the value to the tenant and landlord? As you can imagine, business was relatively slow so I started looking into “green” during my spare time and found there wasn’t much guidance or literature, particularly in plain English and accessible for brokers like myself. So I started taking what was available and condensing that into a newsletter about “green leasing,” which I shared regularly around the office. That caught on and CBRE encouraged me to learn more about sustainability and then share those lessons with the broader company. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that sustainability was transformative to the way we did business as a real estate services company and the built environment: buildings, infrastructure, cities, and homes. That original interest, and my education in sustainability from there, compelled me to start Measurabl and put effort into sustainability full-time.

Could you talk about what you do at Measurabl and how you help other companies to become more sustainable?

You “can’t manage what you don’t measure,” so Measurabl made it simple to measure what matters – the environmental impact of your organization – using software. Whether you are a commercial building owner, a corporation, a city, or a university, you can easily and cost-effectively collect the data on your environmental performance like utilities and projects, as well as understand how you’re doing relative to peers, which means you are empowered to take action and improve performance.

You noticed that companies had difficulty collecting sustainability data, and you took the initiative and started Measurabl to address this issue. What are some things you learned from this experience of starting your own company?

It’s incredibly rewarding and equally challenging; there were many lessons learned. The main ones are: (1) Build what you believe in foremost, but be willing to hear and apply criticism dispassionately. (2) Have fun. If you aren’t having fun (most of the time) then something is wrong in the organization – your people, product, investors… Find that and fix it, or get out of the business. (3) People are everything and it’s more than just your employees that matter: build and maintain good relationships with your clients, investors, and partners. They will help you more than you realize.

Is there any advice you would like to share with students who are interested in pursuing a career in sustainability or trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

#1 thing to know is that sustainability is a real and growing industry; you can build a career in sustainability. #2 is to know that “career” can take many forms beyond the growing ranks of “Director of Sustainability” who occupy the mid or senior executive level at many large organizations. The trick is to recognize the type of role you want by perfecting the skill set you already have. So if you’re an engineer, look at environmental engineering. If you’re in finance, look at green bonds or impact investing. If you’re already employed and a sustainability role doesn’t exist at your company, create it by writing the job definition and listing competitors with that role, then go to your leadership to ask for their sponsorship.

Profile in Sustainability – Allyson Long

Allyson Long - Copy.jpgAllyson Long  | Safety Coordinator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Could you talk about your role as an active member of the Green Labs Team?

I joined the Green Labs Team when I was working with EH&S Research Safety to promote safety in sustainability – to protect both laboratory personnel and the environment. I’ve used my transition to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to encourage SIO labs to become more involved and be leaders in UC sustainability. The Vernet Lab at SIO was the winner of last year’s North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge (NALFC), and there are now 7 SIO labs and 5 SIO offices Green Certified. I love working with a research community that is forward thinking and action driven. Some upcoming projects the GL Team is pursuing are reviving the Chemcycle program, getting more labs to chill their freezers up, and collecting data on lab waste. Any UC San Diego lab is welcome to join the monthly Green Labs meetings just to listen in on or to actively participate in ongoing projects.

What are some sustainable habits for energy use, recycling, and waste management that support sustainability initiatives for UC San Diego?

It’s important to know that we all make trash and consume energy. But we can all certainly make less trash and consume less energy! UC San Diego makes simple acts of sustainability easy: Coffee carts/cafes will give you a discount for bringing your own coffee mug and some places offer reusable mugs (you just have to ask!); Hydration stations are virtually everywhere so there’s no reason to buy disposable plastic water bottles; Dining facilities like Roots offer reusable dishware and post-consumer composting; And every space on campus has recycling bins.

An important and impactful habit is to start becoming disengaged from single use disposable plastics. You can’t avoid every plastic thing, but you can refuse a plastic straw or lid that is handed to you. Consider bringing your own reusable silverware to your next office potluck, or buying a fresh piece of fruit instead of fruit in a plastic container. I bring a basket of reusable mugs and a reusable coffee carafe from an on-campus coffee cart when I host meetings. People still go for the disposable items because it’s what they know or because it’s more convenient, but some of my SIO colleagues now ask to “check out” the basket of reusable mugs for their meetings.  Look at what other spaces are doing around you; I borrowed the reusable mug share program idea from the Sustainability Resource Center located in Price Center.

Know that changes take time and don’t become discouraged or feel guilty when you can’t avoid waste.  Learning new habits and practicing things differently will be hard in the beginning, and certainly not everyone around you is going to embrace sustainability the same way you do. Engage and inform your colleagues by putting up a UC San Diego recycling guide next to your kitchen waste bins or host a Writing Instrument Brigade collection in your office.  Join one of the campus sustainability groups to become connected with others in our community. I’m so glad to be part of both the Staff Sustainability Network and SIO for Sustainability groups because they keep me motivated and remind me that we’re all part of something bigger. Keep things simple and know that little actions lead to big changes.

You established a recycling center at SIO to collect items that can’t be properly recycled in the single stream bins. Could you talk about how you went about doing this and why it’s important to the goal of Zero Waste? 

Diverting waste from landfills is an easy task when it’s convenient, which was my goal. “Universal waste” are items that California prohibits from going into the trash and landfill, but can be recycled. These include batteries, fluorescent lights, and electronics which contain human and environmental hazards like lead, mercury, and cadmium. UC San Diego already has great programs established to collect these types of waste, such as sending batteries for disposal through intra-campus mail or dropping off your used cell phones at the collection point in the Price Center Bookstore. There is also the Writing Instrument Brigade program where you can send in your unused writing instruments (pens, pencils, markers, etc) to be diverted from the landfill and upcycled.

Knowing how to navigate all the information on Blink and knowing where to go on campus to find these services is half the battle, so providing a central recycling collection point for SIO just made sense (even more so considering SIO’s location from main campus).  Recycling is a universally recognizable component of waste minimization and everyone on campus can help divert hazardous materials from being landfilled. Every item diverted from the landfill contributes to the Zero Waste Goal!

Profile in Sustainability – Kara Powell


Kara Powell | Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution | Class of 2018

You were the first founder of Sierra Club at UCSD. Could you talk about that experience?

I’ve been involved with the Sierra Club for a long time off-campus, and when I first came to UC San Diego I found it odd that there wasn’t an on-campus chapter. The San Diego Sierra Club was looking to welcome more diversity to their member base, especially younger members. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming to take public transportation to the San Diego Sierra Club Chapter meetings, and most college students are faced with a busy schedule and not owning a car. I decided to rally a few of my dedicated, environmentally-conscious friends to create a Sierra Club Chapter on campus that could connect the students at UC San Diego to the campaigns that the San Diego Chapter works on. Our main focus as we gain momentum as a club is trying to establish Community Choice Energy. This is a campaign that the Student Sustainability Collective has also been involved in, and it is a great opportunity for students to gain experience participating in political discussions and processes. We have organized public meetings with San Diego Councilmembers that were meant to inform both the council and the public about the harm caused by an electrical provider monopoly, which is what currently exists with SDG&ESEMPRA, the corporation behind SDG&E, has the power to control prices of our energy and decide where the energy comes from, often supporting fossil fuel use when renewable technology is ready for us to take advantage of. Community Choice Energy seeks to place that decisive power in the hands of elected city officials, who are more likely to listen to the people of San Diego, instead of corporate executives. In the future, I hope to expand the club and continue to regularly hold nature outings in order to provide students with the opportunity to experience the outdoors if they otherwise are unable to.

This campaign has been an amazing experience, and it has taught us about the way the government is run in San Diego and the influence that a group of people can have if they educate and organize themselves to take action. Especially in the wake of Trump’s election, it has inspired students to be more involved and to voice their opinions on political issues. It has shown them that making a difference is possible and given us hope that we can change the status quo.

As I was working for the Sierra Club, I continued to stay involved in several other sustainability organizations on campus. It is common for multiple groups to have similar interests and goals, and I was involved in trying to organize clubs into cooperative events and campaigns. The Inter-Sustainability Council at UC San Diego is a great resource for people involved in sustainability. I attended their meetings and was able to connect members from CALPIRG, who were running a “Save the Bees” campaign, to members of Roger’s Garden in Revelle College. Roger’s Garden needed help maintaining their native plant garden, and was hoping to develop it into an educational resource for people to learn more about drought-tolerant landscaping and native pollinator sanctuaries. Every week members from the Sierra Club, CALPIRG, and Roger’s would meet up and collaborate on this project. I enjoy staying involved with multiple clubs on campus so I can continue to meet new people and create collaborations like the Native Plant Garden at Roger’s. Working together is important for any movement, especially for sustainability.

Could you talk about your work at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and how drought-tolerant gardening practices are implemented?

I’ve been involved with sustainability since high school, when my part-time job was at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ruth Bancroft was a cacti and succulent enthusiast with a large amount of land. She created a beautiful collection of these plants and opened it to the public. The Garden uses the landscaping to teach visitors about the importance of water conservation and habitat protection. Frequent workshops are held that show participants how to turn their stereotypical, water-sucking, ecologically useless American lawn into a diverse array of drought-tolerant native plants that support wildlife and save on water bills. There are many ways to make your lawn more sustainable, especially by establishing native plants. Plants native to California are already adapted to a lack of water, and they are able to consume less water than grass and still be aesthetically pleasing. Native plants are also already a part of the local ecosystem, and they provide food and shelter for wildlife that typical lawn grass cannot. If the majority of suburban households replaced their lawns with drought-tolerant native landscaping, it would create a network of habitat fragments that could support populations of wildlife that provide us with useful services (such as crop pollination). The experience of working at the garden inspired me to learn more ways that I could make a difference and eventually led me to become an Ecology major at UC San Diego.

I was particularly interested in the protection of native wildlife, and during my time at UC San Diego, I started to focus on native pollinators and the important services they provide us. I began working in the Holway lab during my first year, studying the effects of habitat fragmentation on pollinator abundance and efficiency (a project led by James Hung). My work on plant-pollinator interactions continued through my time at UC San Diego.

What did you do while working at the San Diego Zoo Institute For Conservation Research and could you talk about the importance of conservation/ methods used to help endangered species?

In the summer of 2017, I received a fellowship to conduct research at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The San Diego Zoo emphasizes the importance of conservation through habitat protection and endangered species protection, and the Institute is heavily involved in conservation research and education. I worked with the Plant Conservation team and the Center for Plant Conservation Research to develop a shiny app that focuses on plant-pollinator interactions. Pollination is an important ecosystem service, providing one out of every three bites of food that we consume. Native pollinators are also vital components of ecosystems, allowing plant diversity to flourish and support the food chain. The shiny app that I developed with the help of Katherine Heineman analyzes these plant-pollinator interactions and educates site visitors about pollinator conservation. I had an amazing experience at the San Diego Zoo and I gained many skills that have helped me in my later projects.