11 October 2016

Royal Free Hospital Medical Library goes for Saving the Planet – and Wins Award for Excellence in Sustainability along the way!

UCL departments get to take part in the Green Impact awards scheme every year, and the Royal Free Hospital Medical Library is a keen supporter.  The library already achieved platinum status two years ago, so we opted to work towards the Award for Excellence in Sustainability, and planned a number of projects and activities to get us there, and build upon our previous success.

Staff and users often ask about recycling and which items can be recycled.  To help answer this pertinent question, the library’s Green Team decided that we should visit Bywaters, the centre which sorts out our recycling.
Library staff Miriam, Sally and David arrive at Bywaters

Our visit included a tour of the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) and it was explained to us that the site takes rubbish from domestic as well as business sites.  We were impressed by how efficient the system was and watched paper falling through gaps in conveyor belts whilst large pieces of cardboard continued on their journey.  The plastic was shredded and separated according to type (PET, HDPE etc.) by an infrared system, and magnets sorted metal materials.  Fines were small pieces of materials which went along another conveyor belt, and suction lifted out lightweights such as papers and the glass was removed as well.
Talking to the staff on the ground at Bywaters

The library has taken donations of books over the years from many readers.  Most of these are of little use to the library when they are more than five years old, so we have a relationship with Book Rescuers, who transport the books to the developing world.

The Green Team became conscious that there could be many readers throwing books away, unaware that they could still be of use somewhere.  Valentine's Day was coming, so we decided to demonstrate love for books by placing a notice at the issue desk to encourage people to donate books to us. 

Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney launched Meat Free Mondays in 2009.  This is of interest to environmentalists because various organisations, including the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, state that livestock production is responsible for greenhouse gases, and there are various estimates that the damage ranges from 14.5% to 51% of total worldwide greenhouse gases.  The rationale of Meat Free Mondays is that if everybody gave up meat for just one day a week, this output would be significantly reduced.  A similar campaign stated that if every person in the UK did not eat meat for one day a week, then it would be the equivalent of taking five million cars off the road.
Meat-free sausage rolls

The Green Team wanted to promote Meat Free Mondays, and the staff enjoyed some delicious meat-free lunches as a result.

The Green Team devised a simple competition asking staff and readers to make suggestions of how we can improve upon our environmental impact. To judge the competition we needed an expert on the environment to go through the suggestions.  A friend of a member of our staff is an environmental expert who advises members of the government.  He and his colleagues were pleased to judge the competition, and the winning entry was:

“In the winter, use a heavy duvet and a hot water bottle at night instead of leaving the heating on all night – it will save energy and you will sleep better!”

The competition created a good deal of excitement and the Medical Library is proud to continue its excellent record of getting staff and readers alike to take responsibility for what they can do to protect the planet.

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