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University Libraries’ Annex reaps benefits of Green Paws Program

October 11, 2016

The University Libraries’ Annex at Cato Park, one of Penn State’s dedicated contributors to sustainability, has joined the ranks of units working towards completing the fourth and final level of the Green Paws Program. Part of the Libraries since 2008, the Annex is one of the Libraries’ four off-site shelving facilities which stores and preserves library materials while also making them readily available for delivery. The Annex frees up needed space at Commonwealth Campus libraries in addition to maintaining a controlled environment for the preservation and long-term storage of certain materials.

Green Paws came to the Library Annex via Verne Neff, manager of collection maintenance and annex, and a member of the University Libraries’ Green Team. Neff identified his unit as one that could benefit from the efficiency and team-building elements of the program.

Although the Green Teams and Green Paws programs can go hand-in-hand, an office does not have to have a Green Team to participate in the Green Paws Program. Green Teams are groups of faculty, staff and students working within distinct units to learn, collaborate, educate and lead in the realm of sustainability at Penn State. Green Paws is an office certification program designed to guide participants with simple checklists that encourage efficient and healthy workplace environments. There are many resources a Green Team can draw from to improve their everyday operations such as newsletters, special events, challenges and the Green Paws Program respectively.

The Library Annex’s staff adopted a sustainability mindset after noticing they were disposing of large bags of waste for only a small office of approximately 12 people. With help from the janitorial staff, they began diverting waste from the landfill by composting and recycling. “It made sense to go 100% from the start,” said Neff. “Now whenever we have the option to buy sustainable products, we think: why not?”

Besides fulfilling Level 3 requirements of the Green Paws Program, such as purchasing 50% recycled content paper, the Annex’s staff have gone above and beyond transforming and improving their workspace. They reduce paper use by scanning articles for online delivery rather than copying them. When books are requested, they are collected into one shipment a day to limit transportation use. One of the office’s most recent initiatives was to invest in new book storage trays. Books are placed into these trays as if they were being placed on a shelf and the trays then slide onto the bookshelves as if they were drawers. This simple design frees up 25% more space.

Perhaps most important, Green Paws has helped to develop a sense of comradery among the Annex’s staff. They can partially attribute their success to the team-building elements included in each level of the program, ranging from measuring and communicating their environmental footprint to learning about sustainability at Penn State and how their personal decisions have broader implications.

“No one is on his or her own,” said Neff. “Our culture is to help people out.”

With helpful leadership from Steve Houck, request fulfillment and record maintenance support specialist, the Annex’s staff also feels as if their adoption of Green Paws has been a grassroots effort rather than a directive. After completing the first three levels of the Green Paws Program, the Annex’s staff has all integrated sustainability into their You@PSU goals, they have a stronger connection with each other and with the main Green Team at the Libraries, and they learn something new whenever they meet. Through the Green Paws Program, the Annex staff fostered a team-oriented focus and the collective will to make changes to their way of working and living. Using their experience with Green Paws as a framework, they will be able to continue working together to overcome future challenges.

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