Thursday, 1 March 2012

Think Big Act Small- wrap up

Wow! What an amazing first event for 2012!
We had three fantastic speakers, who gave us their perspectives on what their organisations are doing to be sustainable and think green. 

First, Kirsten Woodward who is the Manager of Environmental Projects and the Head of Green Champions from the City of Sydney talked about some of the initiatives that the City of Sydney council are doing. One of the great things she’s done is create the Green Champions, a group of City of Sydney employees who undertook a program to equip them to go out and talk to the other people in their work areas about environmental and sustainability issues. Another great initiative is the creation of a character called the Green Ninja, who dresses up in a suit made of bright green, completely recycled City of Sydney banners, and who makes the odd sting on City of Sydney offices and leaves chocolates (Faire Trade of course!) for people who have turned their computers off for the evening, as well as popping a sign on their computer with a thumbs up or thumbs down (depending on if you turned your computer off or left it on!)

Peter Vun, who is the Sustainability Planner from Ku-ring-gai Council has also created a similar initiative, this time with someone dressed up as... Energy Man!

Energy Man was on hand to support another initiative which was based on the Biggest Loser (where departments were challenged to save energy at home, with a weekly ‘weigh in’ where kilowatts were counted instead of kilograms.)

The other really cool idea I gleaned from Peter was the idea of Lego Serious Play, where people in workshops played with the Lego, and built Lego creations of what sustainability really meant to them, and what it meant as a shared vision across the council.  This was a great success, and allowed people who were the quiet reflectors (and I reckon the kinesthetic learners) to really engage with the issues. This idea of using stuff to create meaning really resonates with me. As a qualified teacher, I’m always mindful of the different ways people learn and think (Blooms Taxonomy or Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences anybody?)

Lastly Mal Booth, who is the Acting University Librarian at UTS Library gave us an insight into the planning processes involved in building a brand new sustainable library from the ground up. Wow. I am so jealous! The sustainable ethos (that is, being socially responsible and innovative) that is going into every planning step is incredible. Another idea which I found interesting was the comment Mal made about noise cancelling as a sustainable idea- I’d never thought of that in the sustainability and design context, but I imagine it could relate to how noise levels (and noise pollution) can be modified to create more sustainable, user friendly environments . Certainly in the natural world, noise pollution has a significant impact on the sustainability of animal populations (too much noise and the animals will move out, which also relates to the urbanisation of land).

I was also intrigued by the process of using creative thought and co-design to make strategic decisions and to guide initiatives. My understanding of this in , is that it relates to collaborating and forming connections with people completely outside of the library, who are already doing some amazing things in the field and bringing ideas and initiatives to fruition. I’d love to know more about this. 

The 3 staff initiatives that Mal mentioned that were really great take-home ideas that would be relatively easy to implement were as follows:
Keep ya crap- a competition amongst those involved to keep all unnatural
rubbish that they accumulate in a week on their desks in a bag, to be
tallied up at the end of the week. The next week’s goal is to improve on
last week’s tally by decreasing the amount of rubbish.
Lug a Mug- encouraging people to bring their Keep Cups or HookTurn
reusable coffee cups (Mal also negotiated a discount for people who bought
coffees using the reusable cups from the Union coffee shop at UTS)
Ecoboxes- containers of various sizes are kept in all of the staff tea
areas, so when staff go to buy lunch, they can take a box and ask for their
food to be put in there.

So the lessons I learned from our three guest speakers were that the best way of getting the sustainability message out these is to have champions, mixed with a dash of humour and fun (having a super hero or ninja also doesn’t hurt!) along with leading from the top, to get people talking and more aware of sustainability issues in the workplace.

After the guest speakers, we broke up into groups of 5-6 and brainstormed some ideas for sustainability in our workplaces, the brief being, that each group had to come up with some big ideas that were not limited by any barrier, and some smaller ideas that we could possibly bring back and try at our workplaces tomorrow. Another wow. All of our attendees participated with enthusiasm and fervour. It was incredible to watch. I only wish that we planned more time for this part of the evening.

I had many people come up to me and tell me what a great event it was, and how much they had enjoyed it. I think we all took something away from the evening. For me, not only was it the amazing ideas that came about, but it was also the pride that I felt when I saw just how passionate my fellow library and information professional colleagues are about sustainability. In keeping with the green theme of the evening, we encouraged people to bring their own reusable cup, ride their bikes, catch public transport or carpool to the library. I was so chuffed when I asked for a show of hands, and virtually EVERYBODY in the room raised their hand for at least one of these categories. Yay us!

The night really cemented the idea that  having these sorts of events work- even though I am already fairly cognisant of the small things I could be doing, I am guilty in not always doing them, therefore having the event in the forefront of my mind really made me aware of all of the things I could be doing eg making sure everything is switched off before I leave, thinking about whether I really need that bit of paper printed etc

As promised, I will be blogging all of the ideas that were brainstormed from the evening soon, in order to archive the incredible learning and knowledge that came about from the event, so keep posted, and be ready to continue the discussions online!

Many thanks to the University of Sydney Library for allowing us to host the event at Badham Library, and finally, a very BIG thank you to Sophie McDonald and Jeff Cruz for all of their hard work in organising this wonderful event.

In keeping with this, I thought I’d leave you with these three great videos that encourage people to take the bus, which were made for De Lijn, the Flemish company that runs public transport in Belgium. They're laugh out loud funny and remind me of the Road Runner cartoons we all grew up watching (but with an added sustainability message!)

- Crystal

Crystal Choi is Convenor of ALIA Sydney and a Faculty Liaison Librarian at the University of Sydney Library.
All thoughts expressed are my own.

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