Checking Out Sustainability Initiatives at Ramsey Library

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Wendy Mullis and Barbara Svenson
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Ramsey Library might have the most iconic steps on campus, but inside this building at the heart of campus are dedicated staff members who have been taking steps which embody the university’s core value of sustainability. While the Green Office Program that Ramsey staff piloted is now being replicated across campus, it all started with a few composting containers, a lot of LED lights, and the disappearance of many trash bins.

As leaders for their department, Wendy Mullis, administrative assistant for Ramsey Library, and Barabara Svenson, Ramsey’s resource management librarian, implemented a composting program and minimized desk-side trashcans, leading to a 50% reduction of landfilled material leaving Ramsey Library. Additionally, 1,706 light fixtures were replaced in Ramsey, saving 906,916 KwH annually—a dollar savings of approximately $72,000 per year.  
    
Mullis and Svenson were awarded The Spirit of Sustainability Distinguished Staff Award in December 2016 for inspiring their colleagues to make Ramsey on of the greenest building on campus. The award recognizes their ongoing efforts to promote reduce waste, engage library users in sustainability thinking, and promote clean energy solutions at work and at home. 

Taking part in sustainability work is a natural fit for the staff of Ramsey Library, Svenson explained.

“Sustaining is something we do inherently as librarians,” Svenson said. “We’re always thinking about how we can work our budget so you can always have the resources you need, especially in your dorm room at 3 a.m. So that sort of connected for us naturally…. most everybody was doing this at home already, it’s just that we didn’t make sustainability a priority here at the library.”

As a result, Ramsey’s waste diversion rates are now double the campus-wide average. As the first department to complete the Green Office program, Ramsey Library was able to reduce their landfill waste by over 50 percent in just nine months, resulting in a savings of over $2,000 a year. And Ramsey staff and users now compost an average of 158 lbs. of waste per week, significantly reducing the library’s carbon emissions. 

This isn’t the first time the two have dived into a project of this sort. In 2016, they helped gather supplies for UNC Asheville’s premiere insect resort: The Bee Hotel. They’re also currently working on a Seed Library program in conjunction with Ramsey Library that will work to lend seeds of native pollinators to students and alumni. 

According to Mullis, their progress towards sustainability is a group effort. “When we won the award, we shared it. Because it wasn’t just us two, it was our whole team. We catered a big lunch for our entire department because really if it wasn’tBarbara Svenson and Wendy Mullis sort seeds for the forthcoming Seed Library. for their cooperation, none of this would have happened.” 

The Green Office program, jointly offered by the Office of Sustainability and Campus Operations, will be bringing more buildings online with the program this spring, starting with Zeis Hall. And Mullis and Svenson said they hope to continue their contributions in the future, as well, and spread their efforts campus-wide. The next opportunity and bright idea might come in the form of a light switch, as UNC Asheville aims to “Flip the Switch” in spring 2017. 

A cross-campus collaboration, the campaign aims to save money, cut waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fight climate change. “Flip the Switch” sends out weekly tips like how to reduce excess energy output, how to report suspected wastes of energy, and ways to further limit our energy consumption. Subscribers to the “Power Savers” email list also have the chance to win over $5,000 in prizes in weekly giveaways throughout this semester. For more information and to sign up, please visit www.unca.edu/flip-the-switch. 

Feature and photos by Matthew Dershowitz '20.