Jadyn Gay, Becky Waldman, and Mark Stewart of the Peterborough Public Library celebrate the library's new electric delivery van, the first fully electric vehicle in the City of Peterborough's fleet. The library will use the van for outreach events and to move materials between library kiosk locations and the new library branch opening at the Miskin Law Community Complex at Morrow Park. (Photo: City of Peterborough)

Jadyn Gay, Becky Waldman, and Mark Stewart of the Peterborough Public Library celebrate the library’s new electric delivery van, the first fully electric vehicle in the City of Peterborough’s fleet. The library will use the van for outreach events and to move materials between library kiosk locations and the new library branch opening at the Miskin Law Community Complex at Morrow Park. (Photo: City of Peterborough)

By: Mark Stewart

When Peterborough Public Library launched our most recent public engagement campaign for our strategic plan, we asked our community “what are the most important things we should focus on?” We received a lot of responses to that question, but one of the most frequent answers was sustainability and climate change.

Now, strictly speaking, the Library is not an environmental organization, we’re in the business of literacy, learning and storytelling. At this point in history however, every organization needs to be an environmental organization and find a way to exist sustainably in the world.

Sustainability and climate change are now a key pillar in our strategic plan. Library staff are looking at everything we do through a sustainability lens. We’ve committed to increasing programming and services that help our community adopt sustainable life practices and we’re working to demonstrate sustainability in our physical library spaces.

Climate change is a huge challenge, but we can learn our way through it together. The cumulative effects of small actions are what come together to make the story.

Library staff got together and formed a Green Team which is a powerful way for any organization to start making positive changes. Our Green Team started by auditing and measuring all our current practices from paper usage to energy and even staff commutes. With that baseline data in place, we’ve begun making small changes to improve our sustainability. We’re not experts by any means, all it takes is a willingness to learn and change.

The Peterborough Public Library has partnered with the Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners to convert the garden beds at the Library Commons into a native plant and pollinator garden. Now in its third season, the garden has been designated as an official monarch butterfly waystation. (Photo courtesy of Peterborough Public Library)

The Peterborough Public Library has partnered with the Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners to convert the garden beds at the Library Commons into a native plant and pollinator garden. Now in its third season, the garden has been designated as an official monarch butterfly waystation. (Photo courtesy of Peterborough Public Library)

Since putting on our sustainability lenses, things have started to look differently. The Native Plant and Pollinator Garden in Library Commons, started by Library staff as a labour of love, is now entering its third season and we’re adding new species each year. The Library is now visited by monarch butterflies and other pollinators and has been designated as an official Monarch Waystation.

If you’re curious about the plants in the garden and would like to try growing them in your own space, the Peterborough & Area Master Gardeners have created an online plant guide to the species in Library Commons.

Thanks to our friends at Nogojiwanong Mutual Aid there is a new Community Seed Exchange located in the Library. Our plan for this year is to start harvesting seeds from the Library Commons garden and making them available through the program. If you have extra seeds to share, feel free to drop them off at the exchange and take some new ones home with you.

There is a new community seed exchange located in the Peterborough Public Library, thanks to Nogojiwanong Mutual Aid, where you can pick up and drop off seeds. Some of the seeds are from the library’s native plant and pollinator garden. (Photo: Mark Stewart / Peterborough Public Library)

There is a new community seed exchange located in the Peterborough Public Library, thanks to Nogojiwanong Mutual Aid, where you can pick up and drop off seeds. Some of the seeds are from the library’s native plant and pollinator garden. (Photo: Mark Stewart / Peterborough Public Library)

The Library Book Bike will be back in the parks this summer and showing up at outdoor events all summer long. There’s nothing like reading a book under a tree in the summer, especially when it’s delivered by a zero-carbon, pedal-powered book mobile!

You’ll also see another addition to our fleet on the roads this year. We’ve invested in a new electric delivery van so we can move library materials between Kiosk locations, the new branch opening at the Miskin Law Community Complex, and outreach events without using any fossil fuels! The library van is the City of Peterborough’s first fully electric fleet vehicle.

Library staff have started prioritizing sustainability themes in our programming as well. This year, the theme of our Summer Reading Challenge is water to honour this precious resource. Bring the kids to Trail Tales or join one of our Discovery Walks for adults for a little nature appreciation. You can also take part in one of our community swap events, or attend a Library wildlife program with Kawartha Wildlife Centre.

Kate from the Peterborough Public Library beside the library’s book bike that will make a return to Peterborough parks and outdoor events this summer, offering children’s books and more. (Photo: Peterborough Public Library)

Kate from the Peterborough Public Library beside the library’s book bike that will make a return to Peterborough parks and outdoor events this summer, offering children’s books and more. (Photo: Peterborough Public Library)

By putting sustainability front and centre in our strategic plan, and by looking at all our actions through a sustainable lens, things are starting to add up into a story. The Library may not be an environmental organization in the traditional sense, but we can rise to meet the climate crisis in our own way, using the tools and resources we have.

We’re lucky to be a part of this community full of people who are passionate about the environment. Here at the Library, we’re just a group of characters among many in this story doing our part to nudge this plot along toward a happy ending. If your organization or workplace doesn’t have a Green Team yet, it’s great way to bring in some positive energy and new ideas.