As ProjectARCC has demonstrated, sustainability has become increasingly important in the archival community. The sustainability coordinator, Bomin Kim, and archivist, Aliza Leventhal, at Sasaki Associates have joined up to study how archives can approach sustainability from a “triple bottom line” approach; looking at impacts on social, environmental, and financial concerns.

We are asking questions such as:

  • How can archival spaces be more sustainable?
  • What impact does a geographic or climate region have on an archival space’s ability to be simultaneously more energy efficient, comfortable, and cost effective?
  • And, what impact do occupant controlled environmental features (ex. blinds, thermostat, lights) have on an institution’s budget?

In order to start answering those questions we need to know more about the existing archival spaces and need your help!

Please respond to our brief (10-15 minute) survey that asks for specifics about your holdings, facilities, indoor comfort, as well as what sustainability means to your institution. With this information we aim to develop generalized regional case studies to create best practice guidelines on a sliding scale of sustainability can be achieved for archives of varying sizes and locations.

We will be sharing the results of this survey, as well as our sliding scale guidelines later this fall.

Please click here to start the survey

ProjectARCC members Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez set out to highlight an organization that took steps to positively impact the climate. Through Twitter, we learned that the City of Toronto Archives won the “Race to Reduce” challenge by lowering energy consumption by a staggering 59%. They were able to achieve this through C40 Climate Leadership Group initiatives instituted by the city. Relle and Cordovez spoke with the City Archivist at the Toronto City Archives, Carol Radford-Grant , and Project Manager, Prashant Bhalja, to learn more about this impressive accomplishment.

The C40 Climate Leadership Group consists of different government bodies and agencies within major cities whose focus is to make a positive impact on the global climate. In an effort to show leadership, Canadian officials announced plans to encourage the development and use of energy efficient solutions to take action against the effects of Greenhouse Gas emissions.  Being the largest city in Canada, Toronto took the lead in implementing C40 initiatives to show that they were actively doing their part, and not just talking about what should happen.

The city of Toronto approached the staff at the Archive to see if they would participate, and lower their energy consumption. The staff was thrilled to be part of this project for three reasons. First, the building that houses the archive was over twenty years old, and in need of upgrades. Secondly, the building’s energy consumption was higher than comparable constructions in the city, and throughout the Province of Ontario.  Finally, the staff had a hard time keeping the temperature, and relative humidity at safe levels due to the city’s extreme weather conditions.  In the winter the temperature, factoring in the wind chill,  temperatures can may fall to -40 degrees Celsius.  In contrast, the relative humidity in the summer ranges from 80% to 90%.

Making improvements to the building was necessary, and would allow safe, long term storage for the collections.  Improvements  included the installation of a new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)  system, and energy efficient boilers to to properly regulate temperature, relative humidity, and the air flow in the building. The new boilers require little energy to function. The  HVAC system is automated, and lowers consumption in practical ways such as shutting  off when the loading doors are open.  Radford-Grant reported that very little problems arose during the installment of the HVAC system, and boilers as the archival staff worked well with Bhalja, and discussed concerns in advance to ensure low risk of damage to the collections.

With the new HVAC system and boilers,  the Archive lowered electricity use from 200 -250 to 130 kilowatts monthly,  resulting in a 59% reduction in energy use. The reduction was so severe,  that the meter was checked and replaced by the gas and electric companies to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with.  To maintain the low monthly number, Radford-Grant and Bhalja agree that daily monitoring of consumption, in addition to staff training on how best to utilize the equipment is necessary.

Radford-Grant and Bhalja’s  advice to archivists planning to implement energy reduction practices are:

  1. Every building has room for improvement to minimize energy use. Look for it.
  2. There does not have to be a choice between lowering energy and climate control. Comfort should not be sacrificed for conservation. There is a balance that optimizes both goals.
  3. Collaborate with your area, and research municipal initiatives for Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction.

To continue their efforts, the City of Toronto Archives hopes to install a new air conditioner and improved insulated windows in the coming years.

For us at ProjectARCC, two important lessons came out of the interview with Radford-Grant and Bhalja. First, people tend to believe that they, as one person, cannot do anything to affect climate change. That is not so: each person can do their part to make a positive impact on the climate. One can install solar panels, install new windows, or install lights the automatically turn on and off. Each small thing adds up. A lot of things over the course of history have changed because one person stood up and said, “Enough is enough.” In other words, there are things that everyone can do.

Secondly, we need to work together. We are global citizens and have a duty to leave the planet in better shape than we found it. There is a lot of talk in the archival profession about working together. If we do not start working together now, when will we? We need to ask ourselves — in the style of President Kennedy — “Ask not what your planet can do for you, but what you can do for your planet.”

— Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez

The post below is the reproduction of a recent Facebook status by our Outreach Coordinator, Dana Gerber-Margie. This list was intended for her friends and family to use as individuals and families. It’s a different story for our profession, our conferences, and our institutions, but thankfully the REDUCE committee is working on that!

From August 30th, originally posted on Facebook:

Shower thinking brought a lot of ruminating on climate change/global warming and people’s engagement with it, or lack there of. It is so easy to become irritated, judgmental, and so frustrated, but it also so unhelpful to be all of those things. My mind pictures families in houses too big with cars too big for commutes too long, wanting too much stuff and too much new. I see the AC or heat up too high, lights on too long, too much food gone to waste, and an incredible amount of focus on entertainment that does not matter, educate, expand, only lets us pass the time.

But this is focusing on the negatives, and not the reasons: the intersectionality of the American dream, companies & governments that want more hours without more pay, a desire to feel comfortable in a sanctuary of home when the outside world is all about shootings, insane politicians, and oppression. And cities all over the country are increasing in size but not in width; rent is getting higher, the jobs are still downtown, and at the end of the day it is a very rational choice to live away from the luxury apartments, craft cocktails, and crowded restaurants.

So how do we step away from anger and judgment into something actually helpful? And how do we get out of the echo chamber that is educated liberal guilt (which includes knowledge of the issues without much action)? A future with bigger storms, wilder fires, and rising sea levels is a terrifying one. A future with less water, food, and energy is just as scary. There are other people working on policies, technologies, and discovery plans, so let them just handle it, right? We have enough to do. I feel this daily, but I also feel such a strong pressure to make the future better for our children, for the impoverished, for the under-insured, for all of the other countries that will be unfairly impacted by our society’s consumption and drive for progress.

And so below I offer some things we do in our home and in our lives to do our part, even if it feels small and insignificant. Sometimes I don’t do these in the best way, or I end up doing it out of guilt, or (the best times) I do it because I care. I do them because these actions will add up, and they can add up exponentially if you do them, too.

What are some actions for the environment you take?

  • Don’t see “reduce, reuse, recycle” as a phrase, but as a priority list. First, reduce. Then if you must, try reusing. And then if neither of those work, lastly recycle.
  • Don’t buy it. Really, you don’t need it.
  • Okay, you need it, but look at local stores, local materials, local food to ease the cost of transportation of goods.
  • Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale.
  • Understand that production of goods and use of resources comes directly from our consumption of them
  • Buy groceries in small batches so food doesn’t go to waste.
  • Eat a vegetarian diet. My husband Derek eats meat, but at home eats mostly plant-powered meals. Our next time is a more vegan friendly diet.
  • Bring our own bags to the store, including big box stores like Target. Derek forgets his bag in his car a lot when he’s at work, but we save all the paper and plastic bags he gets, and reuse them when we need them.
  • Never buy bottled water. I have a stainless steel water bottle at home and at work. I fill both up with water from the tap (purified at home with a filter on our faucet).
  • Use a reusable travel mug for coffee & tea. If I have the coffee “for here,” I make sure to mention I’d like it in a mug, not a paper cup. If I forget the above, I wash out the paper/plastic cup before recycling it.
  • Purchase fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, clothes, etc.
  • Utilize the farmer’s market.
  • Lights off if you’re not in the room. Lights off during the day because I just open the curtains.
  • Unplug the microwave when not using it.
  • Turn off electronics and appliances if not using them.
  • Always check the energy use stats for all appliances/electronics. Since I’m a renter, I don’t always have this option, but I did look at the specs for our computers, printer, and air conditioner.
  • Use CFL lightbulbs.
  • Don’t keep chargers plugged in all day; it uses up energy. My phone thankfully has a little alarm that tells me when it’s been charged.
  • Don’t fall prey to the next new neat gadget; Derek and I both have solid, great desktop computers. I bought my computer in March 2010 and it’s doing just fine! Same goes for our cell phones; I’m due for a renewal but since it’s working fine, I’m keeping it.
  • I don’t buy a lot on Amazon, partly for their labor practices and other reasons, but also because of shipping. If it’s offered, I get items packaged together.
  • Complain when a company over-packages an item. Yes I’m that customer. 😦
  • Shop at thrift stores — it’s fun!
  • Purchase the green energy option through our energy company. In Madison, that’s MG&E, and they have a sliding scale of what you can afford: as little as $5 towards renewable energies.
  • Elect politicians that care about the environment (this can obviously get very complex and weird, since it involves politics …)
  • Ask for no silverware, napkins, or extra sauces you won’t use when ordering take out or delivery. You have napkins and silverware!
  • Run the dishwasher when it’s totally full. Air dry the lighter loads.
  • Walk, bus, or bike to work.
  • When we moved recently, we didn’t move with our minds set on how much square footage the space would take up, or cool amenities like a pool or marble counters, but with a walk score in mind. We have our minimum requirements (we knew we wanted a 2-bedroom place for less than $1000 that took cats, etc), but only searched within a certain vicinity of the area. This ensured I could walk, bus, or bike to work and that Derek’s commute would be less than 1015 minutes. I also realize, though, that this is a privilege that we have since our city hasn’t been completely gentrified yet … but a good walk score will be a priority for me in the future too.
  • Drive with a consistent speed. Don’t brake or start too quickly; it uses up more gas.
  • Donate small amounts to agencies I support. $5 a month doesn’t hurt me, nor does giving $5-15 here and there.
  • Throw on a sweater and socks before turning on the heat. Once we do use it in the dead of winter, we keep it as low as possible. When we leave the house, we keep it just high enough so the pipes don’t freeze.
  • Choose lighter clothing in the summer. The same thing as above goes for using the AC: keep the temperature reasonable, don’t have it on when we’re not there. If it’s SO hot that the temperature will reach above 80ish inside, we’ll keep the AC around 78.
  • Ask your city for better recycling programs.
  • Do all of these things at work too! I keep computers off when I don’t need them, I keep the printer off, I turn the light off when I’m leaving the office for a while, I print on both sides, I recycle, etc.
  • Use stuff that can be refilled, like purchasing a soap dispenser and then large bags of liquid soap.
  • Ask elected officials for updates to infrastructure, which can lead to lots of good things like not dying on a collapsed bridge, smooth roads, and improved energy efficiency.
  • Bring lunch to work in reusable bags, including sandwich or treat bags. Etsy has them everywhere.
  • Purchase carbon credits for every flight we take.
  • Relax on a train instead of taking a plane.
  • Don’t take cruises, or if you do, research the impact they have on the environment and ocean. Some cruise lines bill themselves specifically as environmentally friendly.
  • On the same note, don’t always take environmentally friendly advertising as truth. Greenwashing for increased profits is very real!
  • All of these actions matter when I’m traveling, too. Do your best to reduce, reuse, and recycle while on the road.
  • Look into eco-travel or responsible/sustainable travel, and tourism that doesn’t decimate the local region.
  • The TV is off if I’m not watching it.
  • Keep that shower short.
  • Garden! I’m a black thumb but trying my best.
  • Join or start an awesome group like projectARCC.
  • Ask others for more ideas!

The Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists rolls into Cleveland, Ohio this week. Thousands of archivists will come together for tours of all kinds, a huge expo of archival products and services, meetings with colleagues, networking events, workshops, and educational sessions. ProjectARCC will also be there in full force! To keep your time green and obtain new insight into why archivists should be concerned about climate change, we’ve created this little guide for you.

Want to add something? Contact Dana Gerber-Margie, outreach coordinator, to add more events and tips.

Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint at the Conference

  • Offset your carbon footprint from your flight by purchasing carbon credits
  • If your home will be empty, turn your water heater to low/vacation settings, turn off your thermostat, turn off or maybe unplug lights and electronics, lower your refrigerator coldness
  • Walk, bike trails, use your hotel’s van, or take public transportation across town
  • If you drive: rent a car that has a high MPG, accelerate slowly, maintain a steady speed, and go into stops smoothly (and think about carpooling!)
  • Turn off your lights and unplug electronics when leaving your hotel room
  • Ask for extra blankets if you get cold at night, instead of using the heater
  • Minimize air conditioner use, especially when not in the hotel room. If you want to keep the room cool while you’re gone, close your drapes to keep the room dark.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
  • Flush your toilet less (it may sound gross but it helps reduce gallons of water! “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”)
  • Bring a thermos or tumbler for your coffee or tea instead of using paper/plastic cups
  • Avoid styrofoam
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones
  • Use the conference app instead of a print program
  • Use the recycling bins. If you don’t see any at the conference hotel, save your recyclables until you find one
  • Don’t ask for a change of sheets during your hotel stay
  • Don’t ask for new towels if they’ve only been used once
  • Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use
  • Eat less meat
  • Eat locally and seasonally
  • Talk to SAA and anyone who will listen about making next year’s event more sustainable!

ProjectARCC Events

Wednesday, August 19th at 3:00pm
Eira Tansey will be doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Human Rights Archives Roundtable

Thursday, August 20th at 5:15pm
ProjectARCC Happy Hour at Lola Bistro (2058 East 4th Street)

Friday, August 21st at 4:30pm
Casey Davis doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable

Friday, August 21st and Saturday, August 22nd
Vote for a ProjectARCC Pop-Up proposal!

Thursday, August 20th and Friday, August 21st
The Preservation Section is hosting a Silent Auction to benefit National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives.

Relevant Sessions

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Forum: Archival and Special Collections Facilities: Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers
The Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Archival Facilities Guidelines hosts an open meeting for colleagues to learn more about the facility guidelines and offer comments and suggestions. While the revisions are still in development, an early draft of the proposed revised guidelines will be available for review here. Contact Michele Pacifico or Tom Wilsted with questions.

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Join us for a presentation and discussion of the Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning. Members of the Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning present an overview of this important SAA standard, which undergoes review starting this year. Q&A and comment period to follow.

Thursday, August 20 • 1:45pm – 2:45pm
As we digitize audiovisual collections for preservation, the questions arise: How long do I keep the original? Do obsolescence and decay override the urge/need to retain it? What do we make of the toll on resources, storage, facilities, etc., that results from storage of duplicate content or unrecoverable materials? The panelists address varying opinions based on institution size, digital infrastructure, and collection types to spark critical discussion of this growing challenge.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Archivists, librarians, and community historians know that local residents often distrust repositories. This creates hidden collections—and hidden histories—in the community, especially from groups that are more socially remote from institutions with archives.  As professionals, we have a responsibility to challenge the notion of the “repository as archives” and serve the community better by decentralizing appraisal and custody, coordinating resource deployment, and collaborating in providing description and access.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Is there a place for archives in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education?  A panel of archivists and special collections librarians tackle this question and offer four examples of creative and instructive approaches in archival outreach to STEM students and educators.  The panelists share their experiences in K-12, university, and museum settings, and encourage a conversation among archivists, special collections librarians, and educators who are actively working to better serve STEM communities.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Research data management has become one of the principal concerns of research libraries. To date, however, few archivists have been actively involved in this sphere. Attendees of this session, which features three institutions with archivists at the forefront, learn about the imperative to manage and preserve research data and the central role that archivists should play as repositories are designed and implemented.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Advocacy is a driving force in the minds of archivists—an engine to move the archival enterprise forward—but advocacy is defined and used in different ways and must be performed differently in the varied environments in which archives exist. The speakers explore what advocacy means in the government, educational, and business worlds and demonstrate how the meaning and means of advocacy change depending on the circumstances that different archives and archives associations face.

Saturday, August 22 • 10:00am – 11:00am
Primary resources often reveal information related to collections in museums, but lack of expertise and archival staff often relegate the archives to a second tier. This session, organized by the newly formed Natural Science Archives Association, includes archivists and a museum collection manager who discuss how archives are as essential for the study of natural science as the specimen collections themselves. This broad discussion emphasizes surveying, cataloging, digitizing, and transcribing field books and illustrating how, using data standards for records (EAD) and for their associated entities (e.g., the names of the persons and expeditions, EAC-CPF), it is possible to link publications, specimens, and archives within and across libraries, archives, and museums as a model for archives across all subject areas.

Thanks to member Frances Harrell for mining the huge SAA15 schedule for relevant sessions.