Building a sustainable future

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | March 9, 2023

The Library Sustainability Working Group created a Sustainability Plan this year to support the University’s goals to “advance sustainability leadership and impact by incorporating environmental, economic, and equity considerations in decision-making” by 2030. The core group was made up of staff with a passion for sustainability representing various perspectives and expertise.

Some of the 325 solar panels on the roof of Clemons Library.

The mission of the working group was to create a plan to “partner with the University and broader community to better steward our resources; collaborate in sustainability education, research, and outreach; and act responsibly within our environment and our community.” The Library, with connections to nearly every academic and administrative office on Grounds, has a unique opportunity to advocate for change. Library staff have indicated a strong desire to see changes that make a long-term impact not just within the Library, but in the many University functions and services with which they interact.

The LSWG did extensive research to develop the Sustainability Plan. The group collaborated with both the UVA Office for Sustainability and UVA Facilities Management to access water consumption and waste production data; they reviewed previous sustainability work done at the Library and studied other academic libraries’ sustainability plans; and they gathered input from stakeholders. Because sustainability is inextricably tied to equity, the Library Inclusive Excellence plan also informed the development of the Sustainability Plan. The plan states: “Such work must be done with an equity lens, and with the awareness that climate change has drastically more impact on local and global communities that are already threatened by racial inequities.”

The LSWG Sustainability Plan has resulted in strategic sustainability goals with deliverables and a timeframe for execution and evaluation of success. Goals include reducing energy consumption in Library spaces, reducing potable water consumption, performing a waste audit to decrease use of paper products

and minimize waste, converting Library vehicles away from fossil fuel, working with vendors who have sustainable practices, strengthening support for sustainability research, and advocating for sustainability across Grounds by supporting initiatives like open access and open educational resources.

A permanent Sustainability Committee will be appointed to coordinate, measure, and report on progress toward the goals of the Sustainability Plan. “The Library has had a long-standing commitment to sustainability,” Carla Lee, the Deputy University Librarian states. “This group was able to build on the excellent work of the Green Community formed in 2006. We’ve seen great commitment on an individual and Library basis, and we look forward to harnessing that commitment to achieve the 2030 goals.”

This story originally appeared in the Library’s Annual Report for FY 2022-23. Download the full PDF to read more.

The UVA main library construction site. In the foreground are two cisterns that will collect rainwater from the main library roof.
Two massive cisterns installed under Nameless Field that will collect rainwater from the roof of the new main library for use in the nearby Newcomb Road HVAC chiller plants. The cisterns are expected to collect at least 6,000 gallons of water yearly.