I doubt there's anyone who has not been affected in some way by the current economic crisis. This is a big deal -- a game changer of major proportion. Things are tight and getting tighter, causing many of us to re-examine our lives and our assumptions about what we've so often taken for granted.
I've heard there has been an upswing in the use of public libraries. This makes perfect sense, since a local library is probably the best deal around. Where else can you find hours of escape and enjoyment, adventure and the opportunity to learn more about almost anything of interest to you?
Most people associate libraries with row upon row of books stacked almost to the ceiling. While this is true, there are also hard-to-find reference materials, magazines, newspapers from around the world, electronic books and even computers with Internet access. We're fortunate to have some wonderful libraries in Clark County. They are clean and comfortable, quiet and soothing -- like a home away from home.
You'll also find a good variety of music CDs, recorded books and even videos on VHS and DVD. While it costs less to rent a movie than to go to the theater, it's hard to beat the free movies that can be checked out at your local library.
Our public library system is a component of my personal green living strategy. For example, when I hear about a good book, I check the library's Web site. It may be in the system but at a distant branch. No problem. I log in to my account, request the book and have it delivered to the library closest to home. They send an e-mail letting me know when to pick it up, saving me time, travel expense and reducing my carbon footprint. Fantastic!
Libraries are a great example of the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. They allow us to reduce the raw materials used in the publishing of books, tapes, etc.; they provide a great way to reuse items over and over; and they recycle, selling older books or taking in newer ones donated by patrons.
Want to learn more about green living? Check out some books on passive solar homes, renewable energy, vegetarian cuisine or hybrid cars. The sky and your imagination are the only limits.
Since the library district also offers many programs and events, you may choose to attend a presentation on this or other topics. As part of the Reading Las Vegas program, I will be speaking about how we can "Live Lighter on the Planet" at the Rainbow library on April 14 and the West Charleston library on April 20, both at 7 p.m. Details are available at www.lvccld.org.
There's a new program in Maine that helps citizens increase energy efficiency in their homes and businesses. In January, every public library in that state began offering Kill-A-Watt energy monitors for their patrons to check out, just like they would a book. These easy-to-use devices can be plugged into any electrical appliance to measure its energy consumption. Since many electrical devices use energy even when turned "off," a Kill-A-Watt can help homeowners understand what's driving the cost of their power bills and make informed decisions to save money and energy.
According to Heather Tiffany, director of development and programming at the Portland, Maine, public library, the program has been wildly successful so far. "I can't say enough good things about the program, it's very cool. We've had excellent circulation and the monitors have been in high demand," she said.
Every single Kill-A-Watt has been constantly checked out, with many other patrons waiting for their turn. This program raises awareness about energy use and can result in lower bills through energy efficiency and conservation steps that are based on actual facts, not just guesswork. In these challenging economic times, this is a program that makes sense. I suggest it would work just as well here.
Such simple and effective ideas illustrate the multiple benefits we can all realize through the adoption of green living principles -- another major game changer, but in the right direction.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Steve can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information relating to this column is posted at www.greendream.biz.